“Remorse Wasn’t a Part of My Thought Process”
This article contains graphic descriptions of murder and dismemberment. Mature audiences only.
With his health in decline, Richard Cottingham, known as the “Torso Killer,” has been confessing to several unsolved murders he committed decades prior. And if all goes well, Cottingham will confess to several more murders — at least eight in total before he finally croaks out in the New Jersey prison infirmary hospital that houses him.
Richard Cottingham, now 76-years-old, was a twisted sex fiend when he was active between 1967 to 1980, often mutilating his victims by slicing off their hands, heads, and even breasts, and becoming more violent as his techniques “escalated”.
Cottingham once told Rolling Stone: “For a long time now, I have been trying to understand the darkness that enveloped my soul during my youth. Remorse back then wasn’t part of my thought process. When the sun went down, and the moon came up, the animal form that is in all of us came out and controlled my actions.”
His latest confession was of the 1968 slaying of Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old dance teacher and mother.
Cusick worked at the Wakefield School of Dance, and the Thursday she was murdered was like any other day, but for one exception; she needed to buy new dance shoes. She had phoned her parents from the studio around 7pm to let them know she would be running late.
The pink dance shoes that she had been saving for required a quick trip to the Green Acres Mall — still open today — in South Valley Stream, NY; an in-and-out kind of thing, because her parents and her four-year-old daughter were at home waiting for her. They kept waiting, but she never returned.
Diane’s father was the first to spot the family’s 1961 Plymouth Valiant, still parked in the mall’s parking lot; the first thing he noticed was that the parking lot was poorly lit. As he walked up to the car, a pure sense of dread kicked in. He knew something had happened to his daughter.
There was nothing he could have done to save her; his daughter had been dead for several hours. Her killer had sprawled her body out in the backseat. He had beaten her relentlessly, bloodying her face. Cusick’s clothes were ripped and torn.
She had been raped and suffocated, brazenly left in the backseat in the mall parking lot. Not even important enough for Richard Cottingham to dispose of; just left there, in the lot, behind the Steak Pub.
It was believed at the time and later verified that her killer stalked her from the parking lot — several people interviewed had seen the stalker hanging around her car waiting for her.
Cottingham posed as a mall security guard and forced Cusick into the backseat. After he was finished with her, he wrapped tape — 2 inch wide — around her neck covering her nose and mouth. He stepped away and let her suffocate.
Mr. Richard Wakefield, owner of the dance school, said, “She was the sweetest girl I know. That’s all I can say.”
Dr. Peter Voronsky, true-crime author and expert on serial killers, has been working with law enforcement in helping facilitate more confessions from Cottingham. Now at age 73, Cottingham has cooperated with police and has so far confessed to multiple slayings since his original conviction, including in 2021, when he admitted to drowning two girls.