A man known as the “Times Square Killer” – already serving life for murder – admitted five additional cold-case killings Monday in a New York court.
Richard Cottingham, 76, pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the second degree for the 1968 killing of Diane Cusick, and told the court he caused the deaths of four other women decades ago: Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves.
The Nassau County DA agreed not to prosecute for those four deaths as Cottingham will be incarcerated for the rest of his life due to other multi-state murder convictions.
Cottingham has been serving a life sentence for murder since 1981 in New Jersey state prison, CNN affiliate WABC reported, and is now accused of murdering more than a dozen young women and girls in New York and New Jersey between 1967 and 1980, according to affiliate and CNN reporting.
The admission brings closure to the Long Island murders that went unsolved for decades, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office said.
“For more than 50 years these five families waited, hoped and wondered if they would ever find out who killed their loved one,” said Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Jared Rosenblatt, his voice breaking and in tears.
A break in the case links Cottingham to the murder
Cottingham was linked through DNA to Cusick when authorities got a break in the case in June.
Cusick, then a 23-year-old dance instructor living on Long Island, left for the mall to buy new dancing shoes and never returned. Her father discovered her body in the backseat of her car in a mall parking lot, bound and with an adhesive band over her mouth.
Authorities determined she had been strangled.
Cusick’s brother Jim Martin called Cottingham a “beast” when he spoke in court Monday. “He turned our lives upside down,” he said.
“Like it was nothing he strangled the life out of my beautiful sister.” Sniffles were heard echoing though the courtroom as Martin read his impact statement.
It was his sister who showed the patience to teach him how to drive, he said.
“I just wish myself or my brother would have found you in the streets, and we would have torn you apart,” Martin said to Cottingham.
Diane’s daughter Darleen Altman told the court that she was just 3 years old when her mother died, “and I have no memories of her.”
Through sobs, she said the day Cottingham “murdered my mother the lives of everyone who loved her changed forever.”
“There are four other families here today who also got answers to who murdered their loved one. I hope we can all find some measure of peace,” she said.
Four other cases from the 1970s
Heinz’s body was found in 1972 in Rockville Centre on Long Island. Her body was found floating face down in a muddy stream, also strangled. She was 21 at the time.
Laverne Moye, then 23, was found in the same area later that year, also strangled to death. She was the mother of two children, authorities said.
In 1973, Sheila Heiman’s body was found bludgeoned to death in her home on Long Island. Her husband had left the house that morning to go to a department store, and when he came back, he found her dead in the bathroom. Her kids were away at summer camp.
In the winter of 1973, Nieves was discovered in a weeded area of Jones Beach. Nieves, 18 at the time, had also been strangled to death. Park maintenance workers found her covered in plastic bags and wrapped in a gray blanket.
“There’s been some dark days behind us but, today, the sun shines brightly because justice has been served,” John Moye, Laverne Moye’s son, told the court. “God is good, and because of these people, these men and women who have dedicated their lives and their careers in the service of this, didn’t forget us” or the other families, he said.
Cottingham simply said “yes” in court when he was asked to acknowledge his role in the killings. That he did not speak further “just goes to prove the coward that he really is,” Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said.
“Richard Cottingham killed who he wanted, when he wanted, because he’s a serial killer. That is what he is.” Donelly said.
Cottingham will die in prison, Rosenblatt said.
“I hope there is some justice for the families in knowing that he will live and take every breath in a prison cell,” said Rosenblatt.
“This defendant took from these women whatever dreams and goals these women had,” Rosenblatt said.
The assistant district attorney implored Cottingham to ask for forgiveness.
“For the sake of whatever little soul you have, this is your moment and your opportunity,” Rosenblatt said.
Cottingham simply replied “no” when asked by Judge Caryn Fink if he wanted to do so. “There are no words to describe how purely evil you are,” said Fink before sentencing him to 25 years to life in prison Monday. The sentence is expected to run consecutively to his current life sentence.
CNN’s Liam Reilly and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.