‘Torso Killer’ pleads guilty to 1968 murder of Nassau woman, four others

‘Torso Killer’ pleads guilty to 1968 murder of Nassau woman, four others
Richard Cottingham in 1980. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A New Jersey man known as the “Torso Killer” pleaded guilty to a 1968 cold case murder of a New Hyde Park woman who he strangled in the parking lot of the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, the Nassau County DA announced Monday.

Richard Cottingham, 75, of the South Woods Estate Prison in Bridgeton, N.J., also admitted to killing four additional women in Nassau County in the 1970s, according to District Attorney Anne Donnelly. 

Cottingham, also known as the “Times Square Killer” will not be charged for the four additional homicides he admitted to in court Monday.

The serial killer is serving multiple life sentences for previous murder convictions in New York and New Jersey. 

“Serial killer Richard Cottingham has caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families,” Donnelly said. “Today, he took responsibility for the murder of five young women here in Nassau County between 1968 and 1973. He overpowered, assaulted and brutally murdered them to satisfy his craven desires. Thankfully he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs.” 

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, police 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. 

Donnelly said advancements in DNA technology allowed evidence from the scene to be retested, which created a profile matching Cottingham’s. 

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. 

In a similar area near Heinz, an 11-year-old boy found the body of Laverne Moye on July 20, 1972. The 23-year-old Queens native was strangled to death. 

Cottingham also admitted to strangling Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves. Police found her body on Dec. 27, 1973, in a weeded area of Jones Beach and covered in plastic bags and wrapped in a gray blanket, police said. The Puerto Rican native lived in Manhattan at the time of her murder. 

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.

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