KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The FBI recently declared a confessed murderer as the deadliest serial killer in U.S. history, with connections to East Tennessee.
Samuel Little, behind bars since 2012, has been telling investigators that he’s responsible for more than 90 killings nationwide between 1970 and 2005.
FBI agents say their crime analysts believe Little’s confessions are credible with investigators verifying 50 murders.
Investigators say Little lived out of his car, was in and out of jail, drifted all over the U.S. and was in Knoxville for about 90 days.
A cold case more than 40 years old
There are notes Retired KCSO detective David Davenport keeps close, having investigated hundreds of cold cases. Last fall, he opened one from 1975 after getting a call from the FBI about Samuel Little.
“He was pretty vivid in the details. He gave her first name, that she had a physical disability, suffered seizures,” said Davenport.
That case turned out to be Martha Cunningham’s.
“He tried to pick out prostitutes or drug addicts or things like that, but Miss Cunningham didn’t fit that profile. She was real active in the church, sang in the church, played piano. I think she ministered to him and that she had probably went out with him because she was last seen on New Year’s Eve 1974,” explained Davenport.
It was chronicled in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, in January 1975 two men were hunting in the woods near Oglesby Road and found Miss Cunningham’s body.
Investigators at the time told reporters because of her epilepsy, she died of natural causes.
“She was covered up with brush, hidden in an area, her undergarments were pulled down below her ankles and everything gave an indication that it was a homicide,” said Davenport.
He says Miss Cunningham’s family feels this is closure.
93 confessed murders
For Davenport, hearing that the FBI has deemed Little as the deadliest serial killer in U.S. history, “If he killed one or 100, I’m glad eventually he got caught but it pains me because I think sometimes because of the type of people, prostitutes and drug addicts, the cases weren’t investigated like they should have been and of course forensics were really non-existent during that time.”
Davenport feels our District Attorney’s Office, and likely others, will not prosecute Little, “I think there’s going to be a special place in hell for Samuel Little and he’ll get his judgement there.”
Part of Little’s confession includes another murder in Knoxville, that of a young black woman in her late 20s or early 30s who disappeared near downtown in the Magnolia and 5th Avenue area. But Davenport says he’s not been able to make a connection to Little.
Help needed matching unconfirmed confessions
The FBI is asking for the public’s help in matching the remaining unconfirmed confessions.
ViCAP, with the support of the Texas Rangers, has provided additional information and details about five cases in hopes that someone may remember a detail that could further the investigation.
The FBI has a page dedicated to Little’s confessed murders – unmatched and therefore not yet definitively corroborated by law enforcement – on its website, which can be found here.
If you have any information linked to Little’s confessions, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit at tip online at tips.fbi.gov.