Richard Cottingham

On December 2nd, 1979, not far from New York City's Times Square, firefighters found themselves in a smoke filled hotel hallway. There was a fire in one of the rooms, which threatened to spread and engulf the building.

Upon entering the room, the would-be rescuers discovered a nude woman lying on one of the room's two beds. They carried into the hall and began resuscitation.

The firefighters stopped CPR almost as soon as they had started. The woman, doused in lighter fluid and set ablaze, had no head.

Richard Frances Cottingham was born on November 25th, 1946, in New Jersey. A star high school athlete, he went on to marry and father three children, living in Lodi, NJ. He was a computer operator for insurance company Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a career that lasted thirteen years, and by all accounts led a law-abiding, straight-laced life.

No one knew that in Cottingham's briefcase were several sets of handcuffs, a gag, 'slave' collars, knives, a fake pistol, and several bottles of prescription pills.

Cottingham killed his first known victim on December 16th, 1977. MaryAnn Carr was abducted and probably strangled at the Quality Inn in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Her body was dumped outside the seedy establishment, the first in a series of brutal murders that would escalate into increasingly violent acts.

The firefighters stopped resuscitation efforts on the headless, burned body. Upon closer inspection, it was found that the woman also had no hands - they had been severed. Authorities entered the hotel room and discovered a second body, also nude, missing both her head and hands. With the help of x-rays, the body was identified as twenty-two year old prostitute Deedeh Goodarzi, a Kuwaiti immigrant. The other body remains a Jane Doe to this day.

Barely one month later, the body of prostitute Helen Sikes was found in Queens, NY. Her throat had been cut so deeply she was all but decapitated. Her legs, lying side by side, were found a block away. Police had no leads.

On May 5th, 1980, Cottingham left another as-yet unidentified body for police to puzzle over. The only thing known of the victim is that she was a prostitute, and she died horribly. Her beaten, strangled body was found jammed beneath a bed in the same New Jersey hotel where MaryAnn Carr had been murdered. Her breasts had been chewed as if by an animal, with one nipple nearly bitten off.

Ten days later, a small fire was found in another Times Square hotel. Prostitute Jean Reyner had been stabbed several times, her breasts severed. She too had then been set on fire.

Just over two weeks later, police would get their break. Called to same hotel where MaryAnn Carr and the lone Jane Doe had been murdered, authorities found a screaming teenaged girl. She had been raped, sodomized, cut with a knife, and her breasts had been bitten so severely they were bleeding. Richard Cottingham, then thirty-three, emerged from the room and offered no resistance to arresting officers.

A search of Cottingham's New Jersey home yielded the briefcase, bondage equipment, and a room full of his victims' personal effects - trophies.

Despite outward appearances of normalcy, Cottingham had a somewhat checkered past. He had been arrested twice for solicitation of prostitution, but both cases were dismissed. His wife, citing 'extreme cruelty' and his refusal to have sex with her since 1976, had filed for divorce in 1980. Mrs. Cottingham also claimed her husband was patronizing gay bars and other homosexual establishments.

Cottingham attempted suicide several times while awaiting trial, none of the attempts successful. Prosecutors also linked him to the violent kidnapping and rape of three other women in 1978. Two of the women were prostitutes, Cottingham's victims of choice. The third woman was a pregnant housewife.

After three seperate trials, Cottingham was convicted of the murders of the New Jersey Jane Doe, MaryAnn Carr, Deedeh Goodarzi, and the unidentified body found with her. He is currently serving 248 years in prison.

The heads and hands of Deedeh Goodarzi and the woman who died alongside her have never been found.

Crime Scene Photos

Crime Scene

Crime Scene

Crime Scene

Hotel Where Some of the Bodies Were Found

Richard Cottingham

Missing Persons Poster for Deedeh Goodarzi