Correction: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Sheila Heiman’s name.
MINEOLA, N.Y. (PIX11) – Richard Cottingham, the jailed serial killer who once claimed he’d killed about 100 women, admitted on Monday to five Long Island murders, four of them from 1972 and 1973.
The families of four victims filled the Mineola courtroom, including the son of Laverne Moye. John Moye was only 5 when his 23-year-old mother was found in a Rockville Centre creek on July 20, 1972.
“I feel her every day in me,” John Moye said.
The 55-year old Moye has held prominent state positions in the administrations of former Governors Mario Cuomo and his son, Andrew, and now serves as a director with the National Urban League in Atlanta.
“I love you, Mom, and you can rest in peace,” Moye said, as he clutched a framed photo of his mother.
Appearing virtually and wearing a hospital gown from South Woods prison in New Jersey, Cottingham, now 76, admitted killing five women in Nassau County, four by strangulation.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly noted, “If a victim became a threat to identify him, he (Cottingham) ended that woman’s life.”
Cottingham’s been locked behind bars since 1980, after a killing spree that ran at least 13 years in the Garden State and New York State. He was convicted in five murders, including the notorious “Torso Killings” in a Times Square hotel in 1979. He’s also confessed to multiple other killings in New Jersey.
Cottingham was indicted for a new murder back in June this year after DNA tied him to the 1968 rape and strangulation of Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old Long Island mother and dance teacher who was found in the back seat of her white Plymouth Valiant at Green Acres Mall on Sunrise Highway.
Cusick’s parents found their daughter’s body after she failed to come home to their New Hyde Park home after shopping. Cusick was the mother of a 3-year-old girl, Darlene, who was also present in court Monday. She said her late grandparents raised her.
“I stepped right into Diane’s shoes,” Darlene Altman told the court in a victim impact statement. “But Diane wasn’t spoken about. Her memory wasn’t kept alive.”
Darlene Altman now wears a pair of small gold, ballet slippers around her neck, a tribute to her mother’s work as a dance teacher.
Cottingham also confessed to the 1972 strangulations of Mary Beth Heinz, who was killed three months earlier than Laverne Moye and thrown off the same bridge into the creek near Peninsula Boulevard in Rockville Centre. Her body was found face down in the mud of a stream, DA Donnelly said.
The victim’s sister, Jeanne Heinz, said “Shocked doesn’t begin to describe my feelings when I was contacted” about the break in the case 50 years later. Her sister was a 21-year-old nanny who was diagnosed with epilepsy, and she was supposed to spend the weekend at the Mineola home of her parents.
The three children of Shirley Heiman, who was 33 when she was stabbed repeatedly at her North Woodmere home on July 20, 1973—exactly one year after the murder of Mary Beth Heinz—were away upstate at summer camp when their mother was killed. Heiman’s son, Todd, heard the news on the radio.
“They said the name on the radio,” Todd Heiman, now 62, said. “Three kids away at camp. We were the three kids at camp.”
Daughter Randi Childs said her late father, Leon, was unfairly placed under a cloud of suspicion, because he found his wife’s body.
“My poor father lived with that until the day he died,” his daughter, Randi Childs, told the media.
The district attorney said it was time to set the record straight in public.
“Today, we can proclaim loudly…that he did not murder his wife,” DA Donnelly said. “Mr. Heiman, you are exonerated.”
Cottingham’s final admission concerned the strangulation of Maritz Rosada Nieves in late 1973. Her body was found on Dec. 27, 1973 near the East Boathouse in Jones Beach. She had recently come to New York from Puerto Rico.
“Her hands were tied behind the knees,” DA Donnelly said. “Her neck had rope marks around it. It is possible she was murdered on Christmas Day.”
Donnelly said Rosada Nieves was buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts, because she had family there in 1973. But the DA’s office has not been able to reach any relatives about the Cottingham developments.
Cottingham had an agreement with the DA’s office to receive a 25 year to life sentence for the murder of Diane Cusick in Green Acres Mall, while he would not to be prosecuted if he confessed to the other, four murders as well.
Nassau County police gave credit to criminologist Peter Vronsky for giving them crucial tips in the case. Vronsky said he contacted homicide detective Daniel Finn last year, after Cottingham started talking about murders on Long Island and spoke extensively of Sunrise Highway, a large thoroughfare between Queens and Nassau County.
“We surveyed the crime scenes,” Vronsky, who lives in Canada, told PIX11 News. “I gave them a map.”
Vronsky has been working with the daughter and granddaughter of two Cottingham victims, who have been encouraging the killer to confess his crimes. Jennifer Weiss’ biological mother Deedeh Goodarzi was dismembered and set on fire in the Traveler’s Inn in 1979. Sonia Ruiz-McGraw’s grandmother was murdered in Rockland County
In early 2022, homicide investigators received a DNA match between Cottingham’s sample and genetic material left at the 1968 crime scene on Diane Cusick’s clothing.
Det. Captain Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Nassau County Homicide Squad, went with his team to meet with Cottingham at a New Jersey prison.
“He was cagey,” Captain Fitzpatrick recalled. “It was like, ‘You give me something, I’ll give you something.'”