Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
Convicted serial killer Richard Cottingham has confessed to five murders after striking a plea deal in the case of a murdered Long Island mother.
Cottingham, 76, who is already serving life at a New Jersey state prison, appeared virtually at a Nassau County courthouse in Mineola, New York on Monday, pleading guilty to the 1968 murder of Diane Cusick, 23, according to the Associated Press.
During the hearing, Cottingham also admitted to killing four additional women on Long Island, for which he was granted immunity from prosecution as part of the plea deal.
Cottingham was indicted on second-degree murder charges in June for Cusick’s murder and has now admitted to the 1970s murders of Mary Beth Heinz, 21, Laverne Moye, 23, Shiela Heiman (sometimes spelled Hyman), 33, and Marita Rosado Nieves, 18, Long Island’s News 12 reported.
Judge Caryn Fink sentenced Cottingham to a 25-year term in accordance with the plea deal, adding, “There are no words to describe how purely evil you are,” CNN reported.
“Today is one of the most emotional days we’ve ever had at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office,” added District Attorney Anne Donnelly, according to NBC News.
Cottingham, appearing in a hospital gown and reportedly in ailing health, chose not to speak at Monday’s court hearing, News 12 reported.
Cusick’s daughter, who was just 4 years old at the time of her mother’s murder, was also present in the Minolta courtroom, according to CBS News.
“He just had this, like, dead stare,” Darlene Altman told reporters. “I felt like he was looking right at me. It was creepy.”
Cottingham is already serving life for murdering five victims killed in the tri-state area since the 1960s, according to NBC New York City affiliate WNBC.
Cottingham — whose terror earned him the moniker “The Torso Killer” and “The Times Square Killer” — has confessed to more than 100 homicides over the years, though investigators have only linked him to about a dozen killings.
Prosecutor Jared Rosenblatt wept when addressing the victims’ families after Cottingham’s sentence was handed down, according to the New York Post.
“I hope there is some justice for all of you knowing that for the rest of this defendant’s life, [he] will live and take every breath in a prison cell in New Jersey,” said Rosenblatt. “I hope today will bring you the closure that you all sought for the past 50 years.”
Cusick, a New Hyde Park dance instructor, vanished on the evening of Feb. 15, 1968, after telling her parents she was going to the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream to buy a pair of dancing shoes, according to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. When Cusick’s parents went to look for their daughter, they found a beaten and strangled Cusick in the backseat of her Plymouth, which was still parked in the mall parking lot.
Investigators believed Cottingham presented himself as a security guard and accused Cusick of stealing before finally overpowering the 98-pound woman, according to the Associated Press.
DNA connected Cottingham to Cusick’s murder earlier this year.
On Monday, Cusick’s brother, Jim Martin, said he was sure his sister tried to fight her killer off, referring to Cottingham as an “animal,” according to the New York Post.
“He punched her in the face, put tape over her mouth and nose, and then raped her,” said Martin before directing his attention to Cottingham. “I just wish my brother Bobby and I would have found you in the streets, and we would have torn you apart.”
Cottingham is now claiming responsibility for the May 10, 1972 homicide of Mary Beth Heinz and the June 20, 1972 homicide of Laverne Moye, according to News 12. Both victims were strangled to death, their bodies thrown from the Peninsula Boulevard bridge in Rockville Centre — about 30 miles east of Manhattan.
Shiela Heiman was found dead by her husband at their affluent Woodmere, Long Island home on July 20, 1973.
According to a 1973 New York Times article, the crime scene was so bloody that it took investigators hours to determine that the mother of three was beaten to death with a blunt instrument.
On Dec. 27. 1973, about five months after Heiman’s murder, Marita Rosado Nieves was found strangled to death at the East Bathhouse bus stop on Ocean Parkway near Jones Beach, according to News 12.
Nassau County officials will not prosecute Cottingham for the four Long Island murders, per the plea agreement.
Cottingham’s crimes were the focus of the 2021 Netflix series “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer,” which detailed the gruesome murders of two sex workers found decapitated and burned in a motel room in 1979, for which Cottingham was convicted.
Authorities caught onto Cottingham in 1980 after a Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey motel employee heard screaming and found one of Cottingham’s survivors tied to the bed, having sustained bite marks and knife wounds, according to the Associated Press.
Cottingham was later convicted for the murders of Valorie Street, 18, and Maryanne Carr, 28, in New Jersey, as well as the 1980 murder of Ann Renyer in New York City, according to a 1984 article from the New York Times.
Cottingham also pleaded guilty in 2021 to the murders of friends Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Kelly, 16, who disappeared in August 1974 after making plans to go to a Paramus, New Jersey mall to purchase bathing suits. Cottingham confessed to raping the teens for days before drowning them in a motel room bathtub and leaving their bodies in a wooded area near Montvale.
“Richard Cunningham killed who[m] he wanted when he wanted because he’s a serial killer,” said District Attorney Donnelly, per CNN.
At the time of the murders, Cottingham was a computer programmer for a New York-based health insurance company and a father of three children.
Crime News is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.