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In Netflix's 'Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer,' Could Richard Cottingham Have Really Killed So Many People?
Netflix's “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer” examines the case of Richard Cottingham, a serial killer who predominantly targeted sex workers.
When people think of prolific serial killers, they often think of murderers like Ted Bundy. But apparently, serial killer Richard Cottingham — who is far less well-known — may have killed between 80 to 100 people.
Cottingham was convicted in 1984 of six murders that took place from 1967 to 1980 in New York and New Jersey. The victims, some badly mutilated and dismembered, were sex workers; their murdered had earned the name "Torso Killer." Earlier this year, he also admitted to killing two teens in New Jersey in 1974 and, in 2020, he admitted to murdering three New Jersey schoolgirls between 1968 and 1969, NJ.com reported.
But, as the upcoming Netflix docuseries “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer” points out, his victims could actually number between 80 and 100 people. Cottingham has long claimed that he targeted sex workers in Times Square for 13 years and got away with many of their murders.
Director Joe Berlinger told Oxygen.com that his news series, which comes to Netflix on Dec. 29, explores how the fact that sex workers have been dehumanized and neglected allowed Cottingham to get away with killing them — much the same way that serial killer Samuel Little, who also claimed to have killed about 100 people, did.
“Why? Because [both Cottingham and Little] preyed primarily on sex workers,” Berlinger said.
“Bundy was well known because he preyed upon white collegiate young women, so that made him a well-known figure because that was disturbing to society,” the veteran director told Oxygen.com “They had multiple massive nationwide manhunts for Bundy and mobilization of police forces."
"And when sex workers are preyed upon, unfortunately, they just look the other way,” he added.
Berlinger noted that Little is also not a name that comes to mind when people think of serial killers, despite being possibly the most prolific one in American history.
But could Cottingham really be at the same horrific level as Little, having killed upwards of 100 people?
Berlinger told Oxygen.com it's possible that Cottingham may be "bragging" and inflating the number of his victims.
However, he said he is certain that Cottingham has killed more people than his current convictions suggest. Berlinger said that police are actively and currently looking into solving more of the murders Cottingham claims to have committed in the hopes of identifying more victims. And, even one of the victims Cottingham has been convicted of killing still needs to be identified.
"There is an astounding [number] of victims who we don’t know who they are or who killed them and they are generally people in the sex work business," he said. "It’s shocking. There’s been an epidemic of sex workers being killed in the past three decades and of society looking the other way."