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New Jersey 'Torso Killer' Richard Cottingham Pleads Guilty To 1974 Murder Of Two Teenage Girls

Apr. 28 2021, Updated 11:40 a.m. ET

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The notorious New Jersey serial killer known as the "Torso Killer" has pleaded guilty to the cold case murders of two teenage girls in 1974. 

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Richard Cottingham has admitted to kidnapping and raping 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old Lorraine Marie Kelly before murdering them, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

Cottingham is already behind bars for other murders.

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new jersey torso killer richard cottingham pleads guilty murder  teenage girls mary ann pryor lorraine marie kelly
Source: NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
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The girls were last seen on August 9, 1974, where they were walking together on Broad Avenue in Ridgefield, N.J. Witnesses reported that they saw Pryor and Kelly hitchhiking and got into a car with an unknown white male. They were reported missing when they didn't return home that night and their bodies were found in a wooded area after five days.

Cottingham admitted that he brought the two girls to a motel room where he raped them and drowned them in the bathtub. The 73-year-old is expected to be given two life sentences in July, which will be served alongside existing time behind bars as part of a plea agreement, The Associated Press reported.

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Cottingham was arrested and charged for the sexual assault and murders of several young women in 1980 but detectives could not prove he had murdered Pryor and Kelly until this month when he "provided a detailed, sworn and recorded statement to Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives Robert Anzilotti," the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office said. 

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Cottingham was arrested in 1980 after a hotel maid heard a woman screaming inside his room. The woman was found alive but had been injured with knife wounds and bite marks and was bound with handcuffs.

Cottingham is "relieved that this cloud that’s been hanging over his head for many, many years is now removed," according to his defense attorney, John Bruno, who said his client has "serious regret" and hopes to provide closure to the families.

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However, according to the AP, Cottingham played "games" with authorities for years regarding the murders of Pryor and Kelly. "Seeing how the families are destroyed, you can’t help but feel their pain," retired chief of detectives Alan Grieco said. "I think he figured, 'I’m going to just toy with them, and as long as I can drag it out, I will.'"

"This is 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," prosecutor Mark Musella said.

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Cottingham became known as the "Torso Killer" because he dismembered some of his victims by cutting off their heads and limbs. He reportedly killed six women in New Jersey and New York between 1967 and 1980.

It's been reported that he was behind up to 100 murders, but he has only been linked to 11 homicides so far by authorities in New Jersey and New York.

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