PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A woman’s body was found in a duffel bag that washed up near a local naval base. Her boyfriend at the time was accused of her murder. Did he do it? This is the story of Samira Watkins.
WKRG News 5 is looking back at the crimes that shocked the Gulf Coast. Samira Watkins’ story is the thirty-first in the series.
25-year-old Samira Watkins was the mother of a 4-year-old boy and had a baby on the way in October 2009. Family members described Samira as focused, hard-working, someone who was always there whenever anyone needed her.
Watkins was 20 years old when she became pregnant with her son. The father of her son, William Peters, was her first serious boyfriend; however, their relationship became toxic. Peter had been arrested and convicted of domestic violence against Watkins.
Eventually, Samira met another man, a sailor stationed at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. His name, he told her, was Ricky Littleton. He was a member of the security forces at NAS Pensacola. A few months later Samira found out she was pregnant.
Very quickly after finding out she was pregnant, the relationship between Littleton and her started dwindling. Samira’s family said Littleton began to grow distant and Samira started getting suspicious about him. She quickly learned that Littleton was living a double life.
Samira found out Ricky was not his real name. His real name was Zachary Littleton and he was married with a child. Littleton allegedly told Samira his marriage was on the rocks, however, Samira began having doubts leading to the couple growing apart.
Samira’s family told CBS News that Littleton had reached out to Samira and said he wanted to make things work for the baby.
On Oct. 29, 2009, Littleton called Samira asking if they could talk. Samira was supposed to go to Littleton’s apartment after work. She was never seen alive again.
The next day some of Samira’s family members went to Littleton’s apartment, but instead of finding Littleton, they found a lady who said he had moved out. That’s when law enforcement got involved.
Detectives brought Littleton in for questioning two days after Samira disappeared. He originally told detectives he and Samira were just friends. Eventually, he admitted they had a sexual relationship.
Littleton also told detectives he was married and had a child with his wife. His wife was in the military as well and was stationed in South Carolina. He said that he was no longer seeing Samira at the time of her disappearance because his wife was transferring to NAS Pensacola in less than a week.
Littleton’s alibi was not very strong. He told detectives he was at the apartment packing all night. Littleton claimed Samira never showed up at his apartment that night. When detectives searched Littleton’s apartment, they did not find any sign of blood or anything that would prove foul play had occurred.
Detectives then took to the police database, where they found the reports of the battery and abuse between Samira and Peters, the father of her first child. Peters had been released from prison before Samira went missing, so detectives thought he looked like a good suspect.
Peters told detectives he was working with his family who owned a cleaning service. They were able to verify that Peters was on a job at the time of Samira’s murder, meaning he couldn’t have done it.
Then police found a big piece of evidence. Four days after Samira went missing two jet skiers found a duffel bag that had washed up on shore near NAS Pensacola. Inside detectives found a woman’s body curled up in the fetal position. Detectives had Samira’s fingerprints ready, which allowed them to positively identify the body as Samiras while on the scene.
When detectives found Samira’s body, her head was wrapped in multiple layers of duct tape, covering her nose. The medical examiner determined her cause of death to be asphyxiation. Samira was laid to rest on Nov. 10.
While Samira’s family mourned her loss, detectives were hard at work trying to determine who killed her and why. Detectives decided to look at Samira’s cell phone records. In those, they found a phone number that she had called and had called her a total of 47 times, beginning on Oct. 20 and ending on the 29th.
It was determined that this number belonged to a “toss phone” that was owned by Littleton. This made Littleton their prime suspect.
A friend of Littleton’s who talked to detectives made them question his alibi. The friend told detectives that Littleton called him and asked him to help Littleton move. Littleton assured the friend that he would have everything packed and ready to go, however, the friend said that was not the case.
“There was literally nothing packed. You walked in the apartment and even his clothes were still on the dresser. His food was still in the fridge,” the friend told CBS News.
Then detectives hit the jackpot. Samira had a pair of gold hoops that were very sentimental to her. According to her family, Samira wore those hoops everywhere. When her body was found, however, she was missing one of the earrings. In a search of Littleton’s new home, detectives found the missing earring.
The NCIS joined in on the investigation and was able to use technology only available to them to track Samira and Littleton’s movements throughout the night of Oct. 29. Littleton’s phone showed he left his apartment in the early morning hours and returned around 4:30 a.m.
Police felt at this point they had enough evidence to arrest Littleton and three weeks after Samira was found, he was arrested.
On June 27, 2011, Littleton’s murder trial began. It only lasted three days and after only three hours of deliberation, the jury found Littleton guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.
Littleton continued to declare his innocence when he talked with CBS. He said he was with Samira the night she went missing, but that he didn’t kill her. He claimed they talked at his apartment and were intimate before they decided to get food at Waffle House.
On the way to Waffle House, they allegedly got into a heated argument and she kicked him out of the car. He said that was the last time he saw her.
Littleton was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.