One of America's Most Prolific Serial Killers Says He Killed Six Women in Ohio. Two of Those Cincinnati-Area Murders Have Never Been Solved

Cuyahoga County Prosecutors indicted Samuel Little for killings in Cleveland, but two murders Little says he committed in the Cincinnati area remain mysteries

Samuel Little - Wise County Jail
Wise County Jail
Samuel Little

One of America’s most prolific serial killers says he once killed two women in Cincinnati and left the body of another in Northern Kentucky. Their cases have never been solved, but authorities have eerie clues: portraits drawn by the man who says he killed them.

Last year, 78-year-old Samuel Little confessed to 90 murders across 11 states, including at least six in his native Ohio, as he sought a prison transfer. Little was already incarcerated for three murders in California when he made the confessions. He was convicted for those murders and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in 2014. 

Those confessions led to indictments Friday for two of three murders Little says he committed in Cleveland. One occurred in 1984, when Little left a Cleveland bar with a 21-year-old woman named Mary Jo Peyton, took her to a nearby factory, strangled her and threw her body down a stairwell. Employees from a nearby business discovered her two days later. Little says he killed again in Cleveland in 1991, when he picked up a 32-year-old woman named Rose Evans. He took her to a vacant lot, strangled her and covered her in two tires. A passerby found her body later that day.

Among the other Ohio women Little says he killed: a woman in Cincinnati he said he strangled here and left in Columbus and another woman he met in Columbus, killed and dumped in Northern Kentucky in 1984. 

Little has also confessed to killing Cincinnati native Annie Lee Stewart, who lived in Over-the-Rhine, and leaving her body in a Columbus suburb in 1981.

Little, a one-time boxer who beat and strangled his victims, did more than just tell authorities about those murders. He drew disturbingly-detailed portraits of each victim.

“Tall girl by highway by sign,” the scrawl next to the portrait of Little’s alleged Cincinnati victim reads. The slim-faced, young-looking woman is wearing an orange shirt in the drawing and has black hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. Her lips are turned downward in a tense expression.

The drawing of the woman Little claims he left in Covington is equally detailed. She has a lighter complexion, with blue eyes and auburn hair. She appears to be wearing red lipstick.

Little drifted from state to state for years after dropping out of high school in Lorain, Ohio.

He had numerous brushes with the law during that time, including stints in prison.

Authorities charged Little with the 1982  murders of two women in Mississippi and Florida, but he was acquitted. He moved to California, where he was arrested and convicted in 1984 of beating and kidnapping two women who survived their encounters with him. He served roughly two-and-a-half years in prison for those crimes and was released in 1987.

Little's luck ran out in 2012, when he was arrested at a shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Louisville, Kentucky and extradited to California, where the FBI says he was wanted on a narcotics charge. Authorities then began matching up his DNA with unsolved murder cases. That is how the Los Angeles Police were able to pin him to three murders there between 1987 and 1989.  

That led to other connections, including a killing in Texas for which Little was later convicted. When agents from the FBI, Department of Justice and Texas Rangers went to interview Little about that killing in 2018, he was hoping to move from the prison he was at in California to a different facility. That, authorities say, got him talking.

“He went through city and state and gave Ranger (James) Holland the number of people he killed in each place,” FBI Crime Analyst Christina Palazzo said in a news release. “Jackson, Mississippi — one; Cincinnati, Ohio — one; Phoenix, Arizona — three; Las Vegas, Nevada — one.”

All these years later, it is unclear what Little's motive was for the murders. Of the 90 killings Little has confessed to, authorities have been able to link him conclusively to 34. Others, including the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky killings, remain uncorroborated.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Little made them up, authorities say.

Little often targeted vulnerable women engaged in sex work or struggling with addiction problems, law enforcement officials point out. Sometimes, bodies believed to belong to his victims went unidentified and their killings uninvestigated.