Saturday, December 1, 2018

An analysis of the many murders of Samuel Little

Convicted serial killer Samuel Little in recent months has confessed to law enforcement that he’s strangled as many as 90 women in at least 19 states – a criminal career that would represent the largest homicidal series in U.S. history.

Little's confessions represent less than 3 percent of the 3,150 unsolved female strangulations reported by local police to the FBI over the past 42 years. Yet the location of his claims match many of the highest geographic concentrations of unsolved strangulations. 

California leads the nation with a reported 587 unsolved female strangulations and also has the largest number of cases claimed by Little. He was convicted in 2014 for the murders of three California women and later confessed to 16 other California victims whom police have yet to match to specific homicide cases.

According to the Murder Accountability Project’s serial-crimes detection algorithm, the nation’s largest local cluster of suspicious strangulations occurred in Atlanta with 133 female suffocations, of which 100 were unsolved at the time the Atlanta Police Department reported case information to the FBI. Georgia authorities are investigating Little’s claims of killing seven women, including three victims in Atlanta.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance in collaboration with the FBI reports authorities – through "confirmed forensic linkage" of DNA and other physical evidence – have corroborated 34 of the murders to which Little has confessed and identified an additional 24 cases for corroboration. Even if only those 58 cases are confirmed, Little would surpass the 48 victims for which "Green River Killer" Gary Ridgway was convicted in Seattle.

To see a state-by-state accounting of all reported female strangulations from 1976 through 2017, and whether the cases were cleared by arrest at the time of reporting, click here. These records were reported by police to the FBI or independently to MAP.

If you have information about cases that may have involved Samuel Little, contact the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) at 800-634-4097.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Police fail to report infanticides and elderly murders

Police and sheriffs’ departments frequently fail to report homicides of infants and elderly Americans to the U.S. Department of Justice, a troubling finding by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project based upon a comparison of crime data given to the FBI and mortality records reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MAP’s study of 297,816 homicides reported by medical examiners and coroners from 2000 through 2016 and 272,082 homicides in the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Report for the same period found a significant age bias. America’s youngest and oldest homicide victims are the least likely of any age cohort to be reported by police to federal authorities.

Medical authorities documented 5,261 cases of infanticide while local law enforcement reported only 3,799 infant homicides committed from 2000 through 2017, which means nearly 28 percent of infanticides were not reported to the nation’s official crime record. This makes infanticide the least-reported among all age cohorts for murder. The next-lowest-reported age group were for victims 65 or older, of which police failed to report more than 15 percent.

To see the full 14-page report of this study with state-by-state and county results, click here. To download the data upon which this study is based, click here

Reporting rates for infanticide vary enormously by state and by county, reflecting the individual policies of local and state authorities. Police in seven states actually reported more infant murders than were documented by medical authorities, although these differences were quite small. States where police outperformed medical authorities were: Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Missouri, Nevada and New Jersey.

But police in other states failed to report hundreds of infant killings. Among the states with the largest numbers of unreported infanticides were: Illinois, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Alabama, Indiana and Pennsylvania. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Update: Investigation of Atlanta strangulations

Former Atlanta prostitute Susan Drew vividly recalls the multiple deaths of sex workers in the 1990s, a time when city officials warned the press not to declare that the homicides might be the work of serial killers. "People were dying left and right. We knew!" Drew told WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta. She believes she was also attacked by a likely serial killer.

Veteran WXIA investigative reporter Brendan Keefe is leading a team examining 133 female strangulations in Atlanta stretching back to the 1970s, including 40 killings before and after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. These cases represent the nation's largest cluster of suspicious homicides, according to a computer algorithm developed by the Murder Accountability Project to spot victims of serial murder among FBI computer files. Dozens of strangulations remain unsolved in the city.

WXIA continues an investigation begun in late 2017. Among the cases reporters are reviewing is the October 19, 1994 murder of Valerie Payton, 39, found with a note near her body that taunted police: "I'm back in Atlanta" and signed by "Mr. X." Michael Harvey was eventually identified through DNA evidence and convicted, although he was prosecuted for only one murder.

"Most police administrators on the higher end would rather eat glass than say, 'We have a serial offender out,'" said Danny Agan, former Atlanta homicide commander who headed the city's famous "Hat Squad" of detectives. Agan agrees that there may be unresolved serial murders.

To see the latest reporting of WXIA's work reviewing unsolved strangulations of women, click here.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

New study of unsolved female murders in Cleveland

Reporters from WKYC-TV and Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer newspaper have collaborated to review recent unsolved homicides of women and asked the Murder Accountability Project to review their data on 61 unsolved killings going back to 2004.

The review found that 34 of these women were killed by gunfire, 10 by blunt force, 9 by strangulation and 8 by stabbing. Slightly more than 44 percent of Cleveland’s unsolved female homicides were committed through means other than firearms, while the national average for such killings is 29 percent.

Studies of known victims of serial killers consistently show that serial victims are disproportionately female and killed by strangulation, stabbing or blunt force.

Women in Cleveland who perished through these more personal, hands-on methods of killing varied in several statistically significant ways from the city’s women who died from gunfire. They were much more likely to have a history of prostitution, to be 40 years old or older and to be white or Hispanic.

Here are the percentages: Women with a history of prostitution were killed by hands-on methods 77% of the time, compared to 35% for women with no such history. Only 32% of women under 40 died from these personal killing methods compared to 62% of women 40 or older. Among white or Hispanic women, 79% died from the more intimate methods of killing, compared to 34% of African American victims.

To see a discussion by Plain Dealer reporter Rachel Dissell and WKYC reporter Drew Horansky, click here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Are murders worth solving? A new analysis by MAP

Since many cities and counties face a growing fiscal squeeze because of static or even declining tax revenues, some policymakers wonder if social programs to combat crime might be more effective than old-fashioned (and labor-intensive) law enforcement. Why spend precious dollars in the punitive exercise of catching and prosecuting killers?

A new analysis conducted by the Murder Accountability Project (MAP) contains a stark warning for city and county governments that allow homicide clearance rates to decline below national norms. 

Jurisdictions that do a below-average job solving murders suffer homicide rates nearly double those of jurisdictions with above-average clearance rates. Put another way, Americans living in cities that underperform in catching killers are twice as likely to die in criminal assaults. 

Read the entire nine-page MAP report here.

This warning is all the more worrisome since the FBI estimates homicide clearance rates in 2016 dropped to 59 percent, the lowest rate ever recorded in the United States.

MAP’s analysis finds there is a broadly inverse relationship between homicide clearance rates and homicide occurrence rates. As clearance rates decline, murder rates rise and vice versa. This report contains homicide clearance and occurrence rates for 192 major police departments, comparing rates during the five-year period 2012-2016 against the rates during the previous five years.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A look Chicago's recent unsolved female strangulations

More than 40 women in Chicago have perished in unusual and unsolved cases of strangulation and asphyxiation in recent years, mostly on the city's south and west sides. Many of these cases have startling similarities in which the bodies of young mostly African-American women were deposited in dumpsters which were set on fire.

The Chicago Police Department told the FBI that more than 70 percent of these cases were not cleared through the arrest of the suspected killers, at least as of the time these homicide records were reported to the Justice Department.

Journalists for HBO's VICE News on November 29, 2017 released a report about unsolved strangulations in Chicago, citing the results of an algorithm created by the Murder Accountability Project to track clusters of cases that have an elevated probability of containing serial killings.

The Chicago Tribune on January 11, 2018 completed an exhaustive study of police and Cook County Medical Examiner records and concluded that 50 cases of strangulation and asphyxiation of women killed from 2001 through 2017 remain unsolved. Read their study here.

"We hope Chicago Police and community leaders will take a hard look at these still-unsolved murders," said Thomas K. Hargrove, MAP's Chairman. "These strangulation and asphyxiation killings in Chicago are the nation's second largest cluster of highly suspicious recent killings of women. There is a slightly larger cluster of unsolved female homicides in Cleveland which we believe, like Chicago, are the work of multiple serial killers."

MAP's algorithm showing suspicious clusters in Chicago, Cleveland and other cities can be viewed here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

An investigation into Atlanta's unsolved strangulations over 40 years

The nation's largest suspicious cluster of unsolved female murders occurred over a 40 year period in Atlanta, Ga., according to a new series of investigative reports by WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta. The Murder Accountability Project and members of its Board of Directors participated extensively in producing this report.

Veteran investigative reporter Brendan Keefe is leading a team examining 133 female strangulations in Atlanta stretching back to the 1970s. Three-quarters of these crimes were reported to the FBI as unsolved. These cases were identified by a computer algorithm developed by the Murder Accountability Project to spot victims of serial murder among FBI computer files.

"This is the nation's largest cluster of female homicides that we believe have an elevated probability of containing serial murders," said MAP Chairman Thomas K. Hargrove. "We are grateful to WXIA, the Atlanta Police Department and Dr. Michael Arntfield's researchers at the Cold Case Society at Canada's Western University for re-examining these many dozens of unsolved homicides, some of which are quite recent."

MAP's algorithm has reported the suspicious cluster since it was first run nearly eight years ago. To see this cluster, go to the "County Clusters" page under the "Murder Clusters" tab and set the Year selector to cover the period 1976 to 2016. Another way to view these crimes is at the "Search Cases" tab available by clicking here.