NEW YORK (PIX11) — Even though Richard Cottingham went to prison for life in 1980, it hasn’t stopped him from keeping up with technology.
Earlier this year, he emailed forensic historian Peter Vronsky about a cold case from the 1970s near a mall in Rockland County.
“I believe this one occurred in either 1972, 3, or 4,” Cottingham wrote on Feb. 27, 2022.
He then gave a geographic range for the crime.
“It would have occurred within visual distance of a mall either in Suffern or Nyack, New York,” Cottingham said. “She was a white girl in her teens. She may have been coming from the mall.”
Cottingham mentioned a former girlfriend named Lisa and thought this girl had similar looks — and a similar name.
It turns out a girl named Lisa Thomas, who was 15, was killed near the Nanuet Mall in 1974, in a case that’s still unsolved.
“I kind of remember her putting up a good fight, which surprised me,” Cottingham wrote about his unknown victim, “…And because of that, we didn’t get around to having sex. She wasn’t a hooker, and it happened during the day, probably late morning.”
Cottingham is believed to have targeted between 85 and 100 women in crimes that extended from the late 1960s through May 1980, when he was caught. The former computer operator with Blue Cross Blue Shield went to prison for life for three New Jersey murders and the dismemberment murders of two women at a Times Square hotel.
Vronsky held a press availability Thursday with the relatives of two Cottingham victims. Jennifer Weiss started writing to Cottingham in 2016. She said an adoption agency told her years ago that he’d killed her biological mother, Deedeh Goodarzi, in a brutal attack in 1979. Weiss is working with Vronsky on a book.
“I really felt alone growing up, knowing my mother was killed,” Weiss said. “No one else around me had a mother who was killed.”
Weiss and Vronsky have been urging Cottingham to confess to more crimes, especially since he’s in failing health. They said 13 cases have been resolved so far, but that leaves as many as 87 more.
Sonia Ruiz McGraw, the granddaughter of 1970 victim Lorraine Montalvo McGraw, said she started writing to Cottingham a couple of years ago and sent the serial killer some photos of her with her beloved dog.
“Richard happens to really love animals,” Ruiz McGraw said, adding, “that may sound funny.”
But Ruiz McGraw noted that Cottingham liked the pictures and he opened up to her with information.
Vronsky and the two women also talked about the serial killer getting food packages over the years when he would provide New Jersey law enforcement with information.
Vronsky said other detectives from different jurisdictions thought “this is the craziest thing.” But Weiss said she was more than OK with Cottingham getting food packages.
“Finding out who he killed means more,” Weiss said.