‘Torso Killer’ Richard Cottingham Accused of 1968 Murder of Woman in New York Mall | US news

The death of a woman found in the parking lot of a mall five decades ago on New York’s Long Island has been linked to the so-called “Torso Killer”.

The suspect, Richard Cottingham, who is believed to be one of the most productive serial killers in the United States, was arraigned on Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the murder of Diane Cusick in 1968.

But from a hospital bed in New Jersey, where he is already serving a life sentence for other homicides, Cottingham pleaded not guilty.

Authorities believe Ms Cusick, 23, left her job at a children’s dance school and then stopped at the Green Acres Mall in Nassau County to buy a pair of shoes when Cottingham followed her.

He is then believed to have posed as a security guard or police officer, accused her of stealing and then overpowered the 7th (98 lbs) woman, said Nassau County police investigator Captain Stephen Fitzpatrick.

He added that she was “brutally beaten, raped and murdered in that car”.

She had defensive wounds on her hands and police were able to gather DNA evidence at the scene.

But at the time, there was no DNA test, and the case eventually got cold.

Cottingham worked as a computer programmer for a health insurance company in New York at the time of Mrs. Cusick’s death.

Cottingham (center) admitted to killing two teenagers in New Jersey in 1974. Pic AP
Picture:
Cottingham (center) admitted to killing two teenagers in New Jersey back in 1974

He was convicted of murder in both New York and New Jersey in the 1980s, though the law at the time did not require people who were convicted to submit DNA samples, as it does now.

His DNA was taken and recorded in a national database in 2016 when he pleaded guilty to yet another murder in New Jersey.

Last year, Cottingham pleaded guilty to killing 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old Lorraine Marie Kelly 47 years ago.

In 2021, Nassau County police received a tip that a suspect who could be responsible for homicide in the county, just east of New York City, was barricaded inside New Jersey.

They started running DNA tests again on colds and came up with a match for Cottingham.

Cottingham also led police to believe he was responsible for the death by giving some information about the case, including telling detectives he was near a drive-in theater, which was next to the mall at the time.

However, he stopped confessing directly to Mrs. Cusick’s death.

‘He was not always a weak older man’

This week, Cottingham asked to be brought to court by video feed from the hospital in New Jersey because he was in poor health and bedridden.

Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said: “He is a violent predator, and no matter what he looks like today in a hospital bed, he was not always a weak elderly man.

“He was a young 22-year-old when he committed the murder of Mrs. Cusick. He was strong, stronger than these women were, and he was violent.”

Cottingham, nicknamed The Torso Killer and The Times Square Killer, has previously claimed he was responsible for up to 100 murders.

But authorities in New York and New Jersey have officially linked him to only a dozen so far, including Mrs. Cusick’s death.

He has been incarcerated since 1980 when he was arrested after a motel girl heard a woman screaming inside her room.

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