A serial killer stalks Times Square in the 1970s

Timessquare1984mcnyfeiningerThe first two women were found on separate twin beds in a hotel room in flames in December 1979.

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.

TravelinnThen in May 1980, another woman’s body was found in a room at the low-rent Seville Hotel on East 29th Street after a fire had been set there.

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).

CarltonhotelwikiThe similarities between the two crime scenes led law enforcement to dub the killer the “Times Square Ripper.”

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.

RichardcottinghamRichard 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]

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4 Responses to “A serial killer stalks Times Square in the 1970s”

  1. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    Here’s my article on why it was called The Minnesota Strip http://frequentlyfelt.blogspot.in/2014/10/minnesota-strip-why-nyc-street-was.html?zx=f328638cca8d4aae

  2. Tom B Says:

    The good old NYC. Dam Rudy. (sarcasm) I just don’t get why hipsters think it was a better time back then. I only miss the mom & pop stores.

    • Lisa Says:

      Fun City certainly wasn’t ‘better’ by any stretch of the imagination, what it was was more authentic/ distinctive.

  3. Michael Gardner Says:

    I remember the 1979 murders – I was in an old magazine shop around that area (48th or 49th street on B’way – I was 12 at the time) when I heard the news report of the crime on the store’s radio and I was absolutely horrified at the brutality of it. I never forgot that crime, but it wasn’t until I came across this page that I found out what happened or if anyone was caught.

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