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Exclusive: LAPD arrests serial killer suspect from 1980s

January 7, 2013 |  3:04 pm

Authorities on Monday said they have arrested a 72-year-old man in connection with the slayings of three women in the late 1980s, alleging he is a serial killer who operated in Los Angeles as well as in Florida and the Gulf Coast region.

Samuel Little, 72, has been extradited to California from Kentucky, where he was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service in early September on an unrelated criminal warrant, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Little was charged Monday by the L.A. County district attorney's office with three murder counts and special circumstances for multiple murder. No immediate decision has been made whether to pursue the death penalty against Little.

DOCUMENT: Read the criminal complaint

LAPD Detectives Mitzi Roberts and Rick Jackson, who investigated the case, said there is DNA evidence linking Little to the Los Angeles slayings but would not elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. The crimes are all sexually motivated strangulations, they said.

Police identified the Los Angeles victims as Carol Alford, 41, found dead on July 13, 1987; Audrey Nelson, 35, whose body was discovered Aug. 14, 1989; and Guadalupe Apodaca, 46, from Sept. 2, 1989. Their bodies were discovered in the Central Avenue-Alameda Street corridor, just south of downtown.

The bulk of Little's arrests -- which numbered in the dozens -- were for crimes such as drunk driving, shoplifting and burglary; but detectives said he had a far more sinister side that included bursts of violence such as murders, robberies and assaults directed at those with "high-risk lifestyles" including prostitutes and substance abusers.

PHOTOS: California's most notorious killers

"It was theft by day and murder by night," Jackson said of Little.

Little, also known as Samuel McDowell," committed crimes in 24 states but served relatively little time in state prison or county jail, the detectives said. In the early 1980s, Little was accused of a two murders and two attempted murders in the Gainsesville, Fla., and Pascagoula, Miss., areas.

Little, at the time identified in press accounts as Samuel McDowell, was acquitted by a Florida jury in the strangulation murder of 26-year-old Patricia Ann Mount, whose body was discovered Sept. 12, 1982.

He was never brought to trial in the three Mississippi cases, which include the strangulation death of Melinda LaPree, 24, on Sept., 14 1982. That case has been reopened by the Pascagoula Police Department in light of new evidence, authorities said.

Little served limited prison time relative to his crimes and kept a step ahead of authorities by constantly moving among states. According to LAPD detectives, he had an arrest record in nearly every region of the continental U.S. except the north central states. 

After avoiding convictions in the South, Little headed to California, where he lived in the mid- to late 1980s in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas.

He served more than two years in state prison after being convicted of assault and false imprisonment of two San Diego women in separate cases, police said. Shortly after being paroled, detectives say, he killed the three Los Angeles women.

His exact movements after leaving Southern California are not entirely clear, but detectives say they believe Little is responsible for further violent crimes, including murders.

"We believe he is good for many more crimes -- including murders -- throughout the United States," Roberts said. "If any law enforcement agencies have similar killings that occurred between 1960 and the present, they should contact LAPD Cold Case Detectives."

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Samuel Little. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department

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