A man known as the “Torso Killer”, who is already serving life for murdering a string of women, has admitted to five additional cold-case slayings.
Richard Cottingham, 76, pleaded guilty in a New York court on Monday to one count of murder over the 1968 killing of Diane Cusick. And he told the court that he was also responsible for the historic deaths of four other women; Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves.
The District Attorney in Nassau County, Long Island, agreed not to prosecute Cottingham for the four deaths as he will never be released from prison on other murder convictions.
Cottingham, who murdered 17 women between 1968 and 1980 in New York and New Jersey, has been serving a life sentence for murder in a New Jersey state prison since 1981.
He was branded the “Torso Killer” or “Times Square Killer” and has claimed to have killed up to 100 women over the years.
Cusick was a 23-year-old dance instructor when she left home on Long Island to buy new dancing shoes at a shopping mall. Her bound body was discovered by her father in the backseat of her car in a mall parking lot, and authorities found that she had been strangled.
Cusick’s brother Jim Martin called Cottingham a “beast” when he spoke in court and added: “He turned our lives upside down.”
“Like it was nothing he strangled the life out of my beautiful sister,” he told the court. “I just wish myself or my brother would have found you in the streets, and we would have torn you apart.”
Investigators got a break in the cold-case investigation in June when Cottingham was linked to Cusik through DNA.
“For more than 50 years these five families waited, hoped and wondered if they would ever find out who killed their loved one,” said Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Jared Rosenblatt.
The body of Mary Beth Heinz, 21, was found floating in a stream in Rockville Centre on Long Island in 1972. She had been strangled.
Laverne Moye, 23, was found strangled to death in the same area later the same year. Sheila Heiman’s body was found bludgeoned to death in 1973 at her home on Long Island.
The body of 18-year-old Maria Nieves was found in an area of Jones Beach in 1973, she had also been strangled.
Cottingham, who will die in prison, was asked by a judge to acknowledge his role in the killings and simply replied “yes”, according to WABC.
“I hope there is some justice for the families in knowing that he will live and take every breath in a prison cell,” added Mr Rosenblatt. “This defendant took from these women whatever dreams and goals these women had.”
When he was asked if he wanted to plead for forgiveness, Cottingham replied “no.”
“There are no words to describe how purely evil you are,” said Judge Caryn Fink as she sentenced him to a consecutive 25 years to life in prison.