Trigger warning: Description of brutal murder ahead.
Serial killer Richard Cottingham known as the “Torso Killer” pleaded guilty in Bergen Country Superior Court and admitted to kidnapping, raping, and eventually murdering two teenage girls in New Jersey in 1974.
Friends Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Marie Kelly, 16, told their family that they were off to the mall on Aug. 9, 1974 to buy swimsuits for a trip to the Jersey Shore.
They told their families they will take the bus going to the mall but witnesses at the time told police that they saw the girls hitchhiking and had gotten into a man’s car.
That was the last time they were seen alive.
Five days after they went missing, Pryor and Kelly’s nude bodies were found in the woods facedown. They were identified by their jewelry—Pryor’s gold cross and Kelly’s beaded bracelet and a necklace.
Cottingham, now 74 years old and is serving a life sentence in the New Jersey State Prison, confessed he kidnapped Pryor and Kelly and brought them to a motel. He admitted that he tied both of them and raped them for days. He said he killed them by drowning them in the bathtub before getting rid of the bodies.
As to what made Cottingham confess his grisly murders after 47 years, his lawyer John Bruno told NJ.com that it was a combination of factors.
“(To) give closure to the families so that they knew who their family members’ murderer was. He wanted to come clean for himself. And he developed an incredible rapport with Chief (Robert) Anzilotti, who I believe was a major factor in his decision to come clean,” said Bruno, who told the news outfit Cottingham is expected to receive two life sentences, scheduled in July.
In the twilight of his life, Cottingham may seem to be showing a hint of remorse for his heinous acts as painted by his lawyers, but his 13-year killing spree in New Jersey and New York, from 1967 to 1980, remain indelible in the minds of those who lived in horror at the time.
Cottingham is infamously known for dismembering his victims, cutting off their limbs, breasts and heads leaving only their torso that earned him the moniker “Torso Killer.” He is also known as “The New York Ripper” after he targeted mostly sex workers in Times Square to rape and brutally slaughter.
In the last 15 years, Cottingham, who has been incarcerated since 1981, has admitted to decades-old murders, which brings the official number of his killings to 11. But he claims he was responsible for up to 100 murders.