Following the recent arrest of Samuel Little, a career criminal suspected in three Los Angeles murders, police from across the country are shaking out their cold case files and reconstructing the trail of a potential serial killer who may have travelled the country sexually assaulting and murdering women for decades.
Little, 72, was extradited to Los Angeles last fall after an arrest at a Kentucky homeless shelter for possessing a crack pipe. Stored DNA linked Little to three hauntingly similar California murders.
In each case, young women were punched out and strangled in L.A. in 1989.
As investigators began looking into Little's past, they discovered a rap sheet that stretched for more than 100 pages, covering crimes in 24 states over 56 years.
His criminal record provides an astonishing account of his whereabouts on an almost monthly basis for decades.
In a terrifying number of cases, an unsolved murder occurred at a time and place where Little lived.
"It's just statistically impossible for a man to keep being in a town where a body turns up," said Det. Darren Versiga of the Pascagoula, Miss., Police Department, who believes he has linked the 1982 death of 22-year-old prostitute Melinda LaPree to Little.
Versiga has re-interviewed witnesses who spoke with police following LaPree's death. Though there is no longer any DNA that could possible link Little to the crimes that way, the victim's murder matches Little's MO and his rap sheet suggests he was in town at the time.
Authorities believe Little, a transient and former boxer who spent much of his life in prison, delivered a knockout punch to his victims, before strangling them, masturbating over their bodies and fleeing town.
"We see a pattern, and the pattern matches what he's got away with in the past," LAPD Det. Mitzi Roberts told the Associated Press.
In Florida, several police departments "feel like they might have some possible cases that could be tied to Little. Cold cases match up to dates he was in the area," said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Little has yet to be charged with any murders outside of California.
Following his arrest in September, Little pleaded not guilty in the three L.A. killings and is awaiting trial. His lawyer, public defender Michael Pentz, did not return calls.