Please note: this series features adult language and references to murder, violence, and sexual abuse that may be upsetting to some listeners. Discretion is advised.
How did the deadliest serial killer in US history get away with murder for over 40 years?
Samuel Little was serving life in prison for killing three women, when he began to confess to a string of murders. And once the admissions started, the list didn’t stop – his total murder count reached 93 victims across 19 US States. Most of them were vulnerable women – sex workers, drug addicts, or both.
Journalist Benjamin Zand leads an investigation that is both a true crime story and a forensic examination of how US law enforcement failed to stop the country’s most dangerous serial killer.
Along the way, Ben is joined by former sex worker, turned safety campaigner, Tika Thornton, herself a victim of child sex trafficking aged 12. Together they ask: what turned Samuel Little into a serial killer? How did he evade justice for so long? And could the same thing happen again today?
Samuel Little isn’t someone I had heard of but his crimes speak of decades of hurt and grief for families. The research in this podcast is very detailed and you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the production of it. While it does talk about Samuel Little and how the justice system failed the victims time and time again before a conviction was granted, the podcast isn’t about learning about or hearing the ‘backstory’ of Samuel Little. This podcast is about the victims and about getting justice for those victims and families involved.
Just think about that for a moment…93 women. To kill one person is an atrocity but to kill 93 over 4 decades, it’s sickening to hear.
Samuel Little was attracted to ‘necks’. While he did unspeakable things to his victims, the gratification he got was from strangulation. Little prayed on the vulnerable. A lot of his victims were black prostitutes in the 1970s and 80s and during that time there was a severe prejudice towards working prostitutes. Prostitution was seen as a criminal career, so therefore as criminals are liars, prostitutes were seen as being liars also.
A prostitute who willingly committed sex acts couldn’t possibly be raped when she had agreed to get into the car.
I’m not kidding, that is the view explained through the podcast. The podcast talks a lot about how the justice system overlooked people of poor or minority backgrounds. They just didn’t see them as worth listening to.
To point out that the 70s/80s were a time where crime was high – is a moot point – but knowing how pressed for time law enforcement was, it is easy to see how Samuel Little and others managed to slip through the gap so many times.
Samuel Little was brought to court on criminal charges many times but managed to escape justice. Why? A combination of ‘unworthy’ witnesses (at least in the eyes of the court), and lack of forensic evidence. In the 70s/80s fingerprint evidence wasn’t a thing.
It wasn’t till the 2010s that Little was finally caught – and only through the perseverance of two women determined not to let him remain on the streets a moment longer.
A detail I like about podcasts, especially those focused on true crime is that they have a lot of first hand accounts by people who were there or by victims and their families and that allows you as a listener to delve deeper into the case and really see all four corners of the table.
The acts that Little committed and horrific. There is no doubt in that. But also to blame are the judgements of others and the perceived view that so many have on those that work in the sex industry. Nowadays many prostitutes are working a profession they readily agreed to wanting. There is still however, a stigma that surrounds them and when asked the question ‘could someone like Samuel Little rise again’ the resounding answer was ‘yes’ – yes because in order for it not to happen again, the lives of prostitutes need to be taken seriously, judgements and opinions need to be changed and there needs to be more laws safeguarding prostitutes and other vulnerable people.
For all the violence, I enjoyed listening to this podcast. It opened my eyes to a stigma I thought we were long past. It’s an important listen because these 93 women need to be remembered – in 2022 some of those 93 women are still unnamed.
If you do choose to listen however, be warned that you will hear audio clips of Samuel Little himself, as well as some interview techniques that can leave you feeling disgusted.
I give this detailed audio podcast: ✨✨✨✨✨