Serial murderer dubbed the ‘Torso Killer’ pleads guilty in two cold-case deaths and is linked to at least 11 killings in US

Laura Sharman
·3-min read
<p>Richard Cottingham (centre) confessed to killing two teenagers in New Jersey in 1974</p>

Richard Cottingham (centre) confessed to killing two teenagers in New Jersey in 1974

A US serial murderer known as the ‘Torso killer’ has admitted drowning two teenage girls in a chilling unsolved case dating back to 1974.

Richard Cottingham, 74, confessed to kidnapping and raping Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Marie Kelly, 16 in New Jersey.

A few days later, he murdered the pair in a motel room where he claims he drowned them in the bath tub.

The New Jersey killer, who is serving a life sentence for previous homicide convictions, has been linked to 11 murders so far while claiming responsibility for almost 100.

He is known as the ‘Torso Killer’ for brutally dismembering his victims by chopping off their heads and limbs.

Mary Ann and Lorraine were looking forward to a trip to Jersey Shore before their abduction.

On a Friday in August, the friends headed out on a shopping trip to a Paramus shopping centre 13 miles from their North Bergen homes.

The pair had planned to take a bus there to buy swimsuits.

They were then kidnapped and taken to a motel room where they were tied up and raped.

Five days after the girls’ disappearance, their bodies were found nude, beaten and facedown in the woods of New Jersey.

Mary Ann was found with a gold cross, gifted from her godfather, while Lorraine was found with a beaded necklace that read “Lorraine and Ricky” referring to her boyfriend, according to reports.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Cottingham admitted to killing both teenagers 47 years ago.

He appeared in prison clothing with his attorney and Bergen County prosecutors in their office.

Imprisoned since 1981, he is currently serving a life sentence for six other murders between 1967 and 1980.

So far authorities in New Jersey and New York have linked Cottingham to 11 killings, including the two 1974 murders, though they believe the death toll is higher.

The serial killer admitted to three of the teenage murders including those of Jackie Harp, 13, Denise Falasca, 15, and Irene Blase, 18 between 1968 and 1969.

He first drew attention of the authorities in May 1980 when he was arrested for the attempted rape and murder of an 18-year-old prostitute at a motel in Hasbrouck Heights, The Record reports.

Cottingham first roused the authorities in May 1980, when he was arrested for the attempted murder and rape of an 18-year-old prostitute at a Quality Inn motel, The Record reports.

Police found a woman with handcuffs on her ankles, a knife wound below her breast and bite marks after a maid heard screams coming from a room.

Two weeks before Cottingham’s arrest, officers found the body of Valerie Ann Street, 19, at the same motel in Hasbrouck Heights.

As part of a plea agreement on Tuesday, prosecutors said Cottingham is expected to get two life sentences in July to run concurrently with the time he is already serving.

Cottingham did not make a statement during the hearing and instead offered one and two-word answers when questioned by state prosecutors and Superior Court Judge Keith Bachmann.

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