Decades Later, ‘Torso Killer’ Accused of Killing New York Mall

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MINEOLA, NY (TUSEN) — More than five decades after Diane Cusick’s lifeless body was found in the parking lot of a Long Island mall in New York, authorities have linked her death to the so-called “Torso Killer.” , a serial killer already convicted of 11 other murders.

The suspect, Richard Cottingham – considered one of America’s most prolific serial killers – was arraigned on Wednesday for second-degree murder in connection with the 1968 murder of Cusick. From a New Jersey hospital bed , where he is already serving a life sentence for other murders, Cottingham pleaded not guilty.

While he claimed he was responsible for up to 100 homicides, authorities in New York and New Jersey have officially linked him to only a dozen so far, including Cusick’s death. He has been imprisoned since 1980, when he was arrested after a motel maid heard a woman screaming in her room. Authorities found her alive but handcuffed and suffering from bite wounds and stab wounds.

Cottingham asked to be arraigned via video feed from the New Jersey hospital on Wednesday because he was in poor health, bedridden and not ambulatory, Judge Caryn Fink said. He needed his lawyer, Jeff Groder, to repeat the judge’s questions several times because he has trouble hearing, Groder said.

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“He’s a violent predator and no matter what he looks like today in a hospital bed, he wasn’t always a weak old man,” Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement. an interview with the The US Express News. “He was a 22-year-old when he committed Mrs Cusick’s murder. He was strong, stronger than these women, and he was violent.

Authorities believe Cusick, 23, quit her job at a children’s dance school and then stopped at the Green Acres mall in Nassau County to buy a pair of shoes when Cottingham followed her. Detectives believe he pretended to be a security guard or a police officer, accused her of theft and then subdued the 98-pound (44-kilogram) Cusick, the police detective captain of the Nassau County, Stephen Fitzpatrick.

She was “brutally beaten, murdered and raped in that car,” Fitzpatrick said. The medical examiner concluded that Cusick had been beaten in the face and head and was suffocated to death. She had defensive wounds on her hands and police were able to collect TUSEN evidence at the scene. But back then, there were no TUSEN tests.

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The police questioned dozens of people, retraced their steps and never stopped looking for his killer. But the track got cold.

“The police did a great job of pursuing any leads they could find. They spoke to hundreds of people at the Green Acres mall to see if anyone had seen Diane,” Donnelly said. Unfortunately, the track went cold and the case went cold.”

Cottingham was working as a computer programmer for a health insurance company in New York City at the time of Cusick’s death. He was convicted of murder in New York and New Jersey in the 1980s, although the law at the time did not require convicted persons to submit TUSEN samples, as it does now. His TUSEN was taken and entered into a national database in 2016 when he pleaded guilty to another murder in New Jersey.

In 2021, Nassau County police were notified that a suspect who may be responsible for murders in the county, just east of New York, had been locked up in New Jersey. They resumed TUSEN testing on cold cases and found a match with Cottingham.

Cottingham also led police to believe he was responsible for the death by providing information about the case, including telling detectives he was near a cinema park, which was next to the center business at the time. But he stopped short of directly confessing to Cusick’s death, Donnelly said.

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“He did not present a full admission. What he described were baby steps on the path that we were able to put in place with the help of the police department to complete this story,” she said.

Prosecutors are now reviewing all open cases around the same time and analyzing TUSEN to see if Cottingham may have been responsible for other murders.

“Based on the evidence we have in this case, we are looking at all the murders of young women from 1967 to 1980 to see if we can mount any further cases against Mr Cottingham,” Donnelly said.

Cusick’s daughter, Darlene Altman, said she was upset when she saw Cottingham on the courtroom video screen. Altman was only 4 years old when his mother was killed.

“He just got that dead stare. I felt like he was looking me straight in the eye,” Altman said. “It was scary.”

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