A prison transfer request led to Samuel Little confessing to 90 murders

Samuel Little got away with murdering women for decades, vehemently denied the ones that eventually put him behind bars for life — but it was a request for a prison transfer that ultimately led him to confess to killing 90 more.

Little was serving three consecutive life sentences in California for murdering three women in the late 1980s when investigators realized that a Texas cold case sounded like a Little murder. The former competitive boxer usually knocked out and then strangled his victims.

Texas Ranger James Holland went to California to interview Little, who gladly shared information because he was hoping to change prisons and wanted to be extradited to Texas, according to the FBI.

"Over the course of that interview in May, he went through city and state and gave Ranger Holland the number of people he killed in each place. Jackson, Mississippi — one; Cincinnati, Ohio— one; Phoenix, Arizona — three; Las Vegas, Nevada — one," said Crime Analyst Christina Palazzolo, who was present.

The confessions were an about-face for Little. During his 2014 trial in the killings of the three California women, he maintained his innocence "even as a string of women testifying for the prosecution told of narrowly surviving similarly violent encounters with Little," according to the FBI.

Little, 78, is very good at remembering his victims and where he killed them, which is considerable since the murders spanned more than a dozen states between 1970 and 2005. The FBI has so far linked him to 34 of them.

"He remembers where he was, and what car he was driving," an FBI statement said. "He draws pictures of many of the women he killed."

Notorious suspected serial killers throughout history
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Notorious suspected serial killers throughout history

Theodore Bundy was an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. Shortly before his execution, after more than a decade of denials, he confessed to 30 homicides committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978. 

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Luis Alfredo Garavito, a handyman known as "Goofy," has confessed to raping, torturing and then beheading some 140 children during a seven-year orgy of bloodshed across Colombia. The case has shocked the nation which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America and authorities are describing it as Colombia's worst-ever serial murder case. 

(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)

Patrick Wayne Kearney (L), the confessed 'Thrashing Killer,' arrives at the Criminal Courts Building under the watchful eye of a sheriff's deputy. Kearney pleaded guilty to eighteen murders of young boys and men in return for a prosecution promise that he would not get the death penalty.

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Aileen Wuornos is shown in this undated photograph from the Florida Department of Corrections. Wournos was executed by lethal injection October 9, 2002 in Florida for murdering six men when she was a prostitute.

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William G. Bonin (left), a 33-year-old truck driver and registered sex offender, was accused of the 'torture' murders of at least 13 and possibly 21 young males, suspected victims of the so called 'Freeway Killer.' The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also said Vernon Butts (right) was an accomplice in at least six of the 21 murders.

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Joseph James DeAngelo is believed to be the the East Area Rapist, also known as the Golden State Killer, who killed at least 12, raped over 45 people and burglarized hundreds of homes throughout California in the 1970s and 1980s.

(Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)

(Original Caption) San Francisco: San Francisco police circulated this composite of the Bay Area's 'Zodiac' killer. At left is a drawing from witnesses to slaying of a cab driver in San Francisco. The amended drawing on the right was based on further questioning of the witnesses. The suspect is also linked with four other slaying in Napa And Vallejo, California.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Undated handout photo of Japanese Tsutomu Miyazaki who was sentenced to death by Toyko District Court on April 14, 1997 in a high-profile serial murder case concerning the gruesome killings of four young girls.Japan on June 17, 2008 carried out the sentence and executed the serial killer.

(JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

Alexander Pichushkin is followed by a policeman as he enters the courtroom for preliminary hearings at a Moscow court August 13, 2007. Investigators now believe the "Bitsa maniac," who claims he killed to fill squares on an imaginary chessboard, may have murdered 62 people, 10 more than previously thought, an Interior Ministry official said as RIA Novosti agency reported.

(REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin)

Notorious Ukrainian cannibalistic serial killer Andrei Chikatilo behind bars in Rostov on the Don, Russia. Chikatilo, who claims to have killed 55 people, is being charged in the murders of 53.

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Charles Cullen, 43, from Bethlehem, Pennslyvania, is seen in a photograph. Cullen has admitted to killing 40 terminally ill patients in nine hospitals and a nursing home in the past 16 years.

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Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. The gruesome murders involved rape, necrophilia and cannibalism. Pleading insanity, the court found Dahmer sane and guilty on 15 counts of murder and he was sentenced to 15 life terms, the equivalent of 957 years in prison.

(Photo by Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

(Original Caption) This is a police photo of John Wayne Gacy, 37, being held for questioning in connection with the discovery late 12/21 of five badly decomposed bodies. The bodies, believed to be of young people, were found in the crawl space of a home owned by Gacy. He operated a construction business from his home and employed several young men, neighbors said.

But he's hazy on dates.

And investigators are facing another challenge in connecting Little with the killings he has confessed to — for the same reasons that he was able to elude law enforcement for so long.

Little moved around — a lot. He also targeted "marginalized" women who were involved in prostitution and drugs, according to the FBI.

"Their bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths uninvestigated," the FBI said.

And Little often killed women in a way that didn't look like a homicide but ended up classified by investigators as drug overdoses, accidents or from natural causes, according to the FBI.

A lack of DNA evidence and analysis also made it hard to connect Little to his victims.

If the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program can prove that Little killed all the women he said he did, he will likely be considered the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.

Samuel Little

Gary Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, was convicted of 49 murders and confessed to about 20 more. Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy each murdered upwards of 30 people each, but Bundy was suspected of more.

Little was charged in July in Odessa, Texas, with the 1994 murder of Denise Christie Brothers. He attended a pretrial hearing related to that case on Monday.

But he is currently housed more than 300 miles away in Wise County Jail, in order to be closer to Ranger Holland. The FBI said the ranger has been interviewing Little nearly every day "to create the most accurate accounting possible of Little's crimes."

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