Samuel Little murders: Knoxville church choir singer and mom was among those strangled by serial killer Little in 1975

The victim, identified as Martha Cunnigham is one among the 93 confessions that Samuel Little has made to law enforcement.

                            Samuel Little murders: Knoxville church choir singer and mom was among those strangled by serial killer Little in 1975
(Police Department)

Serial killer Samuel Little has confessed to killing a woman from Knox County in 1975. The woman, identified as 34-year-old Martha Cunnigham is one among many he killed in Tenessee. She was a church singer and active in church circles. When her body was found in 1975 her death was ruled due to undetermined causes. 

She had been found in a wooded area off Oglesby Lane in East Knox County on January 18, 1975. She reportedly had bruises on her body, her underwear around her ankle and her purse was missing. The case was closed and the police did not question Cunnigham's family, her sister Jessie Lane Downs told the New York Times. The case was reopened by former Knox County Sherrif's Office investigator David Davenport. 

So far in his confessions, Little, who has confessed to 93 killings according to the FBI referred to her by her first name, Martha. He didn't remember her full name but he described her as a short, light-skinned black woman who wore glasses. He also said that she had a son, a 9-year-old boy.

In this Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 file photo, Samuel Little, who often went by the name Samuel McDowell, leaves the Ector County Courthouse after attending a pre-trial hearing in Odessa, Texas. A Texas prosecutor says investigators have linked more than 60 killings in at least 14 states to a 79-year-old inmate who may be the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history. Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said Friday, June 7, 2019, that Little continues to cooperate with investigators from around the country who interrogate him in prison about cold case killings dating back to the 1970s. Little, who is serving life sentences in California, claims to have killed at least 90 women. (Mark Rogers/Odessa American via AP, File)


Law enforcement officials have so far matched 50 of Little's confessions to victims across the country and dozens remain unmatched. Little chose his victims carefully -- vulnerable and marginalized women who wouldn't be missed. While many bodies have been matched to Jane Does, there are many that were never found.

According to investigator Davenport, she could have possibly ministered him and had gone out with him after being last seen on New Year's Eve. Her dead body had been found approximately three weeks later by two hunters. According to the investigator, it is possible that the cause of death was ruled as natural causes because the police found seizure drugs on her. Little also mentioned her illness and that he had strangled her in a car.

Little is not convicted for the murder of Cunningham and Davenport said that no further charges would be pressed as he is already seving life imprisonment. 

Little also confessed to another murder from Knoxville, before Cunnigham, but the claim has not yet been verified by local authorities. As for two other such claims from Tenessee, they have been matched to unidentified homicide victims.

According to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), Little has been matched to 50 cases, with 43 confessions still pending confirmation. He has been convicted of three murders, two of which he committed in California and the rest in Texas.  

If you have any information linked to Little’s confessions, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit at tip online at

If you have a news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514