WASHINGTON • A 78-year-old drifter in prison in Texas has confessed to 90 murders and is being investigated as possibly the most prolific serial killer in US history.
Samuel Little preyed mainly on drug addicts and prostitutes during a decades-long murder spree that stretched from coast to coast, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a report this week.
Little, a former boxer also known as Samuel McDowell, was arrested at a homeless shelter in Kentucky in 2012 and extradited to California to face drug charges.
Once there, DNA evidence linked him to three cold cases, and Little was convicted in 2014 of murdering three women in Los Angeles between 1987 and 1989. All three had been beaten and strangled.
Sentenced to life in prison, Little was transferred to Texas in connection with another murder.
Mr Bobby Bland, district attorney of Ector County where Little is being held, said Little eventually confessed to the 1994 murder of Denise Christie Brothers in Odessa, Texas.
And after a Texas Ranger named James Holland gained his trust, Little began confessing to dozens of other murders committed between 1970 and 2005, Mr Bland said.
FBI crime analyst Christina Palazzolo said that during an interview in May, Little 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," Ms Palazzolo said.
That made 90 murders in all, of which law enforcement has so far verified 34 killings.
"Little will be confirmed as one of, if not the most, prolific serial killers in US history," Mr Bland said.
The deadliest known US serial killer is believed to be Gary Ridgway, the so-called Green River Killer convicted of 49 murders who is serving a life sentence in Washington state.
The FBI said it was working with the Department of Justice, Texas Rangers and dozens of state and local agencies to match Little's confessions to unsolved murders across the country.
According to the FBI, Little remembers his victims and the killings in great detail but is less reliable, however, when it comes to remembering dates. Because his victims were mostly drug addicts and prostitutes, the women in some cases were never identified and their deaths were not investigated.
"Little's method of killing also didn't always leave obvious signs that the death was a homicide," the FBI said. "The one-time competitive boxer usually stunned or knocked out his victims with powerful punches and then strangled them," it said.