Memphis Police hope new image can tie victim to serial killer Samuel Little

Investigations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police are using technology in hopes of generating more leads in a cold case linked to the nation’s most prolific serial killer, Samuel Little.

They’ve created a new image of one of his victims, a woman who was killed in Memphis more than 30 years ago.

Zena Jones disappeared in July of 1990, said her sister Vickie Weddington.

“And we still haven’t heard anything. Don’t know nothing,” Weddington said.

Weddington is still convinced something bad happened, because her sister would never have abandoned her 5-year-old daughter.

She was an outgoing person,” Weddington said. “She did have a drug problem, and you know, so she could have been anywhere.”

Weddington was watching WREG in the fall of 2019, when we aired this picture. It’s a hand-painted portrait by Little of a woman he claims to have murdered in Memphis — and it looks strikingly similar to Jones.

Zena Jones (left) and a painting of a victim Samuel Little says he killed in Memphis

We put her in contact with authorities after airing the picture.

The sketch was one of 16 Little drew for authorities before the 80-year-old died in late December. Little had been cooperating with authorities, detailing the 93 women across the country he claims to have killed between 1970 and 2005.

This video from the FBI shows Little describing a victim from Little Rock. The FBI believes Little’s confessions are credible.

Samuel Little, the California inmate who claims to be one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history.

“I pulled her out of the car. She was too big for me to carry, carry her,” he said. “I pulled her out of the car and laid her on the trash there.”

Since we did our interview with Weddington, she said MPD took a DNA sample from her family.

In 2018, Paul Hagerman with the Shelby County District Attorney’s office and two Memphis police cold case detectives met with Little at a prison in Texas.

“We wanted to go down there and hear what he had to say. See if we could possibly identify the victim,” Hagerman said. “He talked about the crime he committed in Memphis.”

Little confessed that sometime between the mid-’80s and ’90s, he met a woman on Crump Boulevard. They engaged in talk of prostitution. He then strangled her, set her in the back seat of the car, drove her across the bridge to the Arkansas side and put her body in the Mississippi River.

“The way he talked about the victims, the way he talked about his crimes, having him that close was disgusting,” Hagerman said.

Since the trip, Memphis Police tied Little to an unidentified body pulled from the river in 1990. The woman was wearing the exact clothing he described, though police still have to get a positive ID on the victim.

Lt. Tony Mullins said several families, including Weddington’s, have contacted them, believing the woman in the drawing is their loved one.

WREG found out MPD also created a life-like computer rendering of Little’s portrait. They hope it will get even more people to come forward with possible victims so they can swab a group of families for DNA, linking them to the body pulled from the river.

Left: A sketch by serial killer Samuel Little. Right: A computer-aided composite sketch from police

Mullins said MPD ordered and received DNA kits from North Texas State University. They do a lot of the missing persons testing for the department.

He said cold case detectives gained momentum on the case, but retirements and the pandemic slowed things down.

“I’d like to have everything we need in the next six months,” Mullins said.

As of today, the FBI said it’s confirmed nearly 60 of Little’s victims.

“He preyed upon people who were homeless, who were desperate, who lived a transient sort of lifestyle, whose family members were used to missing them for a period of time,” Hagerman said.

Three years ago, Weddington and her family had a memorial for Jones in hopes it would bring some kind of peace.

“I think about her every day,” Weddington said.

Weddington wants closure, and Little’s confessions have only made her more eager to find it.

If you think you know who it could be or have any leads, call Memphis Police.

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