The death of a woman who was found in a shopping mall parking lot five decades ago on New York’s Long Island has been linked to the so-called “Torso Killer”.
The suspect, Richard Cottingham, who is considered one of America’s most prolific serial killers, was arraigned on Wednesday for second-degree murder in connection with the 1968 murder of Diane Cusick.
But from a hospital bed in New Jersey, where he is already serving a life sentence for other murders, Cottingham pleaded not guilty.
Authorities believe Ms Cusick, 23, quit her job at a children’s dance school and then stopped at the Green Acres shopping center in Nassau County to buy a pair of shoes when Cottingham followed her.
It is then believed that he pretended to be a security guard or a policeman, accused her of theft and then subdued the 7th woman (98 pounds), the county police detective captain said. Nassau, Stephen Fitzpatrick.
He added that she had been “brutally beaten, raped and murdered in that car”.
She had defensive wounds on her hands and police were able to collect DNA evidence at the scene.
But at the time, there was no DNA test and the case ended up being cold.
Cottingham was working as a computer programmer for a health insurance company in New York at the time of Ms Cusick’s death.
He was convicted of murder in New York and New Jersey in the 1980s, although the law at the time did not require convicted persons to submit DNA samples, as it does now.
His DNA was taken and entered into a national database in 2016 when he pleaded guilty to another murder in New Jersey.
Last year, Cottingham pleaded guilty to murdering Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Marie Kelly, 16, 47 years ago.
In 2021, Nassau County police were notified that a suspect who may be responsible for murders in the county, just east of New York, had been locked up in New Jersey.
They resumed DNA testing on cold cases and found a match with Cottingham.
Cottingham also led police to believe he was responsible for the death by providing information about the case, including telling detectives he was near a cinema park, which was next to the center business at the time.
However, he did not directly confess to Ms Cusick’s death.
“He wasn’t always a weak old man”
This week, Cottingham asked to be arraigned by video feed from the New Jersey hospital because he was in poor health and bedridden.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said, “He’s a violent predator and no matter what he looks like today in a hospital bed, he wasn’t always a weak old man. .
“He was a 22-year-old when he committed Ms. Cusick’s murder. He was strong, stronger than these women, and he was violent.”
Cottingham, nicknamed The Torso Killer and The Times Square Killer, previously claimed he was responsible for up to 100 murders.
But authorities in New York and New Jersey have only officially linked him to a dozen so far, including Ms Cusick’s death.
He has been imprisoned since 1980, when he was arrested after a motel maid heard a woman screaming in her room.