MINEOLA, NY (PIX11) — The daughter of a 1968 murder victim said she felt serial killer, Richard Cottingham, was “staring right at me” when he was arraigned virtually in court Wednesday in her mother’s case.
Darlene Altman was only 4 years old when her mom, Diane Cusick, was discovered strangled in the back seat of her car at the Green Acres Mall on Feb. 16, 1968.
“I am very overwhelmed,” Altman, now 58, said at a press conference after the hearing. “He was creepy.”
Police said Cottingham used to pose as a security guard and target young women at malls, accusing them of shoplifting before he abducted them.
Cottingham, now 75, wore a yellow face mask as he heard the new murder charge against him from a bed at St. Francis Hospital in New Jersey.
PIX11 News was first to report Tuesday that Cusick’s cold case was cracked after more than 50 years, due to a DNA match.
Cottingham, who was a married father of three from Lodi at the time of his 1980 arrest in New Jersey, has been in prison more than four decades; he’s been convicted in five other murders, although he’s suspected in dozens of other cold cases in New York and New Jersey.
He has confessed to six other murders of teens and young women in the last 20 years.
He pleaded not guilty in the Cusick case.
Cottingham’s indictment in the Cusick murder was announced by Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, whose office received information about the New Jersey inmate last year and decided to put crime scene DNA from the Cusick case into a national database.
“We believe this may be the oldest DNA hit to lead to a prosecution in the United States,” Donnelly said.
Nassau County Homicide Commander Det. Captain Stephen Fitzpatrick said his unit has now submitted upward of five other DNA samples to a national database, in other cold case murders, to see if there’s a match to Cottingham.
Investigators think Cottingham used to frequent the Green Acres Mall area on Sunrise Highway, near the old Sunrise Drive-in.
He told criminal historian Dr. Peter Vronsky that he’s killed 85 to 100 women.