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'Torso Killer' Pleads Guilty to 1974 Murders

Richard Cottingham says he kidnapped, drowned New Jersey teens
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2021 5:03 PM CDT

(Newser) – Authorities in New Jersey say they can close the book on two unsolved murders from 1974 after a confession from a serial killer linked to at least nine other killings. Richard Cottingham—known as the "Torso Killer" because he often dismembered his victims—pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old Lorraine Marie Kelly, the AP reports. Their bodies were found in woods five days after they went to a mall in Paramus to buy bathing suits in August 1974. Cottingham admitted Tuesday that he kidnapped the girls. He said he tied them up and raped them before drowning them in a motel bathtub.

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The 74-year-old Cottingham—who has claimed to have killed up to 100 people—is serving a life sentence in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and prosecutors say they will seek two more life sentences for the murders of Pryor and Kelly. "This is a somber day as we revisit the horrific acts and terror this man brought upon Bergen County nearly 50 years ago," Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said in a statement. Cottingham, who has been incarcerated since 1980, had long been a suspect in the two murders but investigators were unable to find direct evidence or secure a confession before now, NorthJersey.com reports. (Read more serial killer stories.)

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