Crime

She was strangled, thrown in a Coast dirt pit in 1978. Now a suspected serial killer has confessed.

Julia Critchfield cold case mystifies investigators

Little new evidence is known in 38-year-old case involving Critchfield's death.
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Little new evidence is known in 38-year-old case involving Critchfield's death.

A suspected serial killer serving life in prison for the murders of three women in Los Angeles, California, has given investigators details of at least 90 murders in 14 states, including a 1978 cold case in Gulfport.

Samuel Little, 78, has confessed to the killing of Julia Critchfield, who was strangled and thrown off a cliff and into a dirt pit on the north end of Saucier, Sheriff Troy Peterson said Monday.

Little, declared a suspected serial killer, also recently confessed to killing another woman in Phenix City, Alabama, according to the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper. Little may also be connected to as many as 90 other murders in 14 states from 1970 to 2005, NBC News has reported.

Critchfield, 36, was found about 8 to 10 feet below a cliff off U.S. 49 and Mississippi 67 on Jan. 22, 1978. The Sun Herald published a story about the cold case in 2016.

She was the mother of four children, and her killing stumped investigators for years.

Harrison County Sheriff’s investigator Caleb Mitchell and crime-scene investigator Kristi Johnson took over the cold case a few years ago.

Evidence, autopsy results and a report from a coroner’s inquest showed Critchfield had been strangled by hands and died about two hours before she was thrown off a cliff.

Investigators learned Critchfield loved karaoke and singing. She didn’t have a car, so she walked wherever she went or got rides from friends, they said.

The night she died, she went to Chris’s Lounge on Courthouse Road. What happened next was a mystery.

“The case could have been solved back then if they had the technology we have today,” Johnson told the Sun Herald in 2016.

In October, the investigators got word from the Texas Rangers, a statewide law enforcement agency, that a 78-year-old inmate named Samuel Little recently admitted killing someone in Harrison County in the 1970s, Peterson said.

Rangers were interviewing Little at the Wise County Correctional Facility about a cold case in Texas when he gave information that linked him to the cold case in Harrison County, he said.

Harrison County investigators went to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office in Decatur, Texas, on Oct. 31 to interview Little, and he confessed, telling details that only the killer would know, Peterson said. Little will be extradited to Harrison County after he answers to charges in other states, the sheriff said.

Convicted serial killer Samuel Little has confessed to the 1979 homicide of a Columbus, Ga., woman, is linked to four deaths in South Mississippi.

In the Phenix City murder, the victim is said to have left a Columbus, Georgia, lounge with Little. Phenix City is across the state line from Columbus.

Little could be “one of, if not the most, prolific serial killers in U.S. History,” Ector County (Texas) District Attorney Bobby Bland said in a statement, nbcnews.com reports.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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