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The Story Of Richard Cottingham, The Times Square Torso Ripper

The Story Of Richard Cottingham, The Times Square Torso Ripper

Times Square, now a glittering tourist attraction, had a much darker history in the latter half of the 20th century. Among the porn shops, peep shows, and prostitutes, a serial killer named Richard Cottingham roamed the streets, terrorizing the city. His brutal murders earned him the nicknames “The Times Square Torso Killer” and “The New York Ripper.”

The Torso Killer’s Times Square Murder Spree

Between 1979 and 1980, Cottingham went on a killing spree, targeting sex workers and leaving mutilated bodies in his wake. His victims often had their hands or heads severed, showcasing the gruesome nature of his crimes. He later claimed to have killed numerous other women and girls in New Jersey, boasting of up to 100 victims.

The haunting story begins on December 2, 1979, when firefighters responded to a call at the Travel Inn near Times Square. In room 417, they found two badly burned bodies on twin beds. One firefighter, attempting to save a life, discovered that one of the bodies was headless.

As the smoke cleared, the full extent of the tragedy became apparent. The two women had been strangled, and their heads and hands severed before the killer set the room on fire. One victim was identified as 22-year-old sex worker Deedeh Goodarzi. The other, a 16-year-old girl, remains unidentified.

With few clues, the police faced a tough investigation. The killer had registered at the hotel under a fake name and had minimal interaction with the staff. The only potential clue was a vague description of a man in his 30s with brown hair, standing at 5’10” and weighing about 175 pounds.

A few months later, on May 5, 1980, a housekeeper at a Quality Inn in New Jersey found the body of 19-year-old sex worker Valerie Ann Street under a bed. She had been beaten, bitten, bound, and strangled.

Less than a month later, on May 15, firefighters found another gruesome scene near Times Square. They discovered the body of 25-year-old sex worker Jean Reyner in the Seville Motel. Her throat had been cut, bite marks covered her body, and her breasts had been severed.

The Torso Killer’s violence was escalating. However, the police finally had a breakthrough just a week later when Richard Cottingham’s intended victim, Leslie Ann O’Dell, screamed for help. The 33-year-old murderer was arrested at the scene.

The question remained: Who exactly was Richard Cottingham?

The Double Life of Richard Cottingham

Richard Cottingham lived what appeared to be a normal life, hiding a dark secret beneath his ordinary exterior. Born in the Bronx on November 25, 1946, he grew up in New Jersey. In 1970, he married Janet and had three children. By the time he was arrested, Cottingham lived in New Jersey with his family and worked as a computer operator at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in New York.

However, signs of a double life emerged. Cottingham kept an apartment in New York City, claiming it was necessary for late work nights. He also spent excessive time in the basement, where his wife later found women’s clothing, shoes, and jewelry.

Besides his secretive behavior, Cottingham was obsessed with bondage and had extramarital affairs. Janet filed for divorce in 1979 but withdrew it the following year.

The extent of Cottingham’s crimes shocked New York and New Jersey. Leslie Ann O’Dell, who survived an encounter with the “Torso Killer,” testified about the torture she endured.

Cottingham’s crimes extended beyond his five confirmed victims. During his trials, it was revealed he had also killed Maryanne Carr, an X-ray technician, in 1977. Cottingham admitted he enjoyed exerting psychological control over his victims, describing it as feeling “God-like.”

He was sentenced to 300 years in prison for his five confirmed murders, but later confessions revealed even more about his reign of terror.

The Final Confessions of the Times Square Killer

Detective Robert Anzilotti’s determination led to further revelations from Richard Cottingham, the Times Square Killer. Anzilotti suspected Cottingham was responsible for more murders than initially thought and spent time with him, offering companionship, pizza, and card games to gain his trust.

Cottingham eventually confessed to additional murders, including Nancy Vogel in 1967, Jackie Harp in 1968, Irene Blase and Denise Falasca in 1969, and Mary Ann Pryor and Lorraine Kelly in 1974. Pryor and Kelly had been kidnapped, tortured, and killed by Cottingham.

Detective Anzilotti, who retired believing Cottingham could be linked to dozens more unsolved cases, noted that Cottingham claimed to have potentially killed up to 100 victims.

The horrifying story of Richard Cottingham, “The Torso Killer,” leaves a chilling legacy. For more on notorious killers, look into the stories of Ed Kemper, the “Co-Ed Killer,” and Rodney Alcala, the “Dating Game Killer.” Explore the tragic tales of Jack the Ripper’s victims for further insights into history’s grim figures.

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