MINEOLA, N.Y. -- Monday, the books closed on five Long Island murders after Richard Cottingham, an admitted serial killer, claimed responsibility.
It was a day families who waited decades for justice thought would never come, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.
Decades of emotion poured out in the Nassau County courthouse as long-sought answers were finally found. In stoic succession, Cottingham, already imprisoned for life for a dozen murders, pleaded guilty to five more from a New Jersey prison hospital.
The only emotion came from his victims' families, including Jim Martino, whose sister Diane Cusick was killed on a shopping trip to Green Acres Mall in 1968.
"I'm sure she tried to fight this animal off," said Martino. "Then, like it was nothing, he strangled the life out of my beautiful sister."
"I have spent the last 54 years of my life wondering who murdered my mother and why," said Darlene Altman, Cusick's daughter.
The breakthrough came in a DNA match in Cusick's murder. Nassau detectives then interviewed Cottingham, 76, for hours about murders along the south shore in the 60s and 70s.
"The defendant knew specific information about the crime scenes and the crime that only the murderer would know," said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly. "We are confident that he killed all five of these women."
Mary Beth Heinz and Laverne Moye were killed in 1972.
"We celebrate justice for Mary Beth and my heart is full," said sister Jeanne Heinz.
Sheila Haiman, a 33-year-old mother, was killed in her North Woodmere home. Her husband was suspected for years.
"Today we can loudly and clearly state for his children and everyone else to hear that he did not murder his wife," said Donnelly.
The body of Maria Nieves was found dumped near a bus stop at Jones Beach.
Cottingham's grisly crimes are detailed in the Netflix documentary "The Times Square Killer." He's also known as the "Torso Killer" for mutilating his victims.
The father of three and former computer programmer declined the one chance he had to express remorse in court.
"I would describe him as a werewolf for whom every day was a full moon. I think he did things on impulse," said author and investigative historian Dr. Peter Vronsky.
The judge called Cottingham purely evil and sentenced him to 25 years to life running consecutively with the 179 years he is already serving.
"There is no sentence I can impose that would truly be enough," said Judge Caryn Fink.
Donnelly summed up what many felt: There is no closure - the harm caused by Cottingham spans decades and generations.
Prosecutors said they originally questioned Cottingham about 13 murders, but were only able to definitively link him to five.
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