How Many Women Did Richard Cottingham Kill? Who Were His Victims?

Image Credit: The New York Times

When the authorities arrested Richard Cottingham in May 1980, he had been on a rampage across two states, torturing and killing multiple women. Netflix’s ‘Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer’ as well as A&E’s ‘The Torso Killer Confessions’ thus chronicles his horrific crimes and how the investigators connected cases from New Jersey and New York to him. While he was initially convicted of killing five women, he has since confessed to many more slayings.

Hotel Horror: Deedeh Goodarzi and Unidentified Teen

On December 2, 1979, the authorities were called to a hotel room in New York City after a fire was reported. Inside, they found the bodies of two women who were missing their heads and hands. The gruesome nature of the crime shocked everyone, and without fingerprints or a face, it was challenging to identify the victims. Eventually, clothing was used to confirm that one was 22-year-old Deedeh Goodarzi, a sex worker. The other victim was a teenager who was never identified – she remains known as Jane Doe to this day.

Both women were strangled, tortured, and set on fire with lighter fluid. As the investigation carried on, another murder occurred about five months later at a local motel called Quality Inn in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. 19-year-old Valerie Street was found stuffed under a bed naked, in handcuffs, and strangled. Then, on May 15, 1980, Jean Reyner was recovered from a hotel in New York City, tortured and strangled to death. Like the incident in December 1979, this room was set on fire.

About a week later, officials rushed to the aforecited motel in Hasbrouck Heights after an employee heard screams from one of the rooms. 18-year-old sex worker Leslie O’Dell was being tortured by Richard Cottingham, who was then in his early thirties. The police arrested him in the hallway and soon connected him to the grisly murders in the area. They later learned that Richard had killed others, including Maryann Carr, who was found near the Hasbrouck Heights motel in December 1977.

Like Leslie, other survivors testified at Richard’s trial. Per the Netflix show, Karen Schilt, Susan Geiger, and Pamela Weisenfeld all stated they were drugged, kidnapped, and beaten by Richard between 1978 and 1980. Eventually, he was convicted for the five murders and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, bringing to an end a reign of terror that had women worried for their safety.

Teen Tragedies: Confessed to Three Teen Murders

Image Credit: The New York Times

While Richard was initially convicted for the five slayings, he has actually confessed to killing more women as well. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to murdering a 29-year-old married mother of two, Nancy Vogel, who was found in 1967 in Montvale, New Jersey. Then, a few years later, Richard also confessed to killing three teenagers in the New Jersey area in the late 1960s. They were 18-year-old Irene Blase, 15-year-old Denise Falasca, and 13-year-old Jacalyn Harp.

Moreover, early in 2021, Richard admitted to kidnapping and murdering best friends 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old  Lorraine Kelly in August 1974, closing another unsolved case. It’s also imperative to note that in 2022 alone, it was confirmed he killed 26-year-old Lorraine McGraw in 1970, 23-year-old Diane Cusick in 1968, 21-year-old Mary Beth Heinz in 1972, 23-year-old Laverne Moye in 1972, 33-year-old Sheila Heiman in 1973, and 18-year-old Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves in 1973. DNA evidence connected him to Diane’s case, following which he confessed to all six previously unsolved matters. The truth is he has actually claimed to have murdered about 100 people, with his first dating back to when he was not even 17. He has also implied his crimes have spanned several other states as well.

Read More: Where is Richard Cottingham’s Family Now?