Skeletal remains found at a Mississippi construction site in 1977 have been identified as a woman believed to be murdered by Samuel Little — the most prolific serial killer in US history who drew creepy portraits of some of his victims, authorities said.
The remains of Clara Birdlong, a Mississippi woman born in 1933, were discovered by hunters at a construction site in December 1977. Investigators determined the small-statured woman had been dead as long as four months, but couldn’t identify her — leading them to call her “Escatawpa Jane Doe,” according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
Nearly 44 years later, investigators said Tuesday that DNA from the previously unidentified woman’s relatives confirmed the remains as those of Birdlong.
Little, who died at 80 in December while serving a life sentence at a California prison, had confessed to killing 93 people – mostly women – between 1970 and 2005. The bulk of his victims were strangled in Florida and California, where he targeted sex workers and women of color, FBI officials have said.
Little also confessed in 2018 to several murders across the southeast US, including the killing of “Escatawpa Jane Doe,” although he did not know the woman’s name, Jackson County sheriff officials said.
Investigators confirmed Little was in Jackson County in 1977 during the approximate time of Birdlong’s death. He had been arrested for petty theft in nearby Pascagoula a month before the woman’s skeletal remains was discovered.
“Although he is now deceased, Samuel Little is considered a prime suspect in the death of Clara Birdlong,” investigators said. “Her cause of death is undetermined.”
A Mississippi woman who told investigators she remembered Birdlong from the late 1970s said she left the area with a black man who claimed to be passing through the state on his way to Florida.
“Clara was never heard from again,” investigators said.
Birdlong, whose cousin said was known by her nickname “Nuttin,” had a distinctive gold front tooth and wore a wig. Her cousin in Texas said she also remembered her disappearing without a trace in the 1970s.
When Little died while serving three consecutive life sentences, authorities confirmed he had been responsible for nearly 60 slayings while investigating his claims. The former boxer who drew sketches of some of his victims was arrested in 2014 after DNA tied him to three murders of California women in the late 1980s.