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Richard Francis Cottingham: The Torso Killer

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Richard Francis Cottingham joins the list of serial killers of the 1970s and 1980s. He was responsible for at least 11 murders of women and girls between 1967 and 1980. Most of his victims lived in in New York and New Jersey. Richard Francis Cottingham is also known as The New York Ripper or The Torso Killer, and although he was convicted for eight murders, his confessions are even more chilling — according to his own testimony, Cottingham committed up to 100 murders.


A killer with a knife inside a house

Richard Francis Cottingham was born on November 25, 1946, in Mott Haven, New York, but moved to New Jersey, where he attended high school. He got a job at an insurance company where he worked as a computer operator. Later, he used his work experience to land a position with Blue Cross Blue Shield, where he worked until the day of his arrest in 1980.

An interesting fact is that Cottingham crossed paths with another serial killer — Rodney Alcala, known as The Dating Game Killer. To this day, neither of the two criminals has confessed to having established a relationship or any contact between them.


The shadow of a woman before being attacked by a murderer

Richard Francis Cottingham’s first murder is believed to have occurred when he was just 21 years old. He committed his second homicide on October 28, 1967, when he strangled a 29-year-old girl. This case remained cold for several years until Cottingham confessed to being responsible for it in 2010.

In 2014, the serial killer privately confessed three more murders to detective Robert Anzilotti three more murders. He said he killed Jackie Herp on July 13, 1968, Irene Blase on April 7, 1969 and Denise Falasca on July 14, 1969. His confessions continued and the murderer was arrested on May 22, 1980.


The hands of a murderer in handcuffs

Richard Francis was arrested several times but he never raised suspicions of being a serial killer. Cottingham’s misdemeanors included driving under the influence of alcohol, robbery and sexual assault.

At the same time that the police arrested Richard Francis Cottingham and released him on bail, he was continuing a seemingly normal life with his family and doing his job as a computer operator. He was finally arrested in 1980 when motel employees heard cries for help from Leslie Ann O’Dell, a sex worker who had agreed to have sex with the killer.



Cottingham will go down in history as one of the bloodiest murderers. He claimed his method involved first stalking his victims. He then attacked, beat, raped and strangled them, leaving their bodies abandoned.

Richard Francis Cottingham ‘s modus operandi was kidnapping, physical assault, torture and strangulation. In at least two cases, he decapitated his victims and cut off their arms, setting fire to their torsos, which were still on a bed.



For almost 20 years, The Torso Killer denied having committed all the crimes he was accused of and it was not until 2009 that he finally confessed to being guilty. However, because most of his crimes occurred prior to the collection of DNA evidence, investigators only found evidence of his guilt on one occasion.

With the testimony of survivors, the authorities were able to identify a pattern in his attacks and sentence him to 173 to 197 years in prison. He is currently in the New Jersey State Prison, where he continues to confess to new crimes.

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