‘Torso Killer’ pleads guilty in 1974 cold-case murders

Richard Cottingham, 74, is currently in state prison on a life sentence for other murders. He has claimed he was responsible for up to 100 murders, but authorities in New York and New Jersey have linked him to nine so far.

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Richard Cottingham, 74, is currently in state prison on a life sentence for other murders. He has claimed he was responsible for up to 100 murders, but authorities in New York and New Jersey have linked him to nine so far — not including the two 1974 murders — though they believe the death toll is higher.

Richard Cottingham, 74, is currently in state prison on a life sentence for other murders. He has claimed he was responsible for up to 100 murders, but authorities in New York and New Jersey have linked him to nine so far — not including the two 1974 murders — though they believe the death toll is higher.

Sun-Times file

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey serial killer known as the “Torso Killer” pleaded guilty Tuesday to two 1974 murders, finally closing the cold-case deaths of teenage friends who had left home for a trip to the mall and never returned.

Richard Cottingham, 74, is currently in state prison on a life sentence for other murders. He has claimed he was responsible for up to 100 murders, but authorities in New York and New Jersey have linked him to nine so far — not including the two 1974 murders — though they believe the death toll is higher.

Cottingham has been in prison since 1981 but confessed to three of the murders, dating back to the late 1960s, last year.

He appeared virtually in court Tuesday to admit to the slayings of 17-year-old Mary Ann Pryor and 16-year-old Lorraine Marie Kelly.

Cottingham is known as the “Torso Killer” for brutally dismembering his victims by cutting off their limbs and heads. Mary Ann and Lorraine were found five days after they went missing — their nude, battered bodies discovered facedown in the woods of North Jersey.

Mary Ann and Lorraine left their North Bergen homes on Aug. 9, 1974, for a trip 13 miles north to a Paramus mall. They had planned to take a bus there to buy bathing suits for a trip to the Jersey Shore.

Lorraine was reportedly found with a beaded bracelet and a necklace that read “Lorraine and Ricky,” a reference to her boyfriend. Mary Ann was discovered with a gold cross, a gift from her godfather.

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Dazio reported from Los Angeles.

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