In a cutting statement Monday after serial killer Richard Cottingham's guilty plea in the deaths of five Nassau County, New York women more than 50 years ago, Judge Caryn Fink said there were no words to describe how "purely evil" he is.
Cottingham, 76, known in New Jersey as the "Torso Killer" after a string of murders, confessed to the 1968 slaying of Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old dance teacher who was found strangled to death in her car in the parking lot of the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York.
In a plea agreement with the Nassau County District Attorney's Office, Cottingham also confessed to killing four other women between 1972 and 1973: Mary Beth Heinz in May 1972, Laverne Moy in July 1972, Sheila Hyman in July 1973 and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves in December 1973. Cottingham has immunity from prosecution for these murders as part of the plea deal and will serve 25 years to life, consecutive to his other murder convictions and pleas.
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During the hearing, the killer, dressed in a hospital gown, sat unmoved and declined to speak after the victim impact statements given by Cusick's brother and daughter.
District Attorney Jared Rosenblatt said members of the Heinz, Moy and Hyman family were also present for the hearing in addition to Jim Morton, Cusick's brother, and Darlene Altman, Cusick's daughter. Cusick's parents and one of her brothers died not knowing who was behind her death.
Morton called Cottingham a "beast," saying the killer turned his family's life "upside down."
"I tried hard to put out of my mind the horrors that my sister had to endure in the last minutes of her life," Morton said. "I'm sure she tried to fight this animal off, but he was so big and she was so small.
"As she fought, he punched her face, put tape over her mouth and nose. He then held her down and raped her. Then, like it was nothing, he strangled the life out of my beautiful sister."
Morton said his parents went to the mall and found Cusick in the back seat of her car, unsure if she was dead or alive, and that his father carried her body trying to wave down help on Sunrise Highway in front of the mall. He recalled hearing his father weeping in the driveway and his family falling to their knees as his sister's casket closed. His mother cried and begged for her daughter not to be taken away.
Morton showed no pity in his impact statement, noting that it was nice to know that Cottingham was sick and in pain.
"He, of course, also has to look forward to spending eternity in hell," Morton said. "I just wish that my brother, Bobby, or myself would have found you in the streets and we would have tore you apart."
Altman was only 3 at the time of her mother's murder and said she has spent the last 54 years wondering who was responsible. She said she only knows what she has been told about her mother – that she was beautiful, well-loved and a wonderful dancer.
She said her grandparents focused on raising her, because it was their reason to go on.
"I called them mom and dad; now my twin uncles became my brothers. I now had Diane's bedroom and furniture, I went to the same school as Diane and took dance lessons from the school as Diane," Altman said. "I stepped right into Diane's shoes."
Altman said her mother was not spoken about, and when she asked her grandmother about it, she was told it was because Altman never wanted to discuss it.
Rosenblatt became choked up as he spoke after the victim impact statements. He said the other families in attendance never gave up hope that their loved ones' killer would be found.
"All these families met today and share the unique and undesirable bond of having their loved ones murdered and the same man killed all of them," Rosenblatt said. "I hope there is some justice for all of you knowing that for the rest of the defendant's life, he will live and take every breath in a prison cell in New Jersey. He will certainly die in prison."
Roseblatt said it was made clear to himself and the detectives working on these women's cases that remorse is not a concept that Cottingham understands or appreciates.
"But for Richard Cottingham, all these women would have lived much longer lives. This defendant took from these women whatever dreams and goals they once had," the district attorney said. "But, ironically, for Richard Cottingham, we likely would not have known how many of them did die."
Fink had little sympathy for Cottingham as she spoke before handing down his sentence.
"You stand before the court now, over 50 years after you have committed your crimes, sick and infirm," Fink said. "But make no mistake, Mr. Cottingham. No one has any sympathy for you. There is no sentence that I can impose that will truly be enough."
In June, Cottingham pleaded guilty to drowning two North Bergen, N.J. teens in a motel bathtub in 1974 and dumping their bodies in the woods in Montvale, about 25 miles to the north. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Kelly, 16.
Cottingham's confession, which Bergen County, N.J. authorities teased out over decades, closed one of the region's most notorious cold cases. And it raised to 11 the number of murders to which he has admitted since his 1980 arrest in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. The confession of the Nassau County, N.Y. murders now brings it to 16.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ 'Torso Killer' Richard Cottingham admits to 5 more murders in NY