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  • Rod Kackley


(Diane Cusick and Richard Cottingham from a 1980 mugshot.)

Diane Cusick, on Feb. 15, 1968, told her family she was going to the Green Acres Mall, in Nassau County, New York, to buy dancing shoes. 

Hours later, at approximately 10:30 p.m., her parents became concerned that their 23-year-old daughter had not returned home.

So, they drove to the shopping center and found Diane's Plymouth Valiant in the mall’s parking lot.

Fearing the worst, they looked inside that vehicle, and made the horrifying discovery of their daughter's body. Her corpse sat in the backseat of the car. An adhesive band was over her mouth, and her hands were bound. 

Diane had been strangled to death. 

She was pronounced deceased at 1:40 a.m. on February 16, 1968. 

One of America's most prolific serial killers, Richard Cottingham, confessed on December 5, 2022, to killing Diane in 1968, and also admitted killing four other women.

Cottingham, 76 years old at the time of this writing, appeared to be wearing a medical gown when he confessed to the crimes via a remote feed from New Jersey.

He is said to be in poor health and will die in prison. The only way Cottingham is going to be sprung from the New Jersey prison that’s is home is if God decides he needs to be elsewhere. Cottingham’s doing a sentence of life without parole.

So, maybe, he decided it was time for what amounts to a deathbed confession.

Cottingham became known as the Torso Killer because of the gruesome way he butchered the victims' bodies.

He started killing young women and girls in 1967 and didn't stop until 1980. 

So far, police say he slaughtered at least 17 in New York and New Jersey. That's how many the cops know about.

Cottingham bragged in 2009 that he'd committed at least 80 and as many as 100 "perfect murders" across the USA. All of the victims were female.

In 2014, again, Cottingham started confessing. Or maybe he was bragging. Whatever. He told a New Jersey Bergen County Prosecutor's Office detective that he killed three teenage girls between 1968 and 1969.

They were:

Jacalyn (Jackie) Harp was only 13 when Cottingham ambushed the child as she walked home from school band practice on July 17, 1968. She was strangled to death with the leather strap of her school bag.

Irene Blase, 18, vanished on April 7, 1968. Her body was discovered face down in four feet of water nine the Saddle River near Hackensack, New Jersey. She'd been strangled to death, maybe with the chain of her crucifix.

Denise Falasca, a 15-year-old, was abducted in Emerson, New Jersey, on July 14, 1969. The next day, she was found in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, beside a road next to a cemetery.  A medical examiner said the young girl was strangled to death with a cord or maybe the chain of her crucifix.

On December 5, 2022, the list of his confessions grew longer.

"In the case of Diane Cusick, her family has waited nearly 55 years for someone to be held accountable for her death," Nassau County District t Attorney Anne Donnelly told reporters." This has been one of the most emotional days we have ever had in the Nassau County District Attorney's Office."

In addition to the murder of Diane Cusick, Cottingham confessed to killing 21-year-old Mary Beth Heinz. She disappeared on May 5, 1972. Her body was discovered in a creek near Rockville Centre on Long Island, New York.

The 21-year-old woman was face-down in a muddy stream in a wooded area on Maine Avenue, just west of Peninsula Boulevard. Like most of Cottingham's victims, Mary Beth had been strangled to death. 

She also suffered multiple contusions and abrasions of the face and neck. 

The young woman, who grew up in Mineola, was working as a mother's helper in Bellmore at the time of her murder. 

After Cottingham's confession, her sister, Jeanne Heinz, told reporters, "Honestly, I never imagined her case would be resolved.”

Cottingham also admitted via the remote feed that he strangled Laverne Moye to death. Her body was discovered on July 20, 1972, in the same area as the body of Mary Beth Heinz. 

An 11-year-old boy discovered the woman’s corpse in the creek along Maine Avenue. Moye, a 23-year-old woman from St. Albans, Queens, was strangled. The young woman was a mother to two children and was separated from her husband. 

"There's been some dark days behind us, but today," her son, John Moye, said, "the sun shines brightly because justice has been served.”

The investigation into the murder of 18-year-old Marita Rosado Nieves was also closed on December 5 because of one of Cottingham's confessions.

Marita was strangled to death on or about December 27, 1973. Cottingham left her body near a bus stop at Jones Beach, New York.

The 18-year-old was strangled to death. Park maintenance workers found her body covered in plastic bags and wrapped in a gray blanket. The remains were left in thick grass on the north side of Ocean Parkway, in a bus loading area adjacent to the East Bathhouse. Nieves was originally from Puerto Rico and lived in Manhattan before her murder. 

Cottingham also confessed to killing 33-year-old Sheila Heiman, who was found beaten to death on July 20, 1973, in North Woodmere, New York. 

Heiman's husband left the house that morning to go to a nearby department store, and when he returned, he discovered his wife dead in the bathroom. 

It was a vicious attack. The 33-year-old mother of three suffered multiple lacerations to her skull, a fractured jaw, and a lacerated jugular vein. 

This case is even more tragic because Sheila's husband had been considered a possible suspect in her death. 

He died in 2004 without finding out who killed Sheila or having his name cleared.

His daughter, Randi Childs, said of her father, "he was a kind and generous man who loved our mother deeply and who spent too many years living in the shadow of his wife's murder. There's no reason why he should have been suspected. My poor dad lived with that until the day he died."

“If I was a flapper with pretty legs, I never would have been convicted and given the death penalty. Well, I'll die with my boots on, an' in full health. An' that's more'n most of you old coots'll be able to boast on."

Eva Dugan


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