A grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday against a 72-year-old man who authorities allege is a serial killer who operated in Florida, the Gulf Coast region and Los Angeles, where he is charged in the slayings of three local women.
The indictment of Samuel Little supercedes charges by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and includes three murder counts and special circumstances for multiple murder.
No immediate decision has been made on whether to pursue the death penalty against Little, who is due back in court in June.
Detectives with the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division have identified the Los Angeles victims as Carol Alford, 41, found July 13, 1987; Audrey Nelson, 35, whose body was discovered Aug. 14, 1989; and Guadalupe Apodaca, 46, found Sept. 2, 1989. Their bodies were discovered in the Central Avenue-Alameda Street corridor, just south of downtown.
DNA evidence links Little to the Los Angeles crimes, which are all sexually motivated strangulations, authorities said.
Little has a criminal record dating back decades and arrests numbering in the dozens during that period. Most of the arrests were for crimes such as drunk driving, shoplifting and burglary.
But detectives said Little was prone to fits of violence, including killings, robberies and assaults directed at those with "high-risk lifestyles," including prostitutes and substance abusers.
"It was theft by day and murder by night," LAPD Det. Rick Jackson said of Little. Jackson investigated the case with Det. Mitzi Roberts.
Little, also known as Samuel McDowell, "committed crimes in 24 states but served relatively little time in state prison or county jail," the detectives said. In the early 1980s, Little was accused of two killings and two attempted killings in the Gainsesville, Fla., and Pascagoula, Miss., areas.
Little, at the time identified in press accounts as McDowell, was acquitted by a Florida jury in the strangulation killing of 26-year-old Patricia Ann Mount, whose body was discovered Sept. 12, 1982.
He was never brought to trial in the three Mississippi cases, which include the strangulation death of Melinda LaPree, 24, on Sept., 14 1982. That case has been reopened by the Pascagoula Police Department in light of new evidence, authorities said.
Little served limited prison time relative to his crimes and kept a step ahead of authorities by constantly moving among states. According to LAPD detectives, he had an arrest record in nearly every region of the Continental U.S. except the north entral states.
After avoiding convictions in the South, authorities said, Little headed to California, where he lived in the mid- to late 1980s in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas.
Little served more than two years in state prison after being convicted of assault and false imprisonment of two San Diego women in separate cases, police said. Detectives say he killed the three Los Angeles women shortly after being paroled.
His exact movements after leaving Southern California are not entirely clear, but said authorities believe Little is responsible for additional violent crimes, including murders.
"We believe he is good for many more crimes -- including murders -- throughout the United States," Roberts said. "If any law enforcement agencies have similar killings that occurred between 1960 and the present, they should contact LAPD cold case detectives."