WASHINGTON — Police in Prince George’s County, Maryland, say they now know who killed a woman in a wooded area in 1972, but they still don’t know who the victim is.
Detectives on Wednesday linked the death of the woman in a wooded area of the county to Samuel Little, 79, who is serving multiple life sentences in Texas for strangling three women and has confessed to up to 90 murders nationwide.
Det. Bernie Nelson talked with Little in prison in Decatur, Texas, and said Little was not only “excited” to kill the woman but to relive the killing by divulging the details, which dovetailed exactly with police photos and the medical examiner’s report.
Little said he met the woman in a bus station on New York Avenue in D.C. in May or June 1972, and they began driving north on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. About a quarter-mile north of Route 197 in Laurel, he said, they pulled off the road into a wooded area down a couple of dirt roads and had sex. He then strangled her. He thought she was dead, but she “tried to stagger away from him,” Nelson said. Little caught up to her and strangled her a second time, killing her.
Her body was found by a hunter in December of that year. The area is a subdivision of single-family houses now.
Little pointed out the exact location of the murder from police aerial photos, Nelson said. He had “a very good memory — photographic memory in fact.”
The woman was described by the medical examiner as white; between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-6; having dirty blonde to reddish hair, and being in her early 20s — all details that Little got right in his confession. “Everything matched up,” Nelson said.
Nelson said Little thought the woman was from the Massachusetts area and had a child. Little said she told him her divorce had been finalized that day.
Sgt. Greg McDonald said Wednesday he had been in touch with the Massachusetts State Police, and that they were reviewing all their missing persons and divorce records. He added that the Prince George’s police have been working “off and on” on the case since 1972.
Nelson said the Prince George’s police wouldn’t prosecute the case. A police spokeswoman said of Little, “He’s gonna die in jail.”
In 25 years working homicides, Nelson said, “I’ve sat across from countless killers.” Little, however, was “a true monster — every woman’s ultimate nightmare.”
“Remorse is something Mr. Little does not have,” McDonald said. He said that a common technique when questioning a killer is to say, “Let’s do this for the family.” Authorities in Texas told him that wouldn’t work, “because he did not view his victims as deserving of remorse. … He would shut down.“
After Little lost his appeal, he began confessing to dozens of murders dating back to about 1970. Just last week he was connected with murders in South Carolina and Mississippi, two of 30 he’s been linked with so far; authorities have been saying he’s been telling them details that only the killer would know.
Asked whether it was possible that Little was the Freeway Phantom, the person who killed six black girls between April 1971 and September 1972 in the D.C. area, Nelson said Little denied those killings. He added, “If it was him, he’d tell you.”
Anyone with more information is asked to call the police at 301-772-4925. If you want to remain anonymous, you can call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), or go online at www.pgcrimesolvers.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.