U.S. marshal recalls how ATM use doomed America’s most prolific serial killer

Path of America's most prolific serial killer spiraled through Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - He's the country's most prolific serial killer with 50 murders confirmed, and as many as 43 others still open.

But one case in northern Kentucky remains unsolved, and the killer himself may be the only one to recognize her.

“We got to Covington and then we went through Covington,” Samuel Little told federal investigators in a series of confessions that began in 2018.

FBI investigators said they believe that woman’s body may have been left behind somewhere in northern Kentucky in 1984. Her name isn’t known.

Little dropped out of high school in Ohio and since then, traveled from city to city stealing, killing and doing drugs, investigators said.

The FBI said Little first ran into law enforcement in 1956. His murders date back to 1970. He was arrested in 2012 in Louisville.

“I guess you can never tell who lives amongst you in your own communities,” said U.S. Marshal Chief Deputy Brian Parish, who was involved in Little’s arrest after the Los Angeles Fugitive Task Force asked for help.

Parish said Little made one mistake, using an ATM at a local gas station on East Broadway in Louisville in 2012. At the time, he was already linked to 30 murders.

Investigators said they knew he frequented homeless shelters, so they decided to check the Wayside Christian Mission.

“Multiple people had a hand in that arrest,” Parrish said. “I was just glad to be part of that team.”

That team has only grown since then, Parrish said.

“If you don’t have a case to find, it makes finding that case really difficult,” FBI Crime Analyst Christie Palazzolo told WAVE 3 News. She is one of the investigators now working on the unconfirmed cases, including the one from northern Kentucky.

Palazzolo said some of the women’s deaths may have been ruled accidental, or drug-related. In other circumstances, their bodies were never identified or even found.

She described Little’s demeanor, and how he is different than most serial killers in that he doesn’t have animosity toward women.

“This isn’t, ‘Oh he hates women and that’s why he kills them,’” Palazzolo said. “He actually speaks very favorably and even lovingly about some of his victims.”

Another FBI crime analyst, Angela Williamson, told WAVE 3 News that Little did have one thing in common with serial killers in that he was able to live a double life.

“He had girlfriends,” she said. “He had women that he would live with and he would never touch them and that’s what a lot of serial killers do and they do so successfully.”

Another reason why Williamson said she believes Little was able to kill so many women before being caught is that he came off as a charming man. She said women had no idea they were getting in the car of a killer.

The investigators said they have a long road ahead of them to try to get closure for these women’s families.

The case in northern Kentucky may prove to be one of the most difficult to solve. The only thing the investigators have is Little’s drawing and description of where he said he dumped her body, a dirt road up a hill.

“She was partially concealed by the vegetation,” Little said in an interview with the FBI. “And I left her there.”

After Little was arrested in 2012, his DNA linked him to three unsolved homicides that occurred in 1987 and 1989.

FBI investigators said those victims were beaten and strangled, and their bodies were dumped. Little received three consecutive life sentences.

In exchange for moving him into another prison, Little offered confessions in other murders in 2018.

Through the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, investigators were able to look for patterns in murders and start matching Little’s confessions to actual bodies. So far, the FBI has confirmed 50 of the 93 to which Little has confessed.

The victim from northern Kentucky is believed to have been killed sometime around 1984. She is described as 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing between 130-170 pounds.

The FBI said Little picked her up outside a strip club on his way from Lorain, Ohio, to Cincinnati. Little described her as having short, blonde hair, blue eyes and a “hippie” vibe. He said she asked for a ride to Miami, where her mother lived.

The hilly area Little described was not far from Interstate 75. Little said he strangled the woman in his backseat and left her body behind.

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