LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 74-year-old career criminal convicted in the strangling deaths of three women in Los Angeles was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the crimes committed in the 1980s, prosecutors said.
Police used DNA matches in 2012 to tie Samuel Little to the three women, whose bodies were dumped in alleys near downtown Los Angeles and who prosecutors have described as easy targets because of their drug problems.
A Los Angeles County jury last month convicted Little of first-degree murder in the deaths, and Judge George Lomeli sentenced him on Thursday to three consecutive life terms, one for each of the women he killed.
Sherri Nelson, whose 35-year-old sister Audrey Nelson was killed by Little in 1989, said in court that her sister was a rebel and a hardy soul who studied cosmetology before leaving home at 19 and being forced into prostitution in New York, where she was badly burned in an apartment fire.
She later returned home to Los Angeles, where her young daughter, Pearl, was being raised by Audrey Nelson's parents.
"The reason why my mom was in Los Angeles in the first place is because she had gotten her life back on track and was on her way to reunite with me," Pearl Nelson said in court, according to a copy of her statement provided by prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Little lured his victims with the promise of drugs before he beat and strangled them. His other murder victims were Carol Alford, 41, who died in 1987, and Guadalupe Apodaca, 46, who died in 1989.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman has said Little was also a suspect in several similar murders in Florida and elsewhere during the same period. He was acquitted by a jury about 30 years ago of one Florida slaying.
Little, a transient with an extensive criminal history spanning much of the country, was arrested in 2012 in Kentucky on an unrelated drug charge and was extradited to California.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)