It’s interesting that “Confronting a Serial Killer” isn’t really about Sam Little as much as it’s about author Jillian Lauren, and the justice she’s seeking for Little’s victims. Lauren was crafting a book about Little when she made contact with the imprisoned murderer, and the two formed a bond that’s not unlike Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” in its quid pro quo structure. Revealed via phone calls recorded for the book and now series, Little is a disturbing presence. He develops an affection for Lauren, who knows how to get him to open up, and whose family suffered an emotional toll from her taking on this project. Some of the scenes in which she breaks down at the horrors that Little reveals are heartbreaking. It’s a courageous project for her to have even considered.
True crime series often center the villain, but Berlinger smartly centers Lauren, survivors of Little’s rage, and the family members of his victims. Little becomes an awful supporting character in his own story, one that reveals the flaws in a legal system that let him continue to kill. Episode after episode details incompetent police work and a structure that basically allows people of a certain race and class to be murdered. Berlinger has been examining the broken justice system for years, really changing the game with “Paradise Lost,” and “Confronting a Serial Killer” is at its best when it shines a light on how people like Sam Little get away with unimaginable crimes that are more likely to turn the other way when a woman dies, especially if that woman is a person of color and a sex worker.
It also shines a light on how easy it was to get away with murder before DNA changed the criminal justice system. When the technology started to develop in the ‘80s, there were literally thousands of unsolved murders in Los Angeles, and a large portion of them were of sex workers. It became increasingly clear there were multiple serial killers prowling the city of angels, and one of the most notorious was Sam Little, a man who was eventually convicted of killing three people but almost certainly killed many, many more. In fact, investigators have reason to believe that that he took more lives than Bundy, Gacy, and Dahmer combined.