A New Jersey inmate and infamous serial killer commonly known as the “Torso Killer” pleaded guilty on Monday to five new decades-old homicides perpetrated in New York state.
Also often called the “Times Square Killer” for the murders he committed in New York, Richard Cottingham told prosecutors that he strangled 23-year-old Diane Cusick on Feb. 15, 1968. Cusick encountered Cottingham, now 76, after she bought shoes at Green Acres Mall in New York.
Cottingham also confessed to four additional murders, all of which occurred in Long Island during the 1970s. He received immunity for these killings as part of a plea deal to do with Cusick’s murder. Cottingham appeared in the courtroom via a video call.
The other murdered women include Mary Beth Heinz, 21, Laverne Moy, 23, Marita Rosado Nieves, 18, and Sheila Hyman, 33. All of the women were killed between 1972 and 1973.
On Monday, Cottingham was sentenced to serve 25 years to life for killing Cusick. He has been imprisoned since 1980 and was already serving multiple life sentences for several other homicides.
At a press conference on Monday, Nassau County investigators revealed Cottingham could be responsible for as many as 13 homicides in their jurisdiction. Cottingham has previously claimed to be responsible for more than 100 murders.
“Today is one of the most emotional days we’ve ever had in the Nassau County district attorney’s office,” District Attorney Anne Donnelly said at the press conference, where she was joined by several family members of Cottingham’s victims. “In the case of Diane Cusick, her family has waited nearly 55 years for someone to be held accountable for her death.”
Donnelly said Cottingham, who is believed to be one of the United States’ most prolific serial killers, “has caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families, there’s almost nothing I can say to give comfort to anyone.”
Cottingham has been called the “Torso Killer” for the brutal way in which he reportedly dismembered several of his victim’s bodies.
DNA testing was not widely available at the time of the five murders, though Cottingham’s DNA was added to a national database in 2016 when he pleaded guilty to a killing in New Jersey. In 2021, Cottingham’s DNA was linked to the five additional homicides.
NBC reported that Cottingham has been in poor health.
Donnelly said that when detectives questioned Cottingham in prison, he provided information about those four cases that only the killer would know.
— With files from The Associated Press