A 75-year-old convicted serial killer has been charged with the 1968 murder of a woman on Long Island in the parking lot of a popular mall thanks to DNA technology.
Richard Cottingham, of the South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey, was arraigned virtually on Wednesday, June 22, on a grand jury indictment, charging him with one count of murder, said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly.
According to the investigation, Diane Cusick, age 23, then a resident of New Hyde Park, was an instructor at a dancing school in Oceanside.
On the evening of Thursday, February 15, 1968, Cusick told her family that she was going to the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream to buy a pair of dancing shoes, said the DA's Office.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., her parents became concerned that their daughter had not returned home. The parents drove to the shopping center and discovered their daughter’s Plymouth Valiant car in the parking lot of Green Acres Mall, they added.
The parents found Cusick’s body in the backseat of the car. An adhesive band was found over her mouth and her hands were bound. She was pronounced dead at 1:40 a.m. on February 16, 1968. The medical examiner determined that Cusick was asphyxiated due to strangulation, the DA's Office said.
Cottingham, a married father of three from Lodi, New Jersey, became known as the “Torso Killer” after dismembering some of his victims including two women in a Times Square motel in 1979.
“Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old mother, called her parents on the night of February 15, 1968, to tell them she was going to the mall to purchase shoes," said DA Donnelly. "She never returned home.
"It was only through advances in DNA technology that the NCDA and our partners at the Nassau County Police Department, could solve this 54-year-old cold case and identify a suspect in Ms. Cusick’s tragic death. We make a promise to her surviving daughter today: we will bring her mother’s killer to justice.”
Cottingham, a former computer programmer, was also convicted of murdering three women in New Jersey by the time he was convicted of murdering the two New York women.
The break in the Cusick case came in 2021 when certain evidence related to the case was retested by the medical examiner.
In early 2022, a DNA profile was generated from that evidence, and it allegedly matched Cottingham’s profile, Donnelly said.
Cottingham, who is serving several life sentences and has been in jail for more than four decades, is scheduled to appear in court again in August.
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