Serial Killer Who Preyed On Women In New York City Area Admits To 5 Murders 50 Years Ago
Richard Cottingham became known as the Torso Killer because he often decapitated his victims and cut off their feet.
A serial killer already serving time in prison for the deaths of multiple women in New York and New Jersey is now connected with five more murder cases in Long Island that date back 50 years.
In December 2022, Richard Cottingham confessed he killed Diane Cusick after DNA evidence tied him to the case via a federal database.
In February 1968, Cusick, a 23-year-old mother and dance instructor, was strangled to death. Her parents discovered her body bound in the back seat of her vehicle outside Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, Long Island, The New York Times reported.
As part of a plea deal, Cottingham, 76, received 25 years to life for raping and murdering Cusick. The serial killer then confessed he was responsible for the deaths of at least four other women in Nassau County, New York, in the early 1970s — crimes he won’t be charged for because of the legal agreement.
The first two of those victims, Mary Beth Heinz, 21, and 23-year-old Laverne Moye, were found just several months apart in 1972 in the same Long Island creek.
Cottingham also confessed to killing Sheila Heiman, whose body was discovered in July 1973 by her husband at their Long Island home. The serial killer also claimed responsibility for strangling to death Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves, 18, and dumping her body near Jones Beach, just outside New York City.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly said she was “confident” Cottingham took the lives of all five women. In the process, she noted, the serial killer “caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families” when he assaulted and murdered his victims “to satisfy his craven desires.”
Before confessing to the five murders, Cottingham — known as the “Torso Killer” because he sometimes cut off his victims’ feet and heads — was connected to at least 11 homicides and he claims he’s slain as many as 100 women over his lifetime.
“Thankfully, he will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he belongs,” Donnelly said.
Before the latest conviction for Cusick’s homicide, Cottingham was already serving multiple life sentences in a New Jersey state prison. He was convicted of murder for the first time in the early 1980s.
According to The New York Times, Cottingham was married and working in Midtown Manhattan as a computer operator when he began preying on and killing women, including sex workers, in the city, especially around the Times Square area.
For more on this case, stream People Magazine Investigates: "The Times Square Killer" on Max.
More than five decades after the body of 23-year-old Diane Cusick was found murdered in her car, investigators have linked her death to a serial killer.