“Torso Killer” Admits to Decades-old Murders of 5 Women in Nassau, Pleads Guilty in Green Acres Mall Killing

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Homicide Bureau Chief Jared Rosenblatt, Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, and Detective Capt. of the NCPD Homicide Squad Stephen Fitzpatrick
Photo by Briana Bonfiglio

A packed courtroom in Mineola on Monday watched and listened as 76-year-old Richard Cottingham, nicknamed the “Torso Killer,” admitted to killing five women in Nassau County in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

In a virtual appearance from Southwood Correctional Facility in New Jersey, where he is serving prison time for other murders, Cottingham pled guilty to the murder of 23-year-old Diane Cusick in 1968 at the Green Acres Mall, a cold case that new DNA procedures had traced to Cottingham earlier this year.

“He overpowered, assaulted, and brutally murdered [these five young women] to satisfy his craven desires,” said District Attorney Anne Donnelly. “Thankfully he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs.”

Cottingham received a sentence of 25 years-to-life to be served alongside his current sentences for murders in New York and New Jersey. Serial killer expert Peter Vronsky says Cottingham now has 17 known victims.

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John Moye holds a photo of his mother, Laverne Moye, who was killed by Richard Cottingham in 1972Photo by Briana Bonfiglio

“Torso Killer” Admits to 4 Additional Murders

On Monday, in addition to pleading guilty to Diane Cusick’s murder, Cottingham confessed to killing four other women in Nassau County in the early 1970s: Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman, and Maria Emerita Rosada Nieves. The families of four out of the five women filled the courtroom.

“He turned our lives upside down,” said Jim Martin, brother of Diane Cusick, who described his memories of his parents’ anguish following his sister’s death. “My mom and dad lost their daughter … He strangled the life out of my beautiful sister like it was nothing.”

Martin later added, directed at Cottingham, “I just wish my brother and I would have torn you apart.” Both Martin and Darlene Altman, Diane Cusick’s daughter, took the stand to express the pain of losing their loved one and searching nearly 55 years for the killer.

“[My mother] was loved by all those who knew her,” Altman said “At least that’s what I’m told – I was 3 years old and I have no memories of her. My grandparents found her in that car that dreadful night and were never the same again.”

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Randi Childs holds a photo of her mother, Sheila Heiman, who was murdered by Cottingham in 1973Photo by Briana Bonfiglio

When asked by Judge Caryn Fink if he wanted to address the courtroom, Cottingham simply said, “No.”

“It goes to prove the coward that he really is,” Donnelly said at a news conference that followed the court proceeding.

John Moye, Laverne Moye’s son; Jeanne Heinz, Mary Beth Heinz’s sister; and Randi Childs, Sheila Heiman’s daughter, expressed gratitude for the homicide detectives from the Nassau County Police Department who narrowed down a list of Cottingham’s potential murder victims in Nassau by extensively interviewing Cottingham to get the confessions.

“We’ve been living for decades without the hope of ever discovering who had murdered our mother. We cannot thank you all enough,” Childs said.

The bodies of Heinz and Moye were both found thrown over a bridge on Peninsula Boulevard in Rockville Centre in 1972, while Heinman was found beaten to death in her North Woodmere home in 1973. Nieves, whose family Nassau County Police could not locate to contact, was found on Ocean Parkway near Jones Beach in 1973.