‘Torso Killer’ documentary premiers on A&E

‘Torso Killer’ documentary premiers on A&E
Richard Cottingham in 1980. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A two-part documentary focused on Richard Cottingham, a New Jersey man known as the “Torso Killer” who murdered multiple North Shore women, premiered on A&E networks Thursday night. 

The 76-year-old, who is currently serving multiple life sentences at the South Woods Estate Prison in Bridgeton, N.J., for previous murder convictions in New York and New Jersey, admitted in December to killing four additional women in Nassau County in the 1970s.

“The Torso Killer Confessions” dives into the work of Detective Robert Anzilotti of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey over multiple decades as he tries to crack the cold cases linked to Cottingham’s crimes.

“The special goes behind the scenes, exploring the relationship between the two men, and how that relationship culminated in Cottingham’s recent headline-making confessions,” A&E says of the program on its website. “Through in-depth interviews with Anzilotti, never-before-heard audio tapes of the men’s conversations, intimate exclusive footage, and multiple confessions from Cottingham, the special is a rare look into an unrelenting journey for the truth against the odds.”

Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old mother, was a resident of New Hyde Park and an instructor at an Oceanside-based dancing school when she told her family she was going to the Valley Stream mall to buy dancing shoes on Feb. 15, 1968, Nassau County police previously said.

When she did not return home, Cusick’s parents drove to the mall where they found their daughter’s body, hands bound and mouth taped shut, in the back of her Plymouth Valiant, police said. 

It was determined that Cusick died from asphyxiation due to strangulation.

On May, 10, 1972, police found the body of Mary Beth Heinz, a Mineola native, floating face down in a stream near Maine Avenue in Rockville Centre. It was determined she died by asphyxiation due to strangulation and suffered contusions and abrasions to the face and neck, police said. She was working as a mother’s helper in Bellmore at the time of her murder. 

Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said at the time of Cottingham’s guilty plea that DNA technology advancements allowed evidence from the scenes to be retested, which created a profile matching Cottingham’s. 

Cottingham has murdered at least 11 young women in New Jersey and New York between 1967 and 1980 while claiming he is responsible for over 100 homicides, according to CBS News.

On May 22, 1980, Cottingham was arrested at the Hasbrouck Heights Quality Inn while he was torturing an 18-year-old sex worker Leslie Ann O’Dell after motel staff called the police, according to the NY Daily News.

He was convicted of murder in 1981, 1982 and three murders in 1984.

The documentary premiered on Thursday night at 9 p.m. and will run again Friday at the same time. 

The documentary can be streamed online on A&E’s website.

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