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‘Torso Killer’ Allegedly Makes Jailhouse Confession To The Strangling Deaths Of 3 Teen Girls From More Than 50 Years Ago

Richard Cottingham was convicted of butchering at least six women in New Jersey and New York from 1967 to 1980, but prosecutors now say his body count is even higher.

By M.L. Nestel

A convicted New Jersey serial killer who earned notoriety for dismembering his victims has allegedly made a confession from behind bars, taking credit for three unsolved slayings of teenage girls that happened a half-century ago. 

Richard Cottingham, 73, admitted to strangling Irene Blase, Denise Falasca and Jackie Harp between 1968 and 1969, Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella told NJ.com.

“The Prosecutor’s Office investigations revealed that Richard Cottingham committed these homicides,” Musella stated in an email to the publication.

Between 1967 and 1980, prosecutors say Cottingham butchered at least six women in New Jersey and New York; their bodies were found mutilated, with severed breasts and heads. 

He also chopped off the hands of his victims in order to mask their identities and skirt criminal charges, The Bergen Record reported.

The grisly nature of the murders earned Cottingham the moniker "The Torso Killer."

Richard Cottingham Pd

The Lodi, New Jersey man, who was born in the Bronx and once worked as a computer operator, was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison after his conviction for the New Jersey murders of Valorie Street and Maryann Carr, as well as three kidnappings, jail records show.

He subsequently confessed in 2010 to the 1967 murder of Nancy Schiava Vogel, a married mother of two, in Ridgefield Park, for which he received a life sentence, according to NJ.com. 

Detectives spent 15 years to get Cottingham to admit he committed the three additional cold case murders.

“Those confessions were made sometime between 2004 and 2019 ― it began in 2004 ― through this ongoing dogged process," author and historian Peter Vronsky told NJ.com.

His ties to the unsolved murders were discreetly passed along to survivors' relatives.

"The families of these victims were immediately and confidentially notified when the cases were solved," a Bergen County Prosecutor spokeswoman told The Bergen Record.

Back in the summer of 1968, prosecutors say Cottingham kidnapped and then strangled 13-year-old Harp as she was walking to her Midland Park home from band practice, according to the publication.

Blase was found strangled to death in the Saddle River on April 8, 1969, one day after disappearing in Hackensack.

Falasca was 15 years old when she was abducted on July 14, 1969; she was found strangled to death in Saddle Brook the following day.

When recounting his murderous decade, Cottingham once told a reporter that he tallied his victim total to be more than 85, but fewer than 100, according to The Bergen Record.

Cottingham was caught in 1980 in a Hasbrouck Heights motel room where he was attempting to rape and murder an 18-year-old woman whose screams ultimately attracted police, according to NJ.com.

Despite his lengthy prison sentence, Cottingham will be eligible for parole in 2025, NJ.com reports.

So far, the inmate has not been charged in any of the girls’ murders, but prosecutors say that the cases have been “exceptionally cleared,” according to NJ.com.