The Word 'Odessa' Got a Serial Killer to Start Talking

Christie Palazzolo was asked to look into Samuel Little in 2013
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2018 8:01 AM CST
How a 34-Year-Old FBI Analyst Helped Uncover a Serial Killer
Samuel Little leaves the Ector County Courthouse in Odessa, Texas Thursday, December 13, 2018 after pleading guilty to killing Denise Christie Brothers in 1994 and receiving another life sentence. Little has admitted to killing 90 people.   (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP)

Much has been written about Samuel Little, a 77-year-old serving life in California whose recent confessions may make him one of America's deadliest serial killers. In a lengthy piece for the Los Angeles Times, Del Quentin Wilber manages to present new details on how those confessions came to be and what the substance of them was. Wilber dates the start of the break to April 2013; Little was arrested the year prior in Kentucky on a warrant tried to a LA drug violation. He was then linked to three cold-case murders, but he wasn't talking, so LAPD detectives placed a call to Christie Palazzolo. The 34-year-old is one of 10 FBI analysts who man the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, whose searchable database of crimes helps produce hundreds of leads each year.

She managed to compile a 150-page timeline of Little's extremely transient life, down to a job he once had at a cemetery. She then used the ViCAP database to look for crimes that synced with his whereabouts, and found one: a 1994 murder in Odessa, Texas. "This just felt like him," Palazzolo said. But momentum on the case didn't come until she was connected with Texas Ranger James Holland in December 2017. The following May, Holland interviewed Little, with Palazzolo and a colleague listening in from across the hall. When Holland mentioned Odessa, "it seemed to flip a switch in the killer’s head, although investigators still aren’t sure why." Little began detailing what amounted to some 90 murders, and while his dates were often off by a decade, his memory for other details is incredible. In one case, he detailed a victim's last meal—detectives consulted the autopsy to see if it synced with her stomach contents. Read the full piece here. (More Longform stories.)

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