EXCLUSIVE: Wayne Spees was a rookie in the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) when he and his partner came face-to-face with the man the FBI calls “the deadliest serial killer in U.S. history.”
Investigation Discovery (ID) is premiering a four-hour docu-series titled “The 93 Victims of Samuel Little,” where investigators and others associated with the decadeslong manhunt come forward to share the chilling tale of Samuel Little, 80.
The special is part of the crime and justice network’s “Serial Killer Week” where audiences can tune in each night and watch original programming that takes a closer look at some of the most infamous and seemingly forgotten murderers from over the years.
Little has confessed to murdering at least 93 people across the U.S. between 1970 and 2005. The FBI considers Little to be the most prolific serial killer in American history, and he can recount his crimes in near-photographic detail, something that prompted him to create dozens of color portraits of the women he strangled.
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Spees, now retired, participated in the true-crime show and described meeting Little while out on patrol just before 5 a.m. one October morning in 1984. Little was found at a vacant lot known in the area for narcotics, stolen vehicles and prostitution.
Just a month before, Laurie Barros was nearly strangled to death by a man who would later be identified as Little in the area. Spees and his partner had read up on Barros’ report and decided to stake out the crime scene in hopes of tracking down the suspect.
“We pulled in, turned on the lights and there’s this black T-Bird [1976 Ford Thunderbird] that matches our description of [Little’s] car,” Spees told Fox News. “As soon as our headlights turn on, we see Little’s head pop up. He jumps out of the car from the passenger side and he’s waving at us. You can see him just fidgeting with his pants, zipping himself up.”
“We’re both out of the car at this point and I’m telling him, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you,’” Spees continued. “But he’s just trying to rush us off, like ‘Everything is fine, me and my wife are just parked here having sex and we’re leaving now.’ But we weren’t going to just let him walk away without finding out what’s really going on.”
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Spees said he turned on his flashlight to get a closer look at Little. He immediately realized there was more to Little’s story.
“He had a lot of fresh scratches on his throat,” said Spees. “And he’s got what I would describe as a mucousy blood spot on his shirt. At that point, he becomes very agitated. He keeps looking at my partner who’s now up in his car shining his light around. My partner then says to me, ’10-16,’ which means he’s under arrest.”
At that moment, Spees said Little immediately looked down at his gun and then at his partner.
“You could tell that in his mind, he was trying to decide,” Spees explain. “If there was just one officer there, he might have tried to get away. But because there were two of us, he decided to go ahead with the arrest.”
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Spees then took a closer look at the backseat of Little’s car and spots an unconscious woman who had been beaten. Her eyes had rolled to the back of her head. Spees initially thought the woman, Tonya Jackson, was dead — until she started making gurgling noises, gasping for air.
“She had a lot of trauma to her face,” said Spees. “She was very traumatized and afraid of me and my partner because she couldn’t see. When we told her we were the police, she tells us, ‘He raped me.’”
Little was charged with rape and assault with great bodily injury, The Cut reported. The SDPD also connected him to the 1984 attack on Barros. According to the outlet, the cases were tried together, with added charges of false imprisonment. Little pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with great bodily injury and one of false imprisonment. The outlet noted Little received a four-year sentence and served only a year and a half before being paroled in 1987.
Over the years, Little preyed on women he didn’t think would be missed. According to authorities, the former boxer would knock the women out with a punch, strangle them, dump their bodies and leave town. Many of his victims were Black, like Little himself, and many of their deaths were originally attributed to drugs, accidents or undetermined causes.
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In 2019, the FBI announced that Little, who was 79 at the time, had confessed to 93 murders, the New York Times reported. The agency shared it had verified 50 of the killings and that it believed “all of his confessions are credible.” The agency also urged the public for help in identifying the rest of his victims as Little’s health deteriorated.
Little is now in a California prison where he is serving consecutive life sentences for three murders from the ‘80s.
Spees said he still wonders what became of Jackson. He shared that at the time, Little had no remorse and allegedly boasted, “That’s not going to show where my hands were around her neck” during the sexual assault examination after his arrest.
“In his mind, it was all self-defense,” said Spees. “They had an agreement for sex and she was not giving him what he wanted. He showed no remorse whatsoever. He’s actually angry that we interrupted him. He reveals to you exactly who he is and what he’s all about. There are no redeeming qualities about Samuel Little and he’s exactly where he needs to be right now — behind bars.”
Spees pointed out DNA was essential in finally stopping Little for good.
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“When we arrested him, this was prior to DNA,” Spees explained. “We were able to take samples from him… but during that time, it wasn’t like there was a database where you could submit some DNA and that would connect you to other cases… It’s why he was able to go on for so long.”
Spees hopes the ID docu-series will encourage anyone tuning in who may have information to come forward and help identify some of Little’s other victims.
“I think closure is important,” he explained. “Regardless of what kind of lives some of these women lived, they were mothers, daughters, wives, sisters. Their families deserve to know what happened to them. They may be long gone, but their names shouldn’t disappear.”
“Make no mistake — Samuel Little is a violent predator,” said Spees. “The sooner he dies, the better, as far as I’m concerned. He’s a monster. I won’t have any remorse for him the day he finally goes. But while he’s here, we need to give those families justice.”
“The 93 Victims of Samuel Little” premieres Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. on ID. The Associated Press contributed to this report.