A long time later, ‘Torso Killer’ charged in killing at NY mall

MINEOLA, NY (AP) – Greater than 5 a long time after Diane Cusick’s lifeless physique was found within the car parking zone of a mall on New York’s Lengthy Island, authorities have linked her dying to the so-called “Torso Killer,” a serial killer already convicted in 11 different killings.

The suspect, Richard Cottingham – believed to be certainly one of America’s most prolific serial killers – was arraigned Wednesday on a second-degree homicide cost in reference to Cusick’s 1968 killing. From a hospital mattress in New Jersey, the place he is already serving a life sentence for different killings, Cottingham pleaded not responsible.

Whereas he has claimed he was chargeable for as much as 100 homicides, authorities in New York and New Jersey have formally linked him to solely a dozen to this point, together with Cusick’s dying. He has been imprisoned since 1980, when he was arrested after a motel maid heard a lady screaming inside his room. Authorities discovered her alive however sure with handcuffs and affected by chunk marks and knife wounds.

Cottingham requested to be arraigned Wednesday by a video feed from the New Jersey hospital as a result of he was sick, bedridden and never ambulatory, Choose Caryn Fink mentioned. He wanted his lawyer, Jeff Groder, to repeat the choose’s questions a number of occasions as a result of he has issue listening to, Groder mentioned.

“He’s a violent predator and irrespective of how he seems to be as we speak in a hospital mattress he was not at all times a feeble older man,” Nassau County District Legal professional Anne Donnelly mentioned in an interview with The Related Press. “He was a younger 22-year-old when he dedicated the homicide of Ms. Cusick. He was sturdy, stronger than these ladies had been, and he was violent. ”

Authorities imagine Cusick, 23, left her job at a kids’s dance college after which stopped on the Inexperienced Acres Mall in Nassau County to purchase a pair of sneakers when Cottingham adopted her out. Detectives imagine he pretended to be a safety guard or police officer, accused of stealing after which overpowered the 98-pound (44-kilogram) Cusick, Nassau County Police Detective Capt. Stephen Fitzpatrick mentioned.

She was “brutally crushed, murdered and raped in that automobile,” Fitzpatrick mentioned. The medical expert concluded that Cusick had been crushed within the face and head and was suffocated till she died. She had defensive wounds on her fingers and police had been capable of accumulate DNA proof on the scene. However on the time, there was no DNA testing.

Police interviewed dozens of individuals, retraced her steps and by no means stopped looking for her killer. However the path went chilly.

“The police did a terrific job searching for any leads they might discover. “They spoke to a whole bunch of individuals on the Inexperienced Acres Mall to see if anybody had seen Diane,” Donnelly mentioned. “Sadly, the path went chilly and the case went chilly.”

Cottingham was working as a pc programmer for a medical health insurance firm in New York on the time of Cusick’s dying. He was convicted of homicide in each New York and New Jersey within the Nineteen Eighties, though the regulation on the time didn’t require individuals convicted to submit DNA samples, because it does now. His DNA was taken and entered right into a nationwide database in 2016 when he pleaded responsible to a different homicide in New Jersey.

In 2021, police in Nassau County acquired a tip {that a} suspect who is likely to be chargeable for killings within the county, simply east of New York Metropolis, was locked up in New Jersey. They started working DNA assessments once more on chilly instances and got here up with a match to Cottingham.

Cottingham additionally led police to imagine he was chargeable for the dying by offering some details about the case, together with telling detectives he was close to a drive-in theater, which was subsequent to the mall on the time. However he stopped wanting confessing on to Cusick’s dying, Donnelly mentioned.

“He didn’t lay out a full admission. What he laid out was child steps alongside the best way that we had been capable of put along with the assistance of the police division to fill in that story, ”she mentioned.

Prosecutors at the moment are reviewing all open instances across the identical time and working DNA to see if Cottingham could have been chargeable for different killings.

“Primarily based on the proof that we now have on this case, we’re reviewing all murders of younger females from 1967 to 1980 to see if we are able to put collectively any extra instances in opposition to Mr. Cottingham, ”Donnelly mentioned.

Cusick’s daughter, Darlene Altman, mentioned she was overwhelmed when she noticed Cottingham on the video display screen within the courtroom. Altman was simply 4 when her mom was killed.

“He simply had this like a lifeless star. I felt like he was trying proper at me, ”Altman mentioned. “It was creepy.”

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