‘Who knows what you might find.’ How to access Macon’s wealth of records

There is hard evidence in a basement downtown that the man who recently was dubbed by the FBI as America’s most prolific serial killer lived here in Bibb County for a while.

The confessed killer appears expressionless, donning a snappy blue suit and holding a handkerchief in his mugshot at the Macon Police Department after an arrest for DUI and driving on the left side of the road April 5, 1975.

The picture is taped to a stock card inked with fingerprints that lists the man’s name as William Lewis, a 33-year-old who worked for the city’s sanitation department.

However, the fingerprints belong to Samuel Little, who used Lewis among a number of aliases over the decades.

Last year, the 72-year-old career criminal, from Reynolds, Georgia, confessed to killing 93 people across the country between 1970 and 2005. So far, the FBI has confirmed Little was responsible for at least 50 of the slayings, making him “the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history,” the agency posted on its website Oct. 6.

Two of his victims were murder cases worked by the Macon Police Department and the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

Samuel Little used an alias in this mugshot from Macon Police Department in 1975. Laura Corley breaking@macon.com

On Sept. 8, 1977, a woman’s remains were discovered in the front yard of a house on Riverside Drive. Her identity is unknown to this day. Police estimated she was 30-40 years old.

GBI forensic artist Kelly Lawson used the woman’s skill to create a reconstruction of what her face might have looked like. The hope is that someone might recognize it and help identify her.

A year later, on September 29, 1978, Little was arrested by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office. A mug shot was provided to the FBI and is pictured on its website, but The Telegraph was told there is no record of that arrest. It was unclear what charges were or if Little used an alias.

Little also confessed to killing 18-year-old Fredonia Smith in 1982.

Smith’s remains were discovered in heavy underbrush in the backyard of a house at 1088 Magnolia St., adjacent to Washington Park. Smith had been dead about a month when Mildred Hockman, who lived there with her husband, a Mercer University professor, discovered her remains. Smith’s case had gone cold until Little’s confession.

A wealth of records

Kittie Cosper is the records keeper for Bibb County. She lords over hundreds of thousands of records kept on shelves and in filing cabinets in the basement of the old Sears building, which is now occupied by the sheriff’s office.

Cosper remembers poring through files with investigators, looking for Little’s fingerprint card.

“It was under a different name, so we came down here looking,” she said. It was Lt. Sean DeFoe who spotted the file and “he said, ‘This looks like him but it’s under a different name.’”

Cosper also is in charge of maintaining the more than 200 cremains that have gone unclaimed. There are more in Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones’s office.

Thick bound and ornately decorated books titled “Marriage Record: White” and “Colored Marriage Record,” are still on the shelves along with “Oaths of Liquor Dealers and Bonds” from the 1800s, “Mental Cases,” “Lunacy Dockets” and “Lunacy Records.”

Lunacy Docket in the basement of the Sear’s building. Laura Corley breaking@macon.com

While Kittie’s basement is off-limits to the general public, anyone can file an open records request and ask for documents of interest. To do this, email Janice Ross, clerk of the Macon-Bibb County Commission, at jross@maconbibb.us.

Even more records are housed at the county engineering building on the other end of Third Street.

Maps, records of easements, land records and more are kept on a digital server or in physical form there.

“If you want to know when a road was paved or this statue was made, you have to know about when it is so you can grab the segment of time and start looking,” Paul Hoinowski, a survey party chief who oversees those records, said. “The point is, there’s all this old stuff here with little details. Who knows what you might find.”

The Bibb County records area managed by Kittie Cosper. Laura Corley breaking@macon.com

Plans for roads, some of which never came to fruition, are also among available records.

At some point, addresses in Macon changed. To find the original address for a particular house, one has to open two different cabinets.

The first cabinet contains street names and current addresses with a corresponding number. Using the number, the old address can be found in a second cabinet. There are no dates.

The public is welcome to view the maps in the engineering building with prior notice. A request to do this may be made to Ross.

There are hundreds of thousands of hand-written property transaction records, some detailing humans who were bought and sold, dating back to 1823. An effort is underway to digitize the records, but the mezzanine in the courthouse where they are located is not accessible to the public.

A bank vault in the Macon-Bibb County Government building contains records of the old Macon City Council and Bibb County Board of Commissioners meetings. There also are random pictures, scrap books and other records available for the public to view.

Lastly, there’s The Telegraph archives, which chronicle this city’s history starting in 1826. Archives are word searchable for Telegraph subscribers: https://macon.newsbank.com/