In the Shadows: Samuel Little In the Shadows: Samuel Little
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Nov. 11, 2018: Interrogation Room, Wise County Detention Center. Decatur, Texas. 

He called them “grapes,” objects for his consumption. 

He laughed out loud as he said it, as if it were a joke, “How many grapes y’all got on the vine here?” Those hands made a plucking motion. He chuckled again.

 He picked them in the slums and run-down places, the places society ignored, the places where no one trusted police. Places like Cleveland. 

“The police don’t know, they ridin’ around, sh--,” he said. “As long as you didn’t get in f---ing around out there with the people who would be immediately missed and very important to either family or babies or somebody.”

He remembered their faces, but rarely knew their names. He remembered his cars better. He drove them from city to city, paying his way with day labor and petty crime. 

He lured the women with promises of money or drugs. Most he hired. Others he seduced. He never used a gun or knife. Always, he used his hands.

 “You got pretty good at knowing which ones —” said one interrogator.

“Yeah, I’m not gonna go over there in the white neighborhood and pick out a little, young teenage girl,” he said. “I ain’t gonna go over there and pick out a housewife while she’s out there with the shopping in her hands and drag her to the car while she’s …” 

He mimicked a woman screaming. 

“That’s the kind you get busted for.” 

Her name was Rose.
She was Pam Smith’s sister.

Growing up in the ’60s, Pam and Rose were close, despite the five years that separated them. Everyone said they looked alike. They watched movies together, walked the streets of Binghamton, New York, together, grew up far too fast together. They skipped school. They drank. They caroused. They got in trouble. Pam worried Rose was partying too hard. But it was like everyone said: They were a pair of peas.

After she turned 16, Rose disappeared. She took a trip to Cleveland with two friends. The friends came back. Rose didn’t. Pam was devastated. At least every six or so months, Rose would call.

“When are you coming back home?” Pam would ask. 

“I don’t think I’m staying here,” Rose would say. 

But for more than a decade, Rose stayed.

As the years passed Pam could tell, even through the phone, that Rose was doing drugs. Crack was everywhere in the late ’80s. For money, Rose said she was a sex worker. She had met a man too, and said she got married. She was Rose Evans now. 

In January 1990, Rose was arrested on a drug charge in Cleveland. She was booked into jail twice more that year. In one police photo, her gray eyes were defiant. Her hair was tightened into braids. She wore a red and white shirt sporting a cartoon character. “Nobody’s Perfect,” it said. “And I’m a Perfect Example!” 

Rose visited Pam in Binghamton that year, a brief stopover while she was on a two-day trip. Pam remembers Rose was traveling with a man. He said hello, but didn’t leave the car. “That was the last time I saw her,” Pam says. The next thing she remembers is two plainclothes detectives on her mother’s doorstep.

On Aug. 24, 1991, a man walking through a field on East 39th Street found Rose around 7:40 a.m. She was facedown and covered, evidently with haste, by two large truck tires. She wore a royal blue shirt, jeans and white canvas shoes. Detectives identified her by the contents of her pockets: her welfare card, her medical card and two prescriptions. There was blood on her upper lip and nose. The coroner determined she had been strangled. Drag marks had furrowed the dirt leading up to where she had been placed. They started near the curb, where detectives photographed a set of large tire marks. 

The police conducted interview after interview. They talked to owners of businesses near the crime scene, past and current roommates, Rose’s father-in-law (her husband was in jail), neighbors who knew Rose’s boyfriend (her boyfriend was also in jail), Rose’s friends. They interviewed the 85-year-old man Rose had been crashing with at the Phillis Wheatley Association home. He said he felt sorry for her. He let her stay for free. 

They canvassed the local motels, interviewing an employee at one on East 40th Street who had reported the body. She identified Rose as a working girl. A man had come in to say he’d seen her in the field, and the worker had called the police. The manager of an East 55th Street motel recognized her too, saying he had seen her the day before she died. 

The interviews turned up more promising leads. In January 1992, a working girl showed up at Charity Hospital after being assaulted. She told police she’d been smoking crack with Rose the night she disappeared, and had seen her get into a two-door, burgundy car with a black man between 3 and 4 a.m. 

The woman also said that around that time, in September or October 1991, a man had raped her and tried to strangle her with a rope. In the police report, she said someone was “raping and beating the strawberrys [sic]  and it is not being reported.” A detective gave the woman a card and said to call if she saw the car again.

Police considered several suspects, but no one was charged in Rose’s death. Her case was entered into the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program database, which tracks unsolved homicides. Pam can’t remember ever getting an update about the case. 

Pam heard nothing from police for more than two decades. The family couldn’t afford a burial, so Rose was cremated. They couldn’t afford an urn either, so, for 10 years, Pam kept Rose’s ashes in a small box. She took it with her when she moved to a small town outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. One day, she took it out to a creek. She waded out into the water and spread Rose’s ashes, letting the flow take her away. “You can’t live like that, in a cardboard box,” she says. “I just said, ‘Fly away and be happy.’ ”

He thought we would only remember the women like he did. Faces without names. Names without stories.

Nov. 11, 2018: Interrogation Room,
Wise County Detention Center.
Decatur, Texas. 

“Did choking these women happen before the sex, or during, or right after? When did it mostly happen?”

“I pick … I choose ’em out first.”

“You chew ’em out first?”

“Choose ’em.”

“Choose ’em. You pick ’em. You pick the ones. You pick the ones you think you’re gonna kill first?”

“No. Depends on how her neck look. You know how a man got an ugly area?”

“Yeah, you’ve got an Adam’s apple.”

“A man do that. A woman got a smooth neck. As a child, I got attracted …”

He slid his right hand around his neck.

“To the neck, the neck part?”

“Yeah.”

Three workers at the Madison Equipment Co. factory on East 82nd Street noticed the smell a little before 1 p.m. on July 3, 1984. They had descended into the boiler room of the factory to look for a lost cat. Stinking liquid had seeped in through a crack under an exterior door, which opened into an outside stairwell. For months, workers in the factory had passed near the door as they went to and from their cars in the nearby parking lot. No one had noticed anything amiss. 

They went outside and looked into the 6-foot-deep stairwell, overgrown by ivy and weeds. She laid there at the bottom of the stairs, her face toward the heavens, legs and arms splayed at odd angles. Her body was decomposing, crawling with maggots. She wore a sandal on her right foot. Her sweater and bra had been pulled around her shoulders. She wore a ring on her right pinkie and was nude from the waist down.

Detectives swarmed the scene in their dark suits, taking photographs. Her body was taken to the coroner’s office. Samuel Gerber, the coroner, believed she was a slender white woman between 26 and 28 years old. She had likely died in May or June. The cause of death was “undetermined.” In the name field, and on her fingerprint card, she was listed as “unknown white female,” “unidentified,” “found in outside basement stairwell.”

Police thought she may have jumped from the roof, until they learned the factory’s alarm system hadn’t tripped. They ran her fingerprints and tried to match her with missing persons reports. But they didn’t turn up a name. 

Years passed, and the investigation continued. In October, police released a reconstruction of her face to The Plain Dealer and looked into tips. In 1987 and 1990, detectives tried to match her against missing persons reports from Florida and Indiana, and checked against dental records and in the National Crime Information Center. Nothing.

In 1992, a detective noticed that, “due to some oversight,” the victim’s fingerprints had been entered into Cleveland Police’s fingerprint database, but not the national one. The fingerprint card, with clear impressions of the woman’s right thumb, was sent to the FBI. 

The next month, a letter arrived from Quantico, Virginia. They had found a match. Information about the woman was scarce. Her file painted a picture of desperate circumstances. She had been arrested a couple of times in Cleveland, once in 1981 for prostitution. She was 18. Her jail booking card described her as “possible [sic] suicidal.” She was arrested again for soliciting in 1982, in the area of East 100th Street and Cedar Avenue. She appeared to be from Kentucky. The police assessment in the file had been cruel: “appears to be retarded or very slow.” 

Cleveland Police had filed the case in 1984 under the cause of death from the coroner: “undetermined.” But now police had a name to put on their reports: Mary Joe Peyton.

Women took him down.

In May 2018, FBI ViCAP analyst Christie Palazzolo and Department of Justice liaison Angela Williamson sat listening to an audio feed in the guard room of California State Prison, Los Angeles County in Lancaster, hoping that their suspect would open up. In another room, Samuel Little, a grandfatherly looking 77-year-old with droopy eyelids and a wheelchair sat across from Texas Ranger James Holland, a veteran interrogator with a reputation for unlocking suspects.

Little was an enigma. In 2014, he had been convicted of strangling three women in Los Angeles in 1987 and 1989. DNA evidence found on two of the victims’ shirts and under the third woman’s fingernails had linked him to those murders. 

Investigators knew he traveled throughout the country. They suspected he had left a trail of even more crimes behind him. But he had refused to talk to law enforcement. 

At the 2014 trial, prosecutors had presented a case that went far beyond the three killings. They prosecuted Little as a serial killer who had attempted to kill many times before. Over two weeks, several women who said they had near-death run-ins with Little in the 1980s took the stand. One woman said Little had tied her up in 1984 in San Diego, then choked her and pushed her out of his car into a heap of trash. A month after that incident, police found a bleeding, unconscious woman in Little’s car. 

Another woman from Pascagoula, Mississippi, said he had beaten her in 1981 so badly that blood trickled from her eyes like tears. She hadn’t reported the encounter to police. “They don’t care nothing about no black prostitute in Pascagoula,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In 2013, Palazzolo had received a call from the detectives on the Los Angeles case. She helped them by putting together a detailed timeline of Little’s whereabouts, and had also researched other killings in which Little could be a suspect, such as the 1994 murder of Denise Christie Brothers in Odessa, Texas. 

Little’s rap sheet, The Associated Press reported at the time, had entries spanning 24 states over 56 years. 

Little was clearly dangerous, and he wasn’t talking. But Holland, Palazzolo and Williamson went to California in 2018 after other investigators suggested Little may be linked to more cases. “It was just taking a chance,” says Williamson.

At first the interrogation went nowhere, the Los Angeles Times reported. Holland gave Little peanut M&M’s and chitchatted about boxing. He played to Little’s vanity, telling him the feds were interested in him. Little was cagey. He had beaten charges before. 

But then Holland mentioned the Odessa case. Perhaps it was Holland’s Texas drawl that got Little talking. Or maybe it was the fact that, as Holland later told 60 Minutes, Holland avoided references to the words “rape” and “murder,” instead calling Little’s crimes “killings,” playing along when Little scraped his fingernails across his beard, as he often did when he reminisced, and rhapsodized about “my girls.” Or perhaps it was the promise that prosecutors wouldn’t pursue the death penalty. In any event, the stories began pouring out.

Little talked about the Odessa “killing,” and then others, and still others more. Over two days, Little confessed to 20 murders. He was often fuzzy on dates. But Little’s recollection of the Odessa case matched crime scene photographs and contemporaneous police reports. He also told Holland he thought he had killed around 100 women. “He had never tallied it up himself,” Williamson says.

Palazzolo and Williamson were skeptical at first, but as cases matched back to Little’s confessions, the precise details and level of accuracy helped confirm Little’s stories. 

Little was born on June 6, 1940, in Reynolds, Georgia, then a town of 871 inhabitants, about 45 minutes from Macon. He has claimed his mother, Bessie Mae Little, was a prostitute. Records from the 1940 census list Bessie Mae as living at her grandmother’s house on Macon Street. The census listed the 16-year-old’s job as “maid.” The man Little later said was his father, 19-year-old Paul McDowell, also lived in Reynolds, near the railroad depot. Investigators believe Little’s mother may have abandoned her son as a boy. (Attempts to contact members of the McDowell family were unsuccessful.) 

By his teens, Little’s paternal grandparents had moved to Northeast Ohio, to a house a handful of blocks from the U.S. Steel mill in Lorain. Little soon moved in with them, taking their last name as his own. He attended Hawthorne Junior High School, but quickly got in trouble with the law. 

According to records kept at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Little was committed to the Boys’ Industrial School, a reformatory for teenaged boys in Lancaster, southeast of Columbus, in February 1954. He was 13. His booking card listed him under the name of his grandparents, McDowell, and said he was there for stealing. (He had stolen a bike, he later told New York.) His IQ was listed as 96. His mother’s whereabouts were “unknown.”

The boys at Lancaster spent half their days in school and the other half doing manual labor. They lived in cottages, which were overseen by older boys and segregated by race. Little was assigned to farm duty, where troublemakers were often sent. The farm crew raised animals such as chickens and cows, and vegetables including carrots, cabbages and lima beans. Boys could also take part in the drill team and Golden Gloves boxing. Students aimed to have the fewest disciplinary reports, since that could lead to early release. But by the time Little was released to his grandparents, in September 1955, he had racked up 47 reports. Most others had one or two.

In 1956, Little was arrested for burglary in Omaha, Nebraska, and served time at a youth authority. In 1957, prison records in Columbus show he broke into a Danley’s Dry Cleaners in Lorain and was sent to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. He was paroled from Mansfield after a few years, but then sent back in October 1961 for breaking into an abandoned furniture warehouse in Elyria. Later, Little said he learned to box during his stints at Mansfield, using his then-5-foot-11-inch, 155-pound body to pummel other inmates. He was paroled from Mansfield again in December 1964. In a grainy photo taken on the day of his release, he was a gangly 24 year old. He stood uneasily in a cream-white suit with big lapels. His arms were stiff at his sides, hands bunched into almost-fists. He had grown up in prison. 

In 1966, Little was arrested by Cleveland police for assault and battery. He had beaten a woman. 

On his booking paperwork, he listed another woman as his wife. He listed her later too, after an arrest for stealing several designer jeans from a Higbee’s at Midway Mall in Elyria. That paperwork said they were married in Lorain in 1965 and then separated. 

By the late 1960s, Little had left Cleveland for Florida. His mother, then called Bessie Mae Smith, was listed on his Mansfield paperwork at a Miami-area address. It was in Miami, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 1971, that Little committed his first confirmed murder. He met Mary Brosley at a bar on New Year’s Eve, the Sun-Sentinel later reported. He strangled her and dumped her body in the Everglades. 

Little returned to Cleveland a few months after murdering Brosley. On May 28, he was arrested for the early morning robbery of a Clark gas station in Westlake. While in prison, in September, he was charged with sodomy and aggravated assault. By December, the robbery case made Plain Dealer headlines when the state’s key witness, Little’s girlfriend, Lucy Madero, who was present at the robbery, was forgotten by police, the courts and prosecutors. They left her in the county’s decrepit 1930s-era jail off Payne Avenue for almost six months without cause. 

The jail was so rundown that inmates could talk through holes in the walls and ceilings. As Little told the story later, Madero told a cellmate named Orelia Jean Dorsey that she intended to testify against Little. 

Before the trial, Dorsey met Little and warned him about Madero. Dorsey was right. Madero testified against Little when the case came to trial in March 1972. But with the tip-off from Dorsey, Little was prepared. Dorsey, Little said, even testified on his behalf. Records show a jury found him not guilty. 

Dorsey was, Little later said, “no beauty” and 30 years his senior. But her act of loyalty persuaded him to take up with her. Dorsey taught Little how to fence stolen goods, a skill that subsidized their life of wandering. She was his traveling companion, shoplifting expert and surrogate mother. (His grandmother, Fannie Mae McDowell, died in 1972, followed by Bessie Mae in 1973.) Dorsey remained his “old lady” until she died of a brain hemorrhage in Los Angeles in 1988. 

In the years between 1957 and 1975, AP reported, Little was arrested 26 times in 11 states, a number which only climbed over time. He dodged charges both petty and felonious in his travels, including shoplifting, rape, assault, kidnapping and murder.

As they crossed from state to state, Little and Dorsey settled into a routine. Night after night, in a seedy motel or cheap apartment somewhere, Little put Dorsey to bed. Then he went out into the dark.

Nov. 11, 2018: Interrogation Room,
Wise County Detention Center.
Decatur, Texas. 

Little sat waiting for the two men from Cleveland. He wore the gray-striped clothing and orange Crocs of an inmate. His wheelchair rested in a corner. 

Little had been extradited to Texas from California in September 2018, where he continued talking with Holland. He had even begun to draw remarkably specific pictures of his victim’s faces. These interviews were all recorded and Palazzolo and Williamson sent word to law enforcement across the country. A select group were invited to interview him.

On Oct. 1, an email from Williamson pinged into Richard Bell’s inbox. The email to Bell, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s chief of special investigations, said Little had confessed to three possible murders in Cleveland. One had popped up in the ViCAP system. Bell and Jack Bornfeld, a prosecutor’s investigator and former Cleveland police homicide detective, got on a plane. 

They came prepared. Bell carried an accordion file of notes, reports and pictures. He had even chosen his clothing specifically to put Little at ease. Little hated prosecutors. One in Los Angeles, Beth Silverman, had put Little’s victims on the witness stand and sent him to jail for life. Even mentioning the California case would throw him into a foul mood. So instead of a suit, Bell opted for jeans. Bell had also studied cars, a favorite topic of Little’s, and was prepared to talk about the Cleveland Browns, another favorite. 

Bell didn’t like catering to Little, but he wanted to get a confession. “I knew that I could worry about taking showers later,” he says. Some municipalities were simply using the information Little provided to close cases. But Bell and Bornfeld had gone to Texas with the hopes of charging Little. Little, however, would only talk if spared the death penalty. Bell had a letter to that effect, which Prosecutor Mike O’Malley had reviewed. 

In the interrogation room, Holland handed the letter to Little. He examined it, folded it up, put it in his shirt pocket and said, “How can I help you?”

After some talk about the Browns, about 20 minutes into the interview, they turned to the murders. Bornfeld handed a photograph across the table to Little. “Does she look familiar to you at all?” he asked. 

“Yes, this is her,” said Little. He stared at the photo of Mary Joe Peyton, holding it with two hands.

“That’s her?” asked Bornfeld. 

“That’s the way she looked, huh? I remember. Yup, she was heavyset, just like that gal,” said Little. “Especially in this picture.”

He met her around East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue. The area, the entrance to University Circle, had a reputation for being friendly to the sex trade at the time. Entrepreneur and self-styled black revolutionary landlord Winston Willis had assembled a complex of bars, porn theaters and nightclubs, as well as businesses of the more reputable sort, there in the 1970s. By 1984, the Cleveland Clinic was fast encroaching, but some of the old district remained. 

Little said he met Mary Joe at a bar in the area. She was sitting on a stool. Little pawed at his face as he told the story, long fingernails scratching audibly against his stubble. “She saw me, and then we made a date,” Little said.

Mary Joe got into Little’s car, a black 1976 Thunderbird. She directed him to a warehouse on East 82nd Street. “When we got over there, we did our thing, and I choked her out,” said Little.

Bell and Bornfeld had their first confession. But they weren’t done. Minutes later, Bornfeld opened his portfolio, which held three of Rose’s mug shots. “Who is that, there?” Little asked, trying to peek.

“This one is later on, around 91-92. Remember some young lady you dumped …” said Bornfeld.

“In the tires?” Little asked. 

“With the tires,” said Bornfeld. 

“Oh that’s her?” asked Little.

“You tell us,” said Bornfeld.

Bornfeld arranged the mug shots on the table. Little picked up the one of Rose in the cartoon character shirt. “Oooooh. Ha ho,” said Little. “Oh god, yeah. That’s her.”

“What do you remember about her?” Bell asked.

Little kept staring at the photograph.

“Them eyes and that face. I believe that … talking sh--,” Little said. 

“Talking sh--, huh?” Bell said. 

Little laughed, but didn’t answer. He stared at the photo of Rose. 

“Mmmm,” Little muttered, “Mmm, mmm.”

He had picked Rose up near East 55th Street and Central Avenue in 1991, he said. She had been smoking crack with a group of men and got into his bubble-top van. They drove to an old man’s house, where she stayed about 20 minutes, Little said, to get money for more drugs, then got back into the van. But when they pulled onto East 39th Street, Rose refused to go into the back of the van. “You’re going to kill me back there,” Little remembers her saying. 

Rose fought him all the way, regaining consciousness several times. But Little was bigger, weightier, stronger. He dragged her body into a field and covered it with two large tires. 

Bell returned to Cleveland with two confessions and a mystery. 

Little had also confessed to another killing in Cleveland. Williamson, the DOJ liaison, had told Bell, and Bell and Bornfeld had questioned Little about it. But they hadn’t found a body to match the confession. Then Williamson connected Bell with Jamie Onion, a Willoughby Hills detective. 

For years, the case of the woman by the highway sat in a cardboard box, cold as can be, one of only two unsolved homicides in the Willoughby Hills Police Department. A resident of White Road found her on March 18, 1983, while he was walking his dog in the forest near Interstate 271. 

She had been there for a long time. The remains were mostly skeletal, laying on the ground a few dozen feet from the whizzing highway. Several bones were missing, seemingly taken by wildlife. A tangle of leaves and overgrown forest, beside a wire fence and a meandering creek, hid the scene from view.

Willoughby Hills detectives took stock of the skeleton’s meager possessions: a blue-green dress, size 8 to 10, a coat-length knit sweater, a man’s Elgin watch, a gold and silver ring, size 7.5 black high heels and a gold chain, on which hung a two-inch crucifix with a raised figure of Christ. 

Police told the newspapers that the cause of death hadn’t been determined, but they suspected foul play. They thought she was most likely a black woman, probably between 20 and 35 years old. 

Due to the age of the remains, police struggled to identify her. She had been there, by the highway in Willoughby Hills, for months, maybe years. A specialist made a reconstruction of her face from the skeleton. She had a wide nose and high cheekbones. Police hoped someone she knew would recognize her. But for decades, no one did.

In October 2018, Onion and his partner, Detective Ron Parmertor, pulled the case out for a second look. They knew from reading about Little that he had operated in the Cleveland area, and wondered if he might be connected to their case. They contacted the FBI to find out. 

Onion didn’t know it, but Little had already confessed to a similar murder. Little  had told Bell and Bornfeld he picked up a black woman near East 39th Street and Broadway Avenue in the late 1970s and strangled her. A police car drove by, so he got on the highway, he thought toward Akron. He dumped her in a wooded area, near a fence.

Bornfeld had combed through missing persons reports and homicide files, trying to find a body that matched Little’s description. He and Bell also drove up and down I-77 and reviewed aerial photos of the highway. 

Bell, in a suit, tie and boots, had even traipsed up and down a mile-long stretch of I-77 in Newburgh Heights with a group of officers, hoping to glean some leads. But they had come up empty. Now, the Willoughby Hills case looked like the match they’d been looking for.

Onion and Parmertor’s confidence grew when they flew down to Texas to interview Little in December 2018. “We had a good idea from Mr. Little that he thought he was responsible for this,” Onion says. 

But some of the details Little offered diverged. Little thought he was heading on the highway toward Akron. He seemed uncertain of the woman’s clothing, giving conflicting descriptions, and said he had dumped the body over a fence, when it was found in front of a fence. 

They thought Little most likely killed the Jane Doe. But given Little’s conflicting descriptions, they wanted to identify the victim before charging Little. Bell and Onion requested a DNA sample of her remains from the medical examiner’s office and sent it off to a lab for genealogical testing. 

For a long time, Pam remembered only snippets of Rose. She had to rely on her memory. Rose, just a teenager, leaving home. Rose, cradling a phone somewhere in a far-away city. Rose, with a face that looked so much like Pam’s own, getting in the car after her last visit. The ashes of Rose, pulled away by the current.

When Bornfeld called Pam to tell her that they had found Rose’s killer, she broke down on the phone. He couldn’t bring her back. No one could. She had been taken from this world by a monster. But Pam finally knew what had happened to Rose. “It made me feel so wonderful that they found him,” she says. 

In May 2019, Little was indicted on charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping for the deaths of Mary Joe Peyton and Rose Evans. A few months later, he appeared in a downtown Cleveland courtroom via video link from California. He pleaded guilty to the aggravated murder charges and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. 

Cleveland Magazine‘s efforts to locate Mary Joe’s family were unsuccessful. 

“He should know that he’s been caught,” says Bell. “Even if it’s because of words that came out of his mouth.”

In January 2019, the Akron Police Department was sent a confession and drawing of Little’s. Detective Clay Cozart matched it with the missing persons case of Roberta Tandarich, who was found dead in Firestone Metro Park on Sept. 30, 1991. The Summit County coroner had ruled Tandarich’s cause of death “unknown.” 

The details of the case matched Little’s confession. Cozart also showed the picture Little had drawn to Tandarich’s daughter, who confirmed it looked like her mother.

“Sometimes, as detectives, you get hardened by all the crime that you deal with,” says Cozart, now Akron police union president. “But each one of these crimes all have families that were affected. They went years and years and years without knowing.”

In October 2019, the FBI confirmed Little to be the most prolific serial killer in United States history. Palazzolo and Williamson believe all 93 of Little’s confessions, which stretch from 1970 to 2005, to be credible. As of late December 2019, the FBI has been able to verify more than 50 of them. The effort to identify Little’s victims continues. 

As of early January 2020, the test results in the Willoughby Hills case have yet to be returned. The Jane Doe is still unidentified.

“Everyone always asks us what we think of Little. We don’t sit around thinking too much about him. We’re thinking about finding the victims and getting answers for their families,” says Williamson. “We can’t change what he’s done. But we can get some kind of justice. Or at least an answer.”

Pam doesn’t have to rely on her memory any longer. Bornfeld sent her the mug shots of Rose. They are not much, but Pam cherishes them. She keeps two next to her bed, in her home in Pennsylvania. Another two are in the living room, where she can look at her sister often. 

“I was heartbroken. But it was a relief. My sister’s free now,” says Pam. “Her soul is free.”

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