Richard Francis Cottingham was born on the 25th of November 1946, in New York. He grew up in a middle class home and by the age of 12 the family moved to River Vale, New Jersey. His mother looked after him and his two younger siblings while his father worked in the insurance industry.
Richard was a shy child and struggled to make friends at his new school. He began seventh grade at St. Andrews school. Because he had poor vision he was not good at sports and it isolated him even more.
Everything changed when he entered Pasack Valley High school. He made friends and joined the track team. Richard enjoyed running as it gave him time alone.
In 1964, he graduated high school and went to work in Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the same company his father worked for. Richard worked as a computer operator and also took computer courses. He worked for the company for two years.
Richard’s first murder
At the age of 20, he started working at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, where he was a computer operator and well like by the other employees. During the time he worked at this company he committed his first murder, the year was 1967.
Nancy Vogel was 29, married and a mother of two. She went missing and after 3 her body was found in her car nearby Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. She was found, naked, bound and strangled.
A minor infraction
Richard was jailed for 10 days in 1969, for drunk driving and fined 50 dollars. After his stint in jail he met Janet and marries her at the age of 23 in 1970. He and Janet moved into an apartment in Ledgewood Terrace a borough in Bergen County New Jersey. They had three children.
The murder spree begins
Richard was charged with robbery and sexual assault in 1972, but the case was dismissed. His killing spree started on the 22nd of March 1978. He kidnapped, raped and kills Karen Schilt in New York.
On the 13th of October 1978, he drugged, tortured and raped Susan Geiger. She was pregnant and a prostitute in Hackensack, New Jersey.
On the 2nd of December, 1979, Richard set a hotel room alight in New York Times Square. When the police arrived they found two corpses. Their hands and heads were removed and they were set alight with lighter fluid. One of the victims was Deedeh Goodarzi. She was an immigrant from Kuwait working as a prostitute. The other victim was never identified.
In May 1980, Valerie Ann Street 19, from Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey was found in a motel naked and beaten to death. She had several cuts on her breast.
Pamela Weisenfield was found in a parking lot in Teanneck, New Jersey on the 12th of May 1980. She was drugged, beaten and had several bite marks on her body.
On the 15th of May 1980, he raped, stabbed and strangled Jean Reyner (25) to death in a hotel room in New York City.
End of the Terror
His reign came to an end when he picked up Leslie Ann O’Dell from the corner of Lexington Avenue and 25th Street on the 22nd of May 1980. She agreed to have sexual intercourse with him and they checked into the Hasbrouck Heights Motel.
While Leslie was on her stomach he put a knife to her throat and handcuffed her. Richard tortured her and almost bit off one of her nipples. Her screams were so loud it alerted the hotel staff. Because of the murder he committed in the same hotel 18 days earlier hotel staff immediately phoned the police and Richard was arrested in the hallway.
Richard had a leather gag, handcuffs, slave collars, switch blade, pistols and prescription pills with him when he was arrested. At his house police found a trophy room where he kept most of his victim’s personal items.
After his arrest his wife filed for divorce in June. Previously she heard he frequented gay bars and had an affair with Barbara Lukas, it lasted for two years and ended in 1980.
With all the evidence the police had a strong case against Richard. In New York he was charged with triple homicide and 21 counts of murder in New Jersey. He was also charged with additional charges for the murder of Maryann Carr.
In court three of his victims gave their testimony and he was sentenced in May of 1981. He was found guilty of five murders and received 60 to 95 years in prison in New Jersey.
Richard received an additional 75 years in prison in New York. After his first trail he had two more trails where he was found guilty of four second degree murders.
In between the sentencing he attempted suicide by drinking liquid antidepressants. His second attempted suicide was before the New York verdict, he cut his left forearm with a razor in front of the jury.
Nadia Fezzani is a journalist from Quebec which specialised in the research of serial killers. She had an interview with Richard where he confessed to killing ninety to a hundred people. When Nadia asked him why he mutilated and cut his victims he told her he wanted to be the best serial killer.
Richard is 72 and is currently in the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New York.