Richard Cottingham Pleads Guilty to 1968 Cold Case Murder; Admits in Court to Killing Four Additional Women in Nassau County in Early 1970s
Diane Cusick, 23, went to shopping mall to buy a pair of shoes, was found strangled in mall parking lot; Breakthrough in case came from DNA match
As part of plea Cottingham admitted to strangling Mary Beth Heinz and Laverne Moye and throwing their bodies over Rockville Centre bridge in two separate incidents in 1972
Cottingham bludgeoned 33-year-old mother of three Sheila Heiman in her North Woodmere home in July 1973
Defendant strangled Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves and left her body near Jones Beach bus stop in December 1973
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly announced that a New Jersey man, who was charged with killing a 23-year-old woman in February 1968, pleaded guilty to murdering her and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Serial killer Richard Cottingham also admitted in open court to four additional murders of young women in Nassau County in 1972 and 1973.
Richard Cottingham, 76, of the South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, N.J., pleaded guilty today before Judge Caryn Fink to a charge of Murder in the Second Degree (an A-I felony) for the death of Diane Cusick. Judge Fink sentenced the defendant to 25 years to life in prison.
In court, Cottingham allocuted to the deaths of Mary Beth Heinz, Laverne Moye, Sheila Heiman and Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves. The NCDA agreed not to prosecute Cottingham for the deaths as the defendant will be incarcerated for the rest of his life due to prior murder convictions in New Jersey and New York.
“Serial killer Richard Cottingham has caused irreparable harm to so many people and so many families,” DA Donnelly said. “Today, he took responsibility for the murder of five young women here in Nassau County between 1968 and 1973. He overpowered, assaulted and brutally murdered them to satisfy his craven desires. Thankfully he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he belongs.”
District Attorney Donnelly said that, according to the investigation, Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old resident of New Hyde Park, was an instructor at a dancing school in Oceanside, N.Y. On the evening of Thursday, February 15, 1968, Cusick told her family that she was going to the Green Acres Mall to buy a pair of dancing shoes. At approximately 10:30 p.m., her parents became concerned that their daughter had not returned home. The parents drove to the shopping center and discovered their daughter’s Plymouth Valiant car in a parking lot of Green Acres Mall.
The parents found Cusick’s body in the backseat of the car. An adhesive band was found over her mouth and her hands were bound. She was pronounced deceased at 1:40 a.m. on February 16, 1968. The medical examiner determined that Cusick was asphyxiated due to strangulation.
In 2021, certain evidence related to the case was retested by the Nassau County Office of the Medical Examiner, Division of Forensic Sciences – Biology. In early 2022, a DNA profile was generated from that evidence, and it matched Cottingham’s profile.
The NCDA thanks both retired and current members of the Nassau County Police Department who worked on this case and the Nassau County Office of the Medical Examiner.
After extensive interviews with Nassau County police and prosecutors, Cottingham admitted to four additional homicides in Nassau County in 1972 and 1973.
At approximately 10:45 a.m. on May 10, 1972, the body of Mary Beth Heinz was discovered in Rockville Centre. The 21-year-old woman was found floating face down in a muddy stream in a wooded area on Maine Avenue, just west of Peninsula Boulevard. Heinz was found without shoes and the medical examiner determined her death to be as a result of asphyxia due to strangulation. She also suffered multiple contusions and abrasions of the face and neck. The young woman, who grew up in Mineola, was working as a mother’s helper at a home in Bellmore at the time of her murder.
Approximately three months later, on July 20, 1972, at approximately 12:15 p.m., the body of Laverne Moye was found in the same area as the body of Mary Beth Heinz. An 11-year-old boy discovered the woman in the creek along Maine Avenue. Moye, a 23-year-old woman from St. Albans, Queens, was strangled to the death. The young woman was a mother to two children and was separated from her husband.
In the early afternoon of July 20, 1973, Sheila Heiman was found bludgeoned to death in her home on Mulberry Place in North Woodmere. Heiman’s husband left the house that morning to go to a nearby department store and when he returned, he discovered his wife dead in the bathroom. The 33-year-old mother of three suffered multiple lacerations to her skull, a fractured jaw, and a lacerated jugular vein. Sheila Heiman was employed by a Brooklyn book company and at the time of her murder. At the time of her murder, the couple’s children were away at summer camp.
At approximately 3 p.m. on December 27, 1973, the body of Maria Emerita Rosado Nieves was discovered in a weeded area of Jones Beach. The 18-year-old was strangled to death and park maintenance workers found her body covered in plastic bags and wrapped in a gray blanket. The remains were left in thick grass on the north side of Ocean Parkway, in a bus loading area adjacent to the East Bathhouse. Nieves was originally from Puerto Rico and lived in Manhattan prior to her murder.
Cottingham was tried and convicted for three murders in New York State. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for each murder to run consecutively.
He is additionally convicted of multiple murders and other crimes in the State of New Jersey. For more information about the New Jersey sentences, click here.
This case is being prosecuted by Chief Jared Rosenblatt of the Homicide Bureau. The defendant is represented by Jeffrey Groder, Esq.