Serial Killer Cops to 1974 Deaths of NJ Teens

Wess Haubrich

The ‘Torso Killer’ Richard Cottingham says he is “haunted” by them.

It is amazing what dedicated investigators can accomplish to find answers for a tragedy that transcends time and touches people almost 50 years on. To do this, they have to fight demons and not just in the figurative sense. In the literal sense. Investigators pursuing these cases fight living, breathing, very human monsters every single day.

Such is the case with Bergen County New Jersey Chief of Detectives Robert Anzilotti. For years he has been in the ring with ‘the Torso Killer’ (not to be confused with the completely separate Cleveland Torso Murders), Richard Cottingham, who – officially – killed 11 (including the two who are subject of this article) and may have – unofficially – killed north of 85-100 in New York and New Jersey from 1967-1980.

Now we know Mary Anne Pryor (17) and Lorraine Marie Kelly (16) – both from Bergen County, New Jersey – are a part of that macabre tally. Both were headed to a mall 13 miles away in Paramus, NJ in August 1974 when they were abducted, haled captive for days (according to Cottingham), savagely tortured and drowned before he left their nude bodies in local woods.

The Monster

The Torso Killer’s M.O. was from how he disposed of a victim and not how he actually killed them, as is the usual way they tend to come about in the press. The Torso Killer dismembered his victims thoroughly before he dumped what was left of their bodies.

Leading up to the murders, he would kidnap, bind, and brutally torture his victims – sometimes for days on end. In this way he was a prototypical example of the controlled sadist type of killer – highly organized in how he thinks.

The Slayer of Monsters

It is not easy to get a scheming psychopath to admit when he’s wrong. Let alone to confess to a crime unless they’re already caught and want to set the record straight – as will happen because of the narcissism of this type of killer, as I wrote about previously for News Break, being too eager to set the record straight can also be problematic, just look at the case of Henry Lee Lucas. In Cottingham and the case in North Bergen County, however, investigators have no reason to doubt the confession.

These predators are virtually always thinking as predators. That is just what they are. It’s their essence and nothing can change that.

At the same time, extremely violent sexual predators like Cottingham are arguably motivated by one other motivation: protecting a bruised ego. In doing this, you can often see unresolved past psychological trauma to the ego being worked through. Ted Bundy killing women with the same color and part of hair as the ex who dumped him is but one example.

This is a huge part of what is amazing about what Anziolitti managed to do with Cottingham. The dogged detective got the Monster to admit to a crime, yes, but he also got him to admit he was wrong with this case. That he shot himself in the foot, got caught, and – by extension – that Cottingham is not smarter than the law pursuing him.

That’s a win for justice in my book. It’s a hell of a thing that just doesn’t happen much.

A tip of the cap to Detective Anziolitti for pulling it off and fighting the good fight.

Journalist and dogged student of all things forensic, Wess Haubrich, examines the nitty, gritty details you didn’t know about famous (and not so famous but equally weird) crimes and their unseen motivations. Thanks for reading!

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Richard Cottingham.NY Post

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact:


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