Local investigators say a Texas inmate who’s spent months confessing to killings across the United States has implicated himself in two murders in Mobile that have remained unsolved for 34 years.
If what he’s told authorities is true, Samuel Little, 78, would be among the most prolific serial killers in United States’ history. Since May, he’s confessed to at least 90 murders in multiple states between 1970 and 2005.
Little began making his confessions in exchange for a prison transfer earlier this year. At the time, he was already serving three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole following a 2014 conviction f0r three homicides in California between 1987 and 1989.
He is currently incarcerated in Wise County, Texas.
Authorities first announced Little’s confessions earlier this month, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported last week its Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) has confirmed 34 murders so far, with many others still pending confirmation.
The Mobile Police Department says two of those confessions were to a pair of murders occurring in Mobile on the same night in 1984. Little hasn’t been formally charged by local authorities, but police say he has confessed to the unsolved killings of Ida Mae Campbell and Hannah Mae Bonner.
According to Maj. John Barber, head of MPD’s investigative operations, police believe Bonner and Campbell were both abducted on the night of Aug. 11, 1984, but at different times.
The victims’ families told investigators the women were friends, but the exact circumstances of their separate disappearances are unclear.
“Ms. Bonner was found on Aug. 13 in a ditch off of what was Buccaneer Road in the Rangeline Road area. It was a dirt road at the time,” Barber told Lagniappe. “Ms. Campbell was not found until Sept. 6, and she was also found off a dirt road near what is now Halls Mill Road.”
The FBI says, if the confessions are true, one of the reasons Little may have evaded capture for so long could have been that his method of killing didn’t always leave obvious signs the death was a homicide.
Little, a one-time competitive boxer, usually stunned or knocked out his victims with powerful punches before strangling them. With no visible wounds, many of the deaths were not classified as homicides but were attributed to drug overdoses, accidents or natural causes, according to the FBI.
Bonner’s death was investigated as a homicide, and the suspected cause of death does fit Little’s self-proclaimed modus operandi. However, because of the condition of her body, Campbell’s cause of death couldn’t be determined.
“Bonner’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and asphyxiation,” Barber said. “But, when Campbell was found, due to the amount of time, there were mostly only remains, and investigators at the time could not determine a cause of death because of those conditions.”
In a news release, the FBI reported Little has had trouble remembering the exact time of the murders he’s confessed to but recalls vivid details of each. Yet, based on the information released by the FBI so far, Little could have easily been in Mobile in 1984.
Little is said to have lived a “nomadic life,” drifting from city to city including along the Gulf coast. Investigators say he has confessed to multiple killings in Florida, one in Georgia and five in Mississippi, all reported in 1984.
Some were as close as Pascagoula and Gulfport, Mississippi. The FBI reported Little was also charged with killing women in Mississippi and Florida in the early 1980s, but escaped indictment in Mississippi and then dodged a conviction after a trial in Florida.
According to Barber, after hearing from federal investigators, a detective was sent to Texas to interview Little earlier this month. During the interview, Little gave “intimate” information to the detective about Campbell and Bonner’s murders.
“He gave information about both women, as far as what happened and where their bodies were dumped, to the extent that we believe he had to have been involved in the crime,” he added.
Asked whether Little could be a suspect in any other unsolved murders from the Mobile area, Barber said it was doubtful given how forthcoming he’s been with investigators. However, he said MPD would continue reviewing cold cases from the time to make sure.
Additionally, Barber said the information collected by local investigators would soon be presented to a Mobile County grand jury to consider an indictment.
That could ultimately be a symbolic gesture, though, as Little is nearing 80 years old and will likely be facing dozens of new charges in states across the country. Still, Barber said it’s important to go through the proper processes for the victims’ families.
“Realistically, he would probably never see the inside of a courtroom in Alabama, but we think it’s important these families to continue with the closure process,” he concluded.
Lagniappe reached out to members of Bonner’s family but did not receive a response in time for this publication’s press deadline. However, Bonner’s daughter, Glory Bonner, has spoken publicly about Little’s confessions in previous new interviews and on social media.
“Even though my love we might not get complete justice, you can now R.I.P my lady,” Glory Bonner wrote on Facebook Monday. “We [no] longer have to wonder who, what, why? The day he took you, that’s the day our life was never the same.”
Glory, who was just 8 years old when her mother was murdered, also expressed frustration with a criminal justice system she suggested could have prevented her mother’s death by convicting Little years before he wandered into Mobile.
In a recent post appearing to be addressing her deceased mother, Bonner wrote, even though Little “stole your life, stole you from us, robbed us of having that mother’s love, I blame the system who let this monster out over and over again!”
“I just don’t understand,” she added. “How could nothing take so much?”
Updated Dec. 4 to include comments from Maj. John Barber.