NEWARK, NJ, USA (AP) – A New Jersey serial killer known as the “Torso Killer” admitted Tuesday that he kidnapped and raped two teenage girls, and that a few days later he murdered them in a hotel room. , which closes a case that was unsolved since 1974.
Richard Cottingham pleaded guilty to killing 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old Lorraine Marie Kelly in August 1974.
The two women had left their homes in North Bergen on August 9, 1974, to go to a Paramus shopping center, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) north. They planned to take a bus there to buy bathing suits for a planned trip to the Jersey Shore, but witnesses said at the time the girls were asking passing drivers for free rides who got into a man’s vehicle.
On Tuesday, the 74-year-old man appeared for a court appearance dressed in prison garb. He sat in a wheelchair at a table where he was accompanied by his attorneys, a prosecutor and a Bergen County detective in their office.
Cottingham admitted to abducting the women, taking them to a hotel room, where he tied them up and raped them. Said he killed them by drowning them in the bedroom bathtub.
“He is relieved that that cloud that has been hanging over his head for many, many years has been lifted,” said his attorney, John Bruno, adding that Cottingham hoped families could close that cycle.
Cottingham is currently in state prison serving a life sentence for other murders he committed. He has said he is responsible for up to 100 homicides, but authorities in New York and New Jersey have linked him to 11 to date, including two in 1974. However, they believe the figure is higher.
The individual has been in prison since 1981, but last year he confessed to three of the killings, dating back to the late 1960s.
Cottingham had a wife and children and worked as a computer programmer for a health insurance company in New York in the 1970s, said Alan Grieco, a retired Bergen County chief of detectives who helped convict Cottingham of the murder of 1977 from a woman found outside a motel in northern New Jersey.
He is known as the “Torso Killer” because he dismembered his victims. Mary Ann and Lorraine were found five days after they disappeared; their naked and beaten bodies were found face down in the forests of the North Jersey region.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles.