Sketch of serial killer Samuel Little's Charleston victim

The FBI has released a sketch by serial killer Samuel Little depicting a woman he says he murdered in the Charleston area between 1977 and 1992. Little has confessed to 93 killings, making him the nation's most prolific serial killer, according to the FBI. Provided 

The woman smiles out from the crude sketch, her curly hair swept from her face and her eyes sparkling above a pair of ruby red lips. 

The artist who captured her essence says he is also the one who took it away. He claims he snuffed out her life in a Charleston field decades ago, part of a long parade of violence across the United States that left dozens of women dead.

The FBI has dubbed Samuel Little the nation's most prolific serial killer. The 79-year-old drifter has confessed to 93 murders, strangling his victims across 19 states between 1970 and 2005. Investigators have been able to verify 50 of those killings, with many more awaiting final confirmation, the FBI said Sunday.

Samuel Little

Samuel Little. File/AP

Others, like the Charleston woman, remain a mystery, their identities unknown.

The FBI is appealing for the public's help in putting a name to these victims and corroborating Little's confessions before these cases are lost to time. Investigators have released several sketches Little made of his victims, along with additional details the killer provided in a series of videotaped statements

While Little recalls many of his kills with photographic precision, not many details have surfaced about the Charleston woman. He told investigators she was black and 28 years old when he took her life sometime between 1977 and 1982. 

Charleston police have said Little claimed to have deposited the woman in a field near a military base, close to major traffic artery. Investigators went back through their case files but found nothing that matched his account, Charles Francis, a police spokesman, said.

North Charleston is another possibility, as the city was home to bustling Navy and Air Force bases at the time the killing is said to have occurred. Interstate 26 also runs the length of the city. 

North Charleston police have been in contact with the FBI, and detectives have pulled unsolved cases from that time period to see if any might match Little's account, said Karley Ash, a police spokeswoman. 

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said she reached out to the FBI last year after word first surfaced about a possible local victim. But the agency had few details to offer, and the information was too thin to find a match, she said. 

"We are still interested in doing anything we can to help," she said. "But right now, I need a little more to go on."

serial killer savannah victim 1

Unconfirmed victim of serial killer Samuel Little from Savannah in 1974. Provided 

serial killer savannah victim 2

Unconfirmed victim of serial killer Samuel Little from Savannah in 1984. Provided

Little has already been tied to one death in South Carolina: the September 1978 murder of 19-year-old Evelyn Weston in Richland County.

Texas Rangers notified Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott in November 2018 that Little had confessed to shooting a woman in the head in his county, and Lott immediately knew what case they were talking about, The Associated Press reported. Lott, who had worked the case when it happened, had been trying to solve Weston's slaying for four decades.

Little has also confessed to killing two young women in Savannah, though investigators have not identified those potential victims. He told authorities one killing occurred in 1974, the other in 1984. 

Little, a former boxer and ex-con, had run-ins with the law dating back to 1956, with convictions for shoplifting, fraud, drug, solicitation, and breaking and entering charges. But law enforcement didn't unravel the full extent of his crimes until a 2012 DNA sample taken while he was in custody in Los Angeles on a drug charge linked him to three unsolved murders from the 1980s. In each case, a woman was beaten, strangled and dumped, the FBI said. He was convicted of those killings in 2014. 

Little maintained his innocence at trial, but later began confessing to a wide range of killings after failing to overturn the three consecutive life sentences he had received in the California killings. He opened up to Texas Rangers who had been investigating a cold case, and the FBI soon went to work trying to match his confessions to scores of unsolved homicides.

He was known to target drug addicts, prostitutes and other troubled women, knocking his victims unconscious, strangling them and then dumping their bodies before skipping town. Many of his victims’ deaths were originally ruled overdoses or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes. Some bodies were never found, the FBI said.

Timeline of serial killer Samuel Little's mug shots

This timeline of mug shots, released by the FBI, shows how Samuel Little looked at different stages during his prolific run of killings between 1970 and 2005. Provided 

“For many years, Samuel Little believed he would not be caught because he thought no one was accounting for his victims,” said Christie Palazzolo, an analyst with the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. “Even though he is already in prison, the FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim — to close every case possible.”

Anyone with information linked to Little’s confessions can contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit at tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

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Reach Glenn Smith at 843-937-5556. Follow him on Twitter @glennsmith5.

Watchdog/Public Service Editor

Glenn Smith is editor of the Watchdog and Public Service team and helped write the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, “Till Death Do Us Part.” He is a Connecticut native and a longtime crime reporter.