A firefighter at the scene, inside the then-seedy Travel Inn at 515 West 42nd Street, grabbed one of the women and brought her outside to a hallway. He was about to administer CPR before realizing she had no head or hands.
Neither did the other woman. Police determined that both had been killed, their bodies set on fire with lighter fluid, by a man who had arrived at the hotel using a fake name and phony New Jersey address.
The body was mutilated but mostly intact, and police identified her as a 25-year-old prostitute (one of the women from the Travel Inn had been as well, while the other was never officially ID’d).
The Ripper targeted vulnerable sex workers in an area so sleazy, a stretch of it was nicknamed “The Minnesota Strip” for all the teenage runaways from Middle America who ended up there.
It wasn’t long before police caught the Times Square Ripper. He was nabbed by New Jersey police later that month in a North Jersey motel, where he had tortured a teenage runaway.
After matching his fingerprints, comparing handwriting samples to his signature on the motel registry, and finding a “trophy room” in his home of items belonging to the dead women, the police had their man.
Richard Cottingham (left) was a mid-30s computer programmer who worked in Manhattan and lived in New Jersey with his family.
By all accounts a clean-cut guy, he was convicted of the murders of five women and sentenced to life in a New Jersey prison.
[Top photo: by Andreas Feininger, 1984; middle photo: the Travel Inn today; third photo: The Seville Hotel today, renamed the Carlton; fourth photo: Richard Cottingham]