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Decades after finding remains, officials believe they've identified victim of nation's most prolific serial killer

1 month 1 day 16 hours ago Thursday, September 23 2021 Sep 23, 2021 September 23, 2021 8:21 AM September 23, 2021 in News
Source: CNN
Depiction of Clara Birdlong

JACKSON COUNTY, Mississippi - Over four decades have passed since hunters stumbled upon a gruesome discovery near a Mississippi highway.

The human remains they found have now been identified as a woman who authorities believe was killed by a deranged criminal known for taking more lives than any other serial killer in U.S. history.

Samuel Little was a serial killer who had a habit of preying on women from marginalized communities, many of whom were involved in prostitution or battling addiction, CNN reports.

In December of 1977, hunters discovered the aforementioned remains at a construction site in Jackson County and linked them to an unidentified woman who Little claimed to have killed when he was in the area in 1977.

Due to not knowing her name at the time, authorities referred to the woman as “Escatawpa Jane Doe."

At that time, a medical exam of the remains revealed that the victim was a, "small in stature African American woman, with a distinctive front gold tooth and possibly wearing a wig" who had likely been killed three or four months ago.

But her name was still unknown.

Years later, after using DNA samples, computer technology, and the assistance of a Texas-based research facility called 'Othram,' officials were able to create a family tree based on the unidentified victim's DNA.

In so doing, researchers discovered that the victim had a cousin living in Texas.

Upon meeting with the cousin and her 93-year-old grandmother, an investigator learned that their family member, Clara Birdlong, went missing from Leflore County, Mississippi in the 1970's.

The two said Birdlong was born around 1933 and was never seen again after she left town with an "African American man who claimed to be passing through Mississippi on his way to Florida."

Authorities later confirmed that the remains were a definite match to Clara Birdlong, and though Little is considered a prime suspect in her death, Birdlong's official cause of death is still labeled as undetermined.

Little died in 2020 at the age of 80.

Before his death, he confessed to killing a total of 94 people between the years of 1970 and 2005.

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