NYC Crime

‘Times Square Serial Killer’ Richard Cottingham charged with cold case 1968 murder, ‘Never thought I’d see this day,’ victim’s daughter says

A 54-year-old DNA match led to new murder charges Wednesday against a notorious serial killer already jailed for 11 homicides, with authorities alleging he sexually assaulted and killed an innocent Long Island mom.

The daughter of 1968 murder victim Diane Cusick and other relatives attended the Nassau County court hearing where “Times Square Killer” Richard Cottingham pleaded not guilty via video link to murder in the dance teacher’s brutal strangling inside a parked car on Feb. 16, 1968.


“That evening, she told her parents that she was going to purchase a pair of shoes at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream,” said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly. “She never returned home.”

Her distraught father found his daughter’s corpse lying in the backseat of her car when he went to the mall after she never returned from her trip, with the case unsolved for more than five decades.


Cusick is now the notorious Cottingham’s second known victim and the lone target on Long Island at this point — although authorities are looking into additional cases there.

“I never thought I’d see this day,” said daughter Darlene Altman, her voice shaky after seeing her mother’s alleged killer in court. “It was very overwhelming. He just had like this dead stare. I thought he was looking right at me. It was creepy.”

Altman was just 4 when her mother was killed. She attended Wednesday’s court hearing with Cusick’s brother Jim and her grandson Mike.

Cottingham, who pleaded not guilty after admitting last year to the killings of two New Jersey teens in August 1974, is now a possible suspect in five other Long Island homicides, officials said.

The New Jersey father of three was already serving a life sentence in the earlier killings.

“Now (he’s) a known serial killer, but then an unknown computer programmer in Times Square,” said Nassau prosecutor Jared Rosenblatt, head of the homicide bureau. “Unknown to him, he left behind his DNA.”

The evidence was recovered from defensive wounds on the victim’s hand during her failed fight to survive.

The 75-year-old Cottingham, also known as “The Torso Killer” after executing and dismembering three prostitutes in Times Square at the end of his 13-year killing spree, apparently presented himself as a police officer or mall security and accused Cusick of shoplifting before the killing.


“That is what we believe happened on that night,” said homicide squad Detective Capt. Stephen Fitzpatrick.

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Though the cold case probe into Cusick’s death was restarted in the early 2000s, Long Island police were never able to make an arrest in the case until now.

Officials said advances in DNA technology led to the 2021 match. The probe reignited when Suffolk County police reported information about a New Jersey inmate with possible links to murders on Long Island.

According to authorities, Cottingham’s first victim was a New Jersey woman killed in October 1967, shortly before the Cusick slaying. His subsequent targets included five teenage girls in the Garden State, including third victim Jackie Harp, 13, who was strangled as she walked home from band practice in July 1968.

By the end of his violent 13-year run, he was targeting Times Square prostitutes whose bodies were dismembered and set afire. In his other life, the serial killer lived with his wife and three kids in suburban New Jersey while working nights and often staying over at seedy Times Square hotels.

Cottingham appeared for the hearing from a hospital bed in Trenton, lying on a pile of pillows while wearing a patient’s gown and a face mask.


According to Donnelly, the murder suspect bizarrely aided the investigation into the long cold case.

“He didn’t lay out a full admission,” she said. “What he laid out was the baby steps along the way, that we were able to put together with the police department to fill in that story ... You know, we had to piece together where he was talking about.”