For 26 years, two Coast families have been longing to find out who was responsible for the strangulation deaths of their loves ones.
This week, the answers they had been waiting for finally came when Harrison County cold case investigators told the families suspected serial killer Samuel Little had confessed to their murders.
Both women had been beaten and strangled to death and their bodies dumped in different areas in Gulfport and Saucier in 1992, Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said.
Little, 78, is already serving life in prison for the murders of three women in Los Angeles, California, but is providing additional details about as many as 90 killings across 19 states over three decades.
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In his latest confession, Little told told Harrison County investigators he killed Alice Denise “Tina” Taylor, 27, who was strangled and her body dumped under some tires on the side of road in Gulfport between Mississippi and Alabama avenues on Dec. 11, 1992.
Little also said he strangled to death 19-year-old Tracy Lynn Johnson, whose body was discovered Jan. 3, 1993, off of a dirt road used at the time as an illegal dump site across from the 21200 block of U.S. 49.
Witnesses, who referred to the women as best friends, placed them at the Flamingo Club on Alabama Avenue in North Gulfport on Dec. 7, 1992. A bartender reported seeing both women there between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. A boyfriend of Taylor’s last reported seeing her in the club’s parking lot between 9 and 10 p.m.
Little told investigators he killed the two women the same day in December 1992 after he picked them up at different times at the Flamingo Club.
An autopsy revealed Johnson had sex with someone, believed to be Little, before she was beaten and strangled.
“For 26 years, we have been waiting to find out what happened to her,” Taylor’s aunt, Ann Taylor said. “Everybody was thinking she did something wrong to cause her death and it’s not true.
“It means so much to me that her children have closure now,” said Taylor of her niece who was mom to five children. “They were told all these stories about their mother that wasn’t true.”
The sheriff said other arrests could be forthcoming depending on what a review of other cold cases to see if Little may be a suspect in those cases.
“That’s three murders he’s connected to in Harrison County so far, so what we are doing now is looking at every one of our cold cases within a particular time frame to do some comparisons to try to determine if he is a suspect in some of those cases,” Peterson said. The fourth Coast case is in Jackson County.
Since Little’s arrest in the Los Angeles killings, authorities have linked him to as many as 90 murders from 1970 to 2005, according to the Los Angeles Times. Investigators say he mainly targeted prostitutes and drug addicts.
In Harrison County, Little earlier confessed to the killing of Julia Critchfield, who was strangled and her body dumped off a cliff into a dirt pit on the north end of Saucier, Peterson said. The 36-year-old 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.
Little has also implicated himself in the 1983 murder of Melinda Lapree in Pascagoula.
Lapree was a prostitute living out of King William Motel on Live Oak Street at the time of her disappearance.
Witnesses said Lapree was last seen getting into Little’s car. He went by the name Sam McDowell at the time.
On Sept. 16, 1982, Lapree’s boyfriend reported her missing.
Her body was discovered on Oct. 4, 1982, by a man mowing a family cemetery on Oak Street and U.S. 90 in Gautier, Lapree’s clothes were missing and her body dumped in a ditch at the cemetery.
Other Southeast killings he’s confessed to include the killing of a Phenix City, Alabama, woman, according to a report from the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper.
As the investigation into Little’s alleged crimes continue, more charges are expected to be filed.