Hamilton County Prosecutors Indict Prolific Serial Killer Samuel Little for Cincinnati Murders

Little has confessed to strangling two women in Cincinnati decades ago

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click to enlarge Samuel Little - Wise County Jail
Wise County Jail
Samuel Little

Hamilton County Prosecutors today indicted Samuel Little after he confessed to murdering two women in Cincinnati. 

Authorities recently received eerie clues about those crimes: portraits drawn by the prolific serial killer who says he strangled the women.

Last year, 78-year-old 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 in 2014 to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. 

Among his many confessions, Little indicated he killed Cincinnati native Annie Lee Stewart, who lived in Over-the-Rhine, and dumped her body in a Columbus suburb in 1981. He also says he murdered another unidentified black female of indeterminate age in OTR sometime around 1984. Little says he disposed of her body somewhere in a 20-minute drive of the neighborhood — possibly under a billboard with an ad for Kool brand cigarettes. 

Little says he killed the women while living in a halfway house in Northern Kentucky. 

Prosecutors say they are working with the Hamilton County Coroner's Office reviewing autopsy records to determine if a body matching that description turned up in the area at that time.

If convicted of the crimes, Little will face 15 years to life in prison. Little agreed to plead guilty as long as prosecutors don't seek the death penalty.

He also faces other charges. Cuyahoga County Prosecutors brought 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 he met in Columbus, killed and dumped in Northern Kentucky in 1984. 

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.

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 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. 

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