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‘Torso Killer’ admits to kidnapping, murdering two teens in 1974 cold case

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A New Jersey man known as the “Torso Killer” pleaded guilty Tuesday to double murder in the 1974 cold-case deaths of two teenage girls.

Richard Cottingham, 74, who is currently in state prison on a life sentence for other murders, appeared in court virtually Tuesday along with his attorneys, a Bergen County prosecutor and a local detective. 

Cottingham on Tuesday confessed to kidnapping and raping 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old Lorraine Marie Kelly in August 1974 before murdering both of them, according to the Bergen County prosecutor’s office. 

The two girls had planned to take a bus to a mall in Paramus about 13 miles away from North Bergen, though witnesses at the time told police that they had seen the girls hitchhiking before getting into a man’s car. 

Cottingham on Tuesday said he kidnapped the girls before bringing them to a motel room where he tied them up and raped them, The Associated Press reported. 

The serial killer, who authorities in New York and New Jersey have linked to nine other murders, said he then killed the girls by drowning them in the motel bathtub. 

Pryor and Kelly were found in the woods of North Jersey five days after they were reported missing, according to the prosecutor’s office. 

Authorities said the girls’ bodies were found nude and battered, in line with the Torso Killer’s practice of dismembering his victims by cutting off their limbs and heads. 

The AP reported that Cottingham’s defense attorney, John Bruno, said Tuesday that his client wanted to give the girls’ families closure and was “relieved that this cloud that’s been hanging over his head for many, many years is now removed.” 

Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella called Tuesday “a somber day as we revisit the horrific acts and terror this man brought upon Bergen County nearly 50 years ago.”

“It is my fervent hope that this arrest and conviction bring some semblance of closure to the friends and family of Mary Ann and Lorraine and a measure of justice to members of our communities, who have long feared this unknown actor,” Musella added. 

Cottingham pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in connection with the case, and as part of the plea agreement is expected to get two life sentences in July.

Tags Cold case Kidnapping murder investigation New Jersey Serial killer The Associated Press

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