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How a Detective Helped Nail Torso Killer Richard Cottingham From the Grave


On Thursday, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department dispatched Det’s widow. Pat Bellotti links to press conference live stream to announce that his final case has culminated a new murder charge against the so-called Torso Killer—Two decades after her husband started doing it.

Mary Bellotti told The Daily Beast: “Fortunately, everything he does has a happy ending.

Pat Belotti was always a man of great majesty before a lengthy battle with terminal cancer, putting him on administrative duty with the Long Island County homicide squad in 2003. But he does. still known as a warm person—in the words of his wife, “a giant that caresses a bear”—and he is particularly moved by cases involving children.

That included his final investigation, which he conducted in 2003 after reading a letter to the murder squad from a 3-year-old woman when her mother was sexually assaulted and suffocated. in her car in the parking lot of a shopping center 35 years earlier.

This case of colder than cold might have been forgotten if Bellotti had put the letter aside. Instead, he called his now grown daughter, Darlene Altman, and then went to see the leader of the killing squad, Dennis Farrell.

“Pat came into my office, he said, ‘Hey boss, I was just on the phone with a very nice woman and she said her mother was the victim of a murder in 1968. at Valley Stream,” Farrell told The Daily Beast. “I think overall and the content was that the woman said to him, ‘You know, I know there’s been a lot of advancement in police technology, the public works. investigation tool. Is there any chance you can look back at my mother’s case?’”

Farrell reminded Bellotti that the team was short on staff and already overloaded with current killings.

“I said, ‘Pat, I almost strangled because the crocodiles here are investigating these other cases. I had no one to assign that to,” Farrell recalls. “And he said, ‘Well, you know, I’m a detective. I can do this.”

Farrell will recall the protective impulse that comes when someone you care about is in an uphill battle with a serious illness. But Bellotti is truly still a detective in every important sense.

“I said, ‘Okay, let’s go do some research, come back, we’ll talk about it,’” Farrell recalls. “So he does.”

Illustration by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Courtesy of Darlene Altman

Bellotti went to the case file morgue to find out the reports of more than 100 detectives who had worked on the case early on. Records show 23-year-old Diane Cusick left home on February 15, 1968, to buy shoes at the nearby Green Acres Shopping Center. Her toddler daughter stayed at home with her grandparents, who became worried when Cusick didn’t return and went looking for her. They discovered Cusick’s car in the mall parking lot early in the morning. The grandfather found Cusick inside with duct tape over her mouth. He pulled it away, but she took her last breath.

Thirty-five years later, Bellotti invited Altman to the team for an interview.

“He took me into a conference room,” Altman recalls. “He had all the original case files from my mother’s case… like six large cardboard boxes. He sat and talked to me. He said that he had read my letter and that he was very touched by it. He was so warm and so kind. And he really understood what I was going through.”

She talks to The Daily Beast when she has to talk to Bellotti.

She said: ‘I’m very upset because I don’t remember anything about my mother. “I only knew what people told me because I was so young at the time. It was two months before my fourth birthday, so I don’t remember her. “

Her maternal grandparents adopted her after the murder.

“Then they became mom and dad instead of grandpa and grandpa,” she said. “My mother has twin brothers who are my uncles. So now they have become my brothers. It really affected my whole life.

“And unfortunately, no one in my family understands that. My mother’s memory has ceased to exist. She was not mentioned. “

“But I have to say very clearly that my grandparents were wonderful, wonderful people. They did a great job and everything they could do for me was of interest. I am number one to them and nothing they do is intentional and they don’t realize how much impact it will have on me. I guess they felt it was better not to talk about her. So they chose to do it that way.”

“Honestly, I feel like a fill-in for my mother. I grew up in her bedroom. I went to the same school as her. I took dance lessons where she taught dance. So it’s like I started where she left off, so let’s say, and that’s how I feel. But like I said, it’s not intentional. This is a tragedy for them. I mean, my grandparents were the ones who found her in her car. So I completely understand their position in this.”

Illustration by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Courtesy of Darlene Altman

She said that she had always been very interested in crime shows on television.

“Fiction and non-fiction,” she recalls. “DNA is evolving. Over the years, I’ve said, ‘There can be hope. Maybe they can find out who did this. ‘”

She notes that TV shows almost always end with the bad guys getting justice.

“I always say, ‘Oh, I wish this could happen to me; Maybe one day,” she said.

Then she sent the letter to the murder team

“I don’t remember exactly what prompted me to write it,” she told The Daily Beast. “I guess maybe I just need to be heard. I just need to see if maybe something can be done to solve it. “

She found in Bellotti someone trying to see it from her point of view, someone listening.

“Finally, I was heard,” she later said of their first meeting. “Someone who understands how I have felt and what I have lived through all these years. I am explaining to him how this affects my whole life. And he promised me that he would take care of the case. And he did and he kept in touch with me every step of the way to let me know where they were, what they were doing.”

Bellotti located Cusick’s clothes and brought her panties and panties to the medical examiner’s office. Words about confirmed traces of semen.

“It was good news,” Farrell recalls. “The bad news is that in 2003, you still needed a fairly large sample to make any sort of final judgment.”

But Bellotti makes sure the clothes stay in place.

“If he hadn’t, I think it would have been lost,” Farrell said.

Over the next few months, Belotti continued to visit Altman periodically.

In 2004, realizing she hadn’t heard from him in a while, she called the team and was told he was leaving the department.

The cancer was proven to beat even someone as strong as Bellotti. He died in 2005.

Illustration by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Courtesy of Darlene Altman

In June of last year, Nassau County Det. Daniel Finn took over the case. Current technology makes it possible to match traces of semen with DNA records in a federal database of serial killers incarcerated in New Jersey since 1981.

Richard Cottingham, now 75 and ailing, is a New Jersey father of three who is known as the Times Square Killer because he murdered some of his victims there. and Torso’s killer to number some of them. He has been convicted of or confessed to 11 murders, beginning with a New Jersey mother-of-two in October 1967, and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Altman and one of her two sons live in Florida. Local police were at her apartment and said Nassau County police needed to contact her. At first, she feared something had happened to her other son, who now lives in New York, so she called him to make sure he was okay and then called the number that the police provided her. She talks to Finn, who seems as kind and caring as Belotti.

“He was amazing,” Altman told The Daily Beast.

Finn explains that the man they feel certain killed her mother is being charged with murder. Altman, now 58, says: “The day has finally come after 54 years.

On Thursday, Cottingham was sorted via video link from his hospital bed in New Jersey to the Nassau County Superior Court. Altman was present in the courtroom and later said she was glad she did not meet Cottingham in person. She told The Daily Beast that the evil in the monster’s look was all the more apparent because a yellow surgical mask covered the rest of the face.

“You just saw those eyes,” she said.

After the proceedings, Altman and Farrell talked for a while about Bellotti.

“He was such a good man,” she said.

Altman then joined Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly in a press conference. Mary Bellotti watched from afar with her two eldest sons, one of whom is now a Port Authority Police Officer. She then talks about her husband and how much the case means to him, recalling his motto, printed on the holy card to warn him: “It’s good to be important, but it’s important. rather than good”.



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