Richard Cottingham

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Richard Cottingham
Richard Cottingham (inmate).png
Inmate Photo NJDOC
Born Richard Francis Cottingham
(1946-11-25) November 25, 1946 (age 71)
Bronx, New York, U.S.
Other names The Torso Killer
Occupation Computer operator
Criminal penalty Life
Spouse(s) Janet (1970–1979; divorced)
Children 3
Victims 6+ (85-100)
Span of crimes
Country US
State(s) New York
New Jersey
Date apprehended
May 22, 1980

Richard Francis Cottingham (born November 25, 1946) is an American serial killer from New Jersey who operated in New York City between 1967 and 1980. Cottingham was given several nicknames including the Butcher of Times Square, the Torso Killer, the New York Ripper, and the Times Square Torso Ripper, due to how he dismembered his victims and only left their torsos behind. He targeted prostitutes in Times Square. He was convicted of murder in 1981 after being caught fleeing an attempted murder and in the 1981-84 period was convicted of five murders.

Cottingham is officially known to have killed six people, but he claims to be behind 85 to 100 murders.[1][2][3] He is incarcerated in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey.

Early life and education[edit]

Richard Francis Cottingham was born on November 25, 1946, in The Bronx, the first of three children. In 1958, when Richard was twelve, his family moved to River Vale, New Jersey. In 1964, Richard graduated from Pascack Valley High School, in Hillsdale.[2] After graduating, Richard worked for his father at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as a computer operator while taking computer courses.[2] From 1966 until his arrest, he was a computer operator at New York's Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in New York.

On May 3, 1970, Cottingham married his wife Janet at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in New Jersey. They had three children together. In April 1979, Janet filed for divorce due to her husband's extra-marital affairs, and his known sightings at local gay bars. In June 1980, after Richard's arrest, Janet resubmitted her divorce claim.[2]

Killing spree[edit]

Cottingham's first known murder was the 1968 strangulation of Nancy Schiava Vogel, 29-year-old married mother of two. Her nude and bound body was found in her car in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. She had last been seen three days earlier, when she left home to play bingo with friends at a local church.

On December 2, 1979, firemen in New York responded to an alarm at a hotel near Times Square. When they forced their way inside and put the fire out, they found two corpses. Both bodies had their hands and heads removed. and had been set alight after being doused with lighter fluid. The missing body parts were never found. One victim was identified as Deedeh Goodarzi, 22, an immigrant from Kuwait who was working as a prostitute. The other corpse was never identified. Homicide detectives linked the murder with that of teenage prostitute Helen Sikes, who had gone missing from Times Square in January 1979.

Police found the body of nineteen-year-old Valerie Ann Street in a Hasbrouck Heights Quality Inn in New Jersey on May 5, 1980. The victim's hands were tightly handcuffed behind her back; she was covered in bite marks and was beaten across the shins. Street had died of asphyxiation, and traces of adhesive tape were found on her mouth. This murder was linked to an earlier murder in the same motel. A twenty-six-year-old radiologist named Maryann Carr was also found brutally beaten near the same hotel, but police could not positively link the crimes. On May 15, Jean Reyner was stabbed to death in the historic Seville hotel.


On May 22, 1980, Cottingham picked up eighteen-year-old Leslie Ann O'Dell, who was soliciting on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 25th Street.[4] At some point she agreed to have sex with him for $100. Around dawn, they checked into the same Hasbrouck Heights motel where he had left his last mutilated victim.

O'Dell rolled over onto her stomach after Cottingham offered to give her a massage. Straddling her back, he drew a knife and put it to her throat as he snapped a pair of handcuffs on her wrists. Cottingham began torturing her, nearly biting off one of her nipples. She later testified that he said, "You have to take it. The other girls did, you have to take it too. You're a whore and you have to be punished."

O'Dell's muffled cries of pain became so loud that the motel staff, already spooked by the murder eighteen days earlier, called police and rushed to the room demanding that Cottingham open the door. Cottingham was apprehended by arriving police officers in the hallway. When arrested he had handcuffs, a leather gag, two slave collars, a switchblade, replica pistols and a stockpile of prescription pills. At his house, they found a trophy room where he kept personal effects from some of his victims.


A strong case was built against Cottingham due to the testimony of three surviving victims. He was found guilty of murdering Streets, drawing a sentence of 173 to 197 years in prison. In two following trials he was found guilty of four second degree murders.[5]


  1. ^ Keppel, Robert D.; William J. Birnes (2008). Serial Violence: Analysis of Modus Operandi and Signature Characteristics of Killers. CRC Press. pp. 65–96. ISBN 978-1-4200-6632-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Richard Francis Cottingham: "The Torso Killer"" (PDF). Department of Psychology, Radford University. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2010. 
  4. ^ Hanley, Robert (9 June 1981). "FIRST OF THREE TRIALS OF JERSEYAN IN PROSTITUTE-SLAYINGS NEARS END". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  5. ^ RIMBACH, JEAN (September 19, 2010). "Serial killer confesses to long-ago murder of Little Ferry woman". USA TODAY. The Record. Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 

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