'Torso Killer' pleads guilty to murdering 5 women in the 1960s, 1970s

DNA testing led to Richard Cottingham’s March indictment.

December 5, 2022, 5:28 PM

A convicted serial killer pleaded guilty Monday to murdering a dance teacher in 1968 outside a Long Island, New York, mall and admitted to killing four other women in the early 1970s.

DNA testing led to Richard Cottingham’s March indictment in the killing of Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old mother who went to buy dance shoes at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York.

Cottingham, 76, currently an inmate at a Bridgeton, New Jersey, prison, is known as the "Torso Killer" because he dismembered some of his victims.

The South Woods State Prison inmate pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life by a judge, the Nassau County district attorney’s office said in a news release.

Cottingham also admitted to the deaths of four other women -- Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves -- but won’t be prosecuted for their deaths since he’s already spending the rest of his life in prison because of prior murder convictions in New York and New Jersey, according to Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly.

PHOTO: Richard Cottingham makes a remote appearance at a courtroom in Mineola, N.Y., Dec. 5, 2022.
Richard Cottingham makes a remote appearance at a courtroom in Mineola, N.Y., Dec. 5, 2022. The serial murderer known as the "Torso Killer" admitted Monday to killing a 23-year-old woman outside a Long Island shopping mall in 1968 and four other women decades ago.
Seth Wenig/AP

"Serial killer Richard Cottingham has caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families," Donnelly said. "Today, he took responsibility for the murder of five young women here in Nassau County between 1968 and 1973. He overpowered, assaulted and brutally murdered them to satisfy his craven desires. Thankfully he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs."

Cusick’s parents discovered her body in the backseat of her car in the Green Acres Mall parking lot after growing concerned about why she hadn’t returned home after leaving earlier in the evening of Feb. 15, 1968, to buy shoes, according to Donnelly.

PHOTO: Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly holds a photo of Diane Cusick during an interview with The Associated Press, June 22, 2022, in Mineola, N.Y.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly holds a photo of Diane Cusick during an interview with The Associated Press, June 22, 2022, in Mineola, N.Y. More than 50 years after a woman was found dead in her car at a mall on Long Island, authorities prosecutors are expected to announce that DNA evidence has linked the slaying to Richard Cottingham, a serial killer who has been connected to 11 murders in New York and New Jersey between 1965 and 1980.
Mary Altaffer/AP

A medical examiner determined Cusick was strangled to death, officials said.

The Nassau County Office of the Medical Examiner retested evidence related to the case in 2021. Earlier this year, DNA evidence matched Cottingham's profile, according to the district attorney.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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