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The daughter of one of serial killer Richard Cottingham’s victims is helping to close other murder cases to which he is connected — by using her relationship with him.
Cottingham murdered Jennifer Weiss’ birth mom Deedeh Goodarzi in a Times Square motel room in 1979. Goodarzi was only 22 when she was killed, beheaded and set on fire. Another woman who has still yet to be identified was also found dead in the room. Both women, whose heads and hands were missing are believed to have been sex workers, whom Cottingham often preyed upon during a 13-year period.
After Cottingham was linked to a series of attacks in New Jersey, police in New York arrested and charged him with the murder of Goodarzi. He was convicted in 1984 of her slaying as well as five others in New York and New Jersey.
But, as Netflix's new docuseries “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer” points out, Cottingham – also dubbed the “Torso Killer” — likely had more victims. In fact, he claims to have killed upwards of 80 to 100 people.
“Was it 80 to 100 like he claimed? That may be boastful, but it’s certainly more than he’s been convicted for,” director Joe Berlinger told Oxygen.com.
Weiss is working to get more of his killings confirmed, so that other victims can be identified and their families can finally know what happened to them.
Weiss told Oxygen.com last year that she visits the serial killer regularly in search of more information about her mom’s case — she still wants to locate her mom’s skull — and in the hopes of getting closure for other families. “Times Square Killer” notes that her conversations with Cottingham actually led to him being officially linked to the previously unsolved murders of several New Jersey teens.
He confessed under immunity in 2020 to the murders of New Jersey school girls Jackie Harp, 13, Irene Blase, 18, and Denise Falasca, 15, from 1968 to 1969, NJ.com reported. Earlier this year, Cottingham also admitted before a judge that he killed friends Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Kelly, 16, in 1974 by drowning them in a hotel room in New Jersey before dumping their remains in a wooded area.
“Jennifer has given him some positive motive to make his confessions, assuring him that, while she cannot guarantee how other victims' families will respond, on her part she extends her friendship and support in every confession he makes,” true crime expert and historian Peter Vronsky told Oxygen.com last year. “
Berlinger told Oxygen.com that there are several open cases that have possible ties to Cottingham.
“I think [Weiss has] been really critical,” Berlinger said. “It’s very brave of her to be in that sort of situation where her own biological mother is the victim of this serial killer and they’ve developed this relationship which is very uncomfortable for her.”
Weiss told Oxygen.com last year she feels Cottingham doesn’t have any genuine interest in helping bring closure to anyone, but he does want to help her because of their friendship.
Berlinger added that he finds some parallels between her and Jillian Lauren, who struck up an unlikely relationship with serial killer Samuel Little to help give some of his unknown victims their names back. Like Cottingham, Little likely got away with his horrific murder spree for years because he intentionally targeted victims that he felt would be overlooked by society.
Lauren, an author, former sex worker and survivor of sexual assault, talked to the serial killer in "Confronting a Serial Killer” — which Berlinger also directed — as she worked to identify his unknown victims before his 2020 death.
“Jillian Lauren was not related to any of Sam Little's victims but she was a survivor of sexual assault and she was critical in getting Sam Little to confess," the director told Oxygen.com. "And I think Jennifer has really played a really significant role in getting information out of [Cottingham].”
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