She went missing from the Park Ave Cafe Bar in Philadelphia thirty-eight years ago. Now, her family wonders if this beloved mother fell victim to one of America’s most prolific serial killers.
Shirley Hyman-Hickman, 31, was last seen leaving the Park Ave Cafe Bar in Philly on August 28, 1981. Witnesses claim to have seen her getting into a blue van with two men. Both men were questioned by family members years later, but both claim they dropped her off safe and sound. Could they know more, or was a predator lurking nearby waiting to take her?
Samuel Little was born on June 7, 1940. There’s a little dispute over his birthplace, but many believe he was born in an Oklahoma jail. His mother worked as a prostitute and left her son behind to be raised by his grandparents. As an adult, he became a drifter.
Little was known to wander across the United States, getting in trouble with the law often. In fact, he was arrested over 50 times. The FBI has a timeline with his various mugshots over the years. Most of his arrests were for petty crimes, but some were more serious. Somehow despite his arrest for sexual assault charges, he never stayed in jail very long.
September 5, 2012, Samuel Little was arrested in a Kentucky homeless shelter after DNA testing linked him to three unsolved murder cases from the 1980s. Carol Elford was killed on July 13, 1987, Guadalupe Apodaca was killed on September 3, 1987, and Audrey Nelson was killed on August 14, 1989. All three women were prostitutes from the L.A. area. All three women were strangled and found on the street.
Two years after his arrest, Little was found guilty of those three murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole. There were a few other cases that investigators suspected Little, but no one had any evidence until one Texas Ranger got ambitious.
Texas Ranger James Holland had a hunch that Little was responsible for the murder of a Texas woman. Holland spent 650 hours over 16 months interrogating the serial killer. During that time, Little confessed to 93 killings across America. As of this writing, the FBI has confirmed 50 of those murders making Samuel Little the worst serial killer in American History.
Many of the murders weren’t initially filed as a homicide. Little had a specific way of strangling his victims, and many times it wouldn’t leave a mark. While most of these women were drug users, it was often documented as an overdose instead of a homicide.
The Texas Ranger noticed that Little liked to sketch, so he brought in some art supplies and gave them to the killer. Incredibly the murderous fiend began to sketch the women in startling detail. He could tell investigators what she was wearing, what her last meal was, where he’d picked them up, and if they were unfound where to find their body.
Little began sketching the women’s faces and giving them to Holland. Now investigators from around the country are pouring in to see the killer in an effort to try to solve cold cases. Surprisingly, Samuel Little has a photographic memory, and he can tell the investigators if the woman was “his” or not. He has denied many but also confessed to 93.
When I use the word “his” I’m not referring to his crime. When Samuel Little says a woman was “his,” he means those women belong to him after he killed them. Somehow this sick and twisted man believed the women were his possessions upon their death.
Was Shirley Hickman one of “his” women? Although he has not confessed to any Philly murders, there is documented proof he had been in the area. He was even arrested in Philly a few years before Hickman’s disappearance. In all my research, I couldn’t find substantial evidence that the preditor was in Pennsylvania on August 28, 1981. Still, I also didn’t find any evidence of him being elsewhere on that date.
A friend of Hickman’s daughter approached her with one of Little’s sketches, and now the family wonders if the woman pictured is Shirley. Could it be possible, or does it go back to those two men in a blue van? The rumor mill claims Little was in town for a Chuck Berry show.
I contacted the FBI tip line and gave the details on this case. Maybe they will be able to verify it with Samuel Little. I will keep you updated as this case unfolds. In the meantime, if you have any information on the disappearance of Shirley Hyman-Hickman, please contact the Philadelphia Police Department at 215-686-3013.
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