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‘Torso Killer’ pleads guilty to murdering 5 women in the 1960s, 1970s

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(NEW YORK) — A convicted serial killer pleaded guilty Monday to murdering a dance teacher in 1968 outside a Long Island, New York, mall and admitted to killing four other women in the early 1970s.

DNA testing led to Richard Cottingham’s March indictment in the killing of Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old mother who went to buy dance shoes at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York.

Cottingham, 76, currently an inmate at a Bridgeton, New Jersey, prison, is known as the “Torso Killer” because he dismembered some of his victims.

The South Woods State Prison inmate pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life by a judge, the Nassau County district attorney’s office said in a news release.

Cottingham also admitted to the deaths of four other women — Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves — but won’t be prosecuted for their deaths since he’s already spending the rest of his life in prison because of prior murder convictions in New York and New Jersey, according to Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly.

“Serial killer Richard Cottingham has caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families,” Donnelly said. “Today, he took responsibility for the murder of five young women here in Nassau County between 1968 and 1973. He overpowered, assaulted and brutally murdered them to satisfy his craven desires. Thankfully he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs.”

Cusick’s parents discovered her body in the backseat of her car in the Green Acres Mall parking lot after growing concerned about why she hadn’t returned home after leaving earlier in the evening of Feb. 15, 1968, to buy shoes, according to Donnelly.

A medical examiner determined Cusick was strangled to death, officials said.

The Nassau County Office of the Medical Examiner retested evidence related to the case in 2021. Earlier this year, DNA evidence matched Cottingham’s profile, according to the district attorney.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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