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
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly announced that a New Jersey man was arraigned today on murder charges for the February 1968 murder of a New Hyde Park woman in the parking lot of Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream.
Richard Cottingham, 75, of the South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, N.J., was arraigned virtually before Judge Caryn Fink on a grand jury indictment, charging him with one count of Murder in the Second Degree (an A-I felony). The defendant pleaded not guilty and was remanded. If convicted of the top charge, the defendant faces a potential maximum of 25 years to life in prison. His case is due back in court on August 18, 2022.
“Diane Cusick, a 23-year-old mother, called her parents on the night of February 15, 1968, to tell them she was going to the mall to purchase shoes. She never returned home. Cusick was allegedly bound and murdered by Richard Cottingham,” said DA Donnelly. “It was only through advances in DNA technology that the NCDA and our partners at the Nassau County Police Department, could solve this 54-year-old cold case and identify a suspect in Ms. Cusick’s tragic death. We make a promise to her surviving daughter today: we will bring her mother’s killer to justice.”
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 allegedly 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.
This case is being prosecuted by Chief Jared Rosenblatt of the Homicide Bureau. The defendant is represented by Jeffrey Groder, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.