The confession also cleared one victim's husband, who was suspected to have killed her.
Serial killer Richard Cottingham, also known as the "Torso Killer," was sentenced to another 25 years in prison Monday after confessing to the murders of five women in New Jersey from 1968 to 1973.
Cottingham pleaded guilty to murdering Diane Cusick, who was just 23 at the time of her death, in February 1968, Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly (pictured above left, holding a photo of Cusick) announced. He also admitted to the murders of Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves -- though the DA "agreed not to prosecute Cottingham for the deaths as the defendant will be incarcerated for the rest of his life due to prior murder convictions in New Jersey and New York."
Before this latest update, Cottingham was already behind bars at a prison in New Jersey after being convicted of or admitting to under oath at least 11 other murders. Dubbed the "Torso Killer" because he allegedly dismembered his victims, Cottingham claims to have murdered more than 100 women -- though authorities have been unable to confirm that number. He's also been called the "Times Square Killer" for his crimes against sex workers in New York.
"Serial killer Richard Cottingham has caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families," Donnelly said Monday. "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."
According to the release, an investigation in Cusick's death revealed the dance instructor told her family she was going to the mall to buy a pair a dancing shoes, but never returned home. Her body was discovered by her own parents in the backseat of her car in the mall parking lot that night. Tape was found over her mouth and her hands were bound.
It wasn't until 2022 that a DNA profile was generated from evidence in the case and it matched Cottingham's profile. His DNA entered a national database in 2016, in relation to another murder case.
The DA released details on the other four murders as well.
Heinz's body was discovered in May 1972; she was just 21 at the time of her death. She was found face down in a stream and her death was determined to be the result of strangulation.
Three months after that, an 11-year-old boy found the body of 23-year-old Laverne Moye in the same area, also strangled to death. She was a mother of two children, including son John Moye, who was in the courtroom on Monday.
In July 1973, Heiman was found bludgeoned to death by her husband after he returned from a department store. Her husband was actually viewed as a suspect in her murder for years and died in 2004, before his name was officially cleared. Their daughter Randi was in court as well on Monday, calling her father "a kind and generous man who loved our mother deeply and spent too many years living in the shadow of his wife's murder." She added (via NBC News), "There's no reason why he should have been suspected. My poor dad lived with that until the day he died."
Lastly, in December 1973, 18-year-old Nieves' body was discovered covered in plastic bags and wrapped in a blanket, also strangled to death.
After Cottingham was charged in Heiman's death, investigators began running his DNA against other cold cases in the area from that time. Donnelly said Cottingham knew key details of the crimes that only the killer would know, as investigators were careful to withhold information in interviews with him.
"We did not want a scenario where a serial killer claimed credit for a murder he did not commit," she said, per the New York Times.
When given a chance to speak with the families of his victims during the court hearing -- which he did not attend in person -- he reportedly said, "No."
Cottingham was a married father of three and worked as a computer programmer at the time of his murder spree.