Is our most prolific serial killer actually a serial liar?

Is our most prolific serial killer actually a serial liar?

I haven’t written about convicted murderer Samuel Little before now because frankly, monsters tend to make me uncomfortable. And there seems to be no question that this guy is a monster. He’s already serving multiple life sentences for murder, but his recent revelations to law enforcement officials have started generating a lot of headlines. Rather than focusing on the three murders he’s already doing time for, Little has started confessing to a staggering number of other killings, now numbering in the 90s, vaulting him to the position of potentially being the most prolific serial killer in the country’s history.

But is it all true? Little has already been assured that he won’t face the death penalty if he fully cooperates, and with that assurance in his pocket, he’s laying claim to a shocking number of grizly homicides. But some investigators are beginning to wonder if all of this information that could close countless cold cases is too good to be true. This lengthy report from the Washington Post explains why doubts are being cast, but Little still may be telling the truth.

The two cold cases Miami-Dade authorities pulled from a dusty warehouse made an uncanny fit with Little’s recollections, from the cement arch he said he drove under before choking Miriam Chapman to the way he buried Mary Brosley with her leg sticking out because the dirt was so hard.

“We knew what the deal was because he had given these details without even talking to us,” Denmark told The Washington Post.

It’s those kinds of details that have persuaded authorities to declare Little the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, a title that takes more than confessions to earn. Little’s late-in-life disclosures to a Texas investigator were just the start of law enforcement’s efforts to confirm a record 50 killings by the same man — while avoiding the pitfalls that humiliated officials in the same state in the 1980s when another convict recanted hundreds of murder confessions.

But why would Little claim all of these killings if he didn’t actually do them? The workings of the criminal mind remain mysterious, but if he’s lying he wouldn’t be the first one. I still remember profiles of the Zodiac Killer back in the 70s. One problem that investigators ran into was the significant number of people who would call in and claim to be the killer. Police had to run down and check out each of these claims, wasting significant time and resources. Each and every one turned out to be confused and/or mentally ill people who couldn’t possibly have done the crimes and knew no details about them.

The WaPo article also recounts the story of Henry Lee Lucas. Back in the 80s, Lucas was on trial for murdering one elderly woman and suddenly began telling the court that he had killed hundreds of others. Prosecutors from around the country eagerly lined up to see if Lucas could be guilty for all of their cold cases, eventually adding up to nearly 600. It later became obvious that he couldn’t possibly have done them all and had, in fact, only killed three people. That left law enforcement with egg on its face.

But Little may be different. He’s providing a lot of details in some of these unsolved murders that were never made available to the public and investigators have been careful not to give him any material to work with. These include facts like local landmarks near the crime scenes and how the victims were positioned when their bodies were buried or abandoned. And the really amazing part is that Little is doing it all from memory. If all of this is true, he’s some sort of murderer savant.

In yet another bizarre twist, authorities have released a gallery of hand-drawn/painted portraits that Little himself created. They depict the faces of roughly fifty of his alleged victims, all of whom would have gone missing between the 1970s and 2005. Perhaps some families will be able to recognize a long lost loved one lead to closure for them.

Aside from some sort of sick fascination, it’s difficult to deal with a story like this. Do we hope that Little is telling the truth and nearly one hundred families wind up getting closure? I suppose that’s the “upside” to the story if he’s right. But then we’re left once again dealing with the reality that monsters truly do walk among us.

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