In 1968, Diane Cusick was found dead at age 23 in a car parked at the Green Acres Mall. The mother and dance teacher had gone to the mall to buy dance shoes the day before and never returned. She left behind a 3-year-old daughter and her murder was never solved until now.
Richard Cottingham, the notorious “torso killer,” who murdered women and girls across Long Island, New York City and New Jersey in the 1970s, admitted to five more Nassau County killings, including Diane Cusick’s. Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said that Monday was “one of the most emotional days ” ever in the prosecutor’s office.
The four women Cottingham admitted to murdering in addition to Cusick were found dead in 1972 and 1973:
Marybeth Hynes, 21, of Mineola
Laverne Moye, 23, of Queens
Sheila Hyman, 33, of North Woodmere
Marita Rosato Nieves, 18, of Manhattan.
He received 25 years to life for Cusick’s murder on top of his previous lengthy sentences.
Prosecutors charged the convicted serial killer with her murder in early 2022 after a DNA sample at the crime scene matched his, in a breakthrough that Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said was the oldest unsolved case to be solved using DNA. New technologies allowed older samples to be tested, creating a break in the 54-year-old cold case.
In a virtual court appearance on Monday morning, Cottingham pleaded guilty to killing Cusick. After the DNA match, Nassau prosecutors began looking into other unsolved murders from the early 1970s, knowing Cottingham’s range was bigger than previously thought.
Thus far he has admitted to 11 murders, but has claimed he killed more than 100 women and girls across the U.S. He has been convicted of five murders and sentenced to hundreds of years in prison.
Cottingham, 75, appeared in Nassau County court via video from the New Jersey prison where he has been incarcerated since 1981. He is currently serving life in prison for the 1974 murders of two teenage girls in New Jersey. He drowned them in a motel bathtub and dumped them in the woods.
Cottingham was a married father of three and computer programmer from Lodi, New Jersey. He preyed on New York City sex workers and teenage girls in the suburbs, prosecutors have said.
Nassau County prosecutors have looked into all unsolved homicides of teenage girls and women between 1967 to 1980 and at least five other cases with DNA evidence were investigated in connection with Cottingham, who received the nickname the “Torso Killer” because he dismembered and decapitated some of his victims. He was also dubbed the “Times Square Killer,” because many of his victims were sex workers targeted in the area.
Cusick’s daughter, Darlene Altman, now 58, spoke at the June news conference where Cottingham was charged. “I never thought I’d see this day. I had given up. But all these people got justice for me and my mother.”
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