Florida serial killer pleads guilty to killing waitress missing since 1991

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida serial killer who says he is “trying to get right with God” has pleaded guilty to the murder of a woman who vanished in October 1991.

Michael Shane Townson, 53, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison, with the possibility of parole, for the first-degree murder of Linda Lois Little, 43, of Daytona Beach. Little vanished Oct. 11, 1991, as she rode her bicycle home from her waitressing job.

Townson’s plea was part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Though Townson’s sentence allows for parole after 25 years, he is already serving life without parole in the January 2007 murder of a second woman, Sherri Lynn Carman, 29, of Titusville.

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Townson was serving that sentence at Tomoka Correctional Institution in January 2020 when he asked to speak to detectives from Daytona Beach. When investigators sat down with him, he confessed to killing Little after meeting her in a bar.

Her body has never been found. According to a probable cause affidavit, Townson attributed his violent streak to “things” that happened to him that fostered a hatred of women.

He expressed remorse for his actions.

“Mr. Townson stated that he is trying to get right with God and that he is not trying to get out of prison, as he knows he does not deserve to be out of prison,” a detective wrote in the affidavit.

>> Related story: Florida man serving life for murder charged with killing woman missing since 1991

Little’s sister, Wanda Hinson, told the News-Journal that she has forgiven Townson for killing her sister. She said she did not want him to receive the death penalty and that she hoped his admission would prompt other violent offenders to do the same.

She credited God with pushing Townson toward a confession and said it led to the answers she and her family have been praying for, the newspaper reported.

“The way I look at it, I’m hoping that somebody else sees his story and that they will admit and give (closure) for other families,” Hinson said. “I didn’t want to be mad and angry about something that I think is God’s will. That’s done now.”

Townson previously confessed to killing two additional women in the Memphis area, the affidavit states. In one of the murders, authorities allege that he knew information that only the killer could have known.

Because he is already serving life in prison, he has not been charged in those cases. He has confessed to or is suspected of more than a half-dozen other killings in multiple states, authorities said.

“This defendant is a confessed serial killer,” prosecutor R.J. Larizza said in a news release. “It is gratifying to solve a cold case such as this.

“I hope the plea brings peace to the family during the Christmas holidays.”

‘No doubt about it’

Little, a North Carolina native who had relocated to Florida, disappeared as she rode home from her job at the Chart House restaurant in Daytona Beach. She left work around 1 a.m. on her blue and rust-colored Murray beach cruiser.

Witnesses reported seeing Little early Oct. 11 at Matey’s Brig, a bar located on Broadway, which is now known as International Speedway Boulevard. She left the bar around closing time and was last seen sometime after 2 a.m. at a 7-11 convenience store, where she bought a doughnut and chocolate milk, according to the Charley Project.

She never made it home.

A friend and co-worker, Barbara Chariton, reported Little missing three days later after she failed to show up for multiple shifts.

Townson, who lived in Orlando in 1991, told detectives he traveled to Daytona Beach a couple of days before his Oct. 12 birthday. According to the affidavit, Townson said he met a woman named Linda in a bar the day after he arrived.

“Based on Mr. Townson’s timeline, he would have arrived in Daytona Beach on Oct. 10, and then he would have met Linda the next day, Oct. 11,” the affidavit states. “It should be noted that Oct. 11 was the last verified sighting of Linda Little.”

Townson did not know Linda’s last name but gave a general description that closely matched that of Little.

The confessed killer told authorities he met Little at the bar located inside the Texan Hotel, which closed in 1993. The hotel, located at 701 South Atlantic Ave., is now the Harbour Beach Resort.

Another of Little’s sisters, Joy Little, told police her sister was known to frequent bars on South Atlantic Avenue.

Townson said he and Little left the bar together in his car. As he drove, he said he suggested Little take a shower.

“Mr. Townson stated that Linda ‘freaked out’ and that she began to yell and scream at him,” the affidavit states. “Mr. Townson stated that he ‘backhanded’ Linda and then choked her.”

When he realized that Little was dead, Townson said he drove north on Interstate 95 into Georgia. He exited the interstate and drove a few miles into rural Camden County before leaving Little’s body behind a dumpster, authorities said.

Read the probable cause affidavit charging Michael Townson below.

“A check of unidentified bodies recovered in that area of Georgia did not reveal a match to Linda Little, nor a possible match in the area described by Mr. Townson,” the affidavit states.

When shown a photo of Little, however, Townson said she was the woman named Linda that he had murdered.

“No doubt about it. No doubt,” Townson said, according to police.

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Townson, who was 22 when he killed Little, has spent a significant portion of his life behind bars. Florida Department of Corrections records indicate that he was convicted in 1994 of robbery, grand theft and a string of burglary charges, all of which earned him a sentence of 17 years in prison.

He was paroled in late 2006, just four months before he murdered Carman in her Titusville home.

Court documents state that Townson and Carman were childhood friends who got reacquainted when Townson was released from prison. Carman allowed Townson to stay with her family for a while.

Days into his stay, Carman’s boyfriend and police found her body under a pile of clothing in her laundry room. Townson admitted to beating her to death with a metal fence post and a hammer.

The medical examiner found that Carman had suffered at least 12 blows to the head.

Townson fled in Carman’s car, which he drove to Orlando. He traded the car to a group of people for drug money, according to authorities.

The admitted killer told police he “snapped” after having sex with Carman and learning she might have given him AIDS, court records show. An autopsy showed she did not have the disease.

Carman was survived by her three young children.

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