Richard Francis Cottingham – The Torso Killer – Mutilation and Fire


Richard Francis Cottingham

Richard Francis CottinghamOn December 2, 1979, fireman in New York responded to an alarm at a shitty little hotel near Times Square. When they forced their way inside and put the fire out they found something more than burnt furniture. Stretched out on the beds were two headless corpses. They bodies also had their hands removed. They had been doused with lighter fluid and set alight. The missing body part were never found, but once x-rayed one victim was identified as Deedeh Goodarzi, 22, an immigrant from Kuwait who was working as a prostitute. The other headless corpse was never identified.

Homicide detectives linked the murder with that of the murder of teenage hooker Helen Sikes. She had gone missing from Times Square in January 1979. When found her head was hanging by a thread. Her legs had also been hacked off, and were eventually found a block away from the rest of the body. The legs were laying side by side as if still attached to a body.

On May 5, 1980, police found another prostitute, Valerie Streets, dead in a motel room. She had been beaten and strangled then stuffed under the bed of the room. She had been given one hell of a beating and her killer had eaten away at her nipples, almost severing one. This murder was linked to an earlier murder in the same motel. Maryann Carr was also brutally beaten, but police could not positively link the crimes.

Richard Francis Cottingham

On May 15th another prostitute was found murdered in a motel room. Jean Reyner was stabbed to death in a motel near Time Square. Her breasts had been hacked off and her body was set on fire. This time it seems the police were able to link this crime.

One week later police were called to the same motel, but this time it was for a disturbance. Someone had called about a girl screaming, as if she was being tortured. When police arrived they caught a man trying to flee the room. When they entered the room they found a young girl handcuffed to the bed. She was in hysterics, crapping on about what this guy had put her through. She had been beaten, raped, sodomized and forced at knife point to give the man a blow job. He had also stabbed her and bit almost right through her nipples.

The prisoner, 33-year-old Richard Francis Cottingham, made an unlikely suspect at first glance. A respected family man from Lodi, New Jersey, he ran computers for a major health insurance firm. On the other hand, arresting officers had relieved him of handcuffs, a leather gag and two “slave” collars, a switchblade and replica pistol, plus several bottles of pills.

A search of Cottingham’s home turned up a bizarre “trophy room,” containing personal effects from several of the murdered prostitutes. Investigation of the suspect’s background revealed two arrests for consorting with hookers in the early 1970’s, with both cases dismissed.

In April 1980, Cottingham’s wife had filed for divorce, charging him with “extreme cruelty” and refusal to engage in marital sex since late 1976. The divorce affidavits further alleged that Cottingham was an habitual, patron of gay bars and homosexual “spas” in Manhattan. Despondent in custody, Cottingham smashed a lens of his spectacles and attempted suicide by slashing his wrists with the glass.

Surviving that attempt and two others, he was held under $250,000 bond while detectives built their overwhelming case against him. In addition to multiple murder counts, Richard Francis Cottingham was linked with the brutal abduction and rape of three surviving victims — including two prostitutes and a young housewife — during 1978.

In May 1981, Cottingham was convicted on fifteen felony counts related to the murder of Valerie Street, drawing a sentence of 173 to 197 years in prison. A year later, conviction on second-degree murder charges in the death of Maryann Carr added another sentence of 20 years to life.

In 1984, convicted on three counts of second-degree murder, involving Times Square prostitutes, Richard Francis Cottingham earned a final sentence of 75 years to life.

credit – murderpediaMichael Newton

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