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Prolific Serial Killer Confesses To Killing Teen, Decades After Man With An IQ Of 58 Was Wrongfully Convicted Of The Crime

Samuel Little, believed to be America's most prolific serial killer, has admitted to a teen's murder which Jerry Frank Townsend — a  man with "the mental capacity of an eight-year-old" — was once wrongfully convicted of.

By Gina Tron

A convicted murderer who may be the most prolific serial killer ⁠in American history has admitted a killing that was once pinned on a man with a mental capacity equal to that of an 8-year-old. 

Samuel Little, 80, has confessed to killing more than 90 people and has spent the last few years assisting investigators in closing cases and identifying victims. He told federal authorities that he killed people, mostly by strangulation, in 14 different states across the country from 1970 to 2005. The FBI feels his claims are credible.

One of Little's confessions is to a Florida murder that led to the shocking wrongful conviction of Jerry Frank Townsend, a Florida man with an IQ of 58, the Miami Herald reports. Little has recently admitted to strangling Dorothy Gibson, 17, to death outside a Miami hotel in 1977.

Little said that he and Gibson, a runaway, made an arrangement to have sex but Little refused to pay her, the Tampa Bay Times reports. He claimed to have strangled her to death before leaving her body in some bushes behind the hotel.

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Townsend had falsely confessed to Gibson's murder, as well as the killing of five other people in 1980, the Innocence Project states. The organization described Townsend as suffering from "mental disabilities with the mental capacity of an eight year old.”

DNA tests in 1998 and 2000, however cleared him of the killings and he was released from prison in 2001. Two of the murders he was wrongfully convicted of were later attributed to serial killer and rapist Eddie Lee Mosley. Mosley died behind bars of COVID-19 in May.

As a result of the false convictions, Townsend spent 22 years behind bars. 

His case remains one of the most high-profile wrongful conviction cases in Florida, according to the Miami Herald. A civil rights lawsuit was filed on his behalf and both the city of Miami and Broward County settled for $4.2 million.

Little has also recently confessed murder of nurse Karen O’Donoghue, whose body was never discovered, in the early 1970s in Miami-Dade County. Little claimed he met her outside of a home for the mentally ill, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Many of Little’s victims had been previously deemed overdose or accidental deaths over the years because of who he chose to target.

“Little chose to kill marginalized and vulnerable women who were often involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs,” the FBI stated in 2018. “Their bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths uninvestigated."