A 47-year-old New Jersey murder mystery was solved after a serial killer pled guilty to killing the two victims who were teenage friends. The serial killer confessed to kidnapping and killing the two teens. In 1974, Mary Ann Pryor, 17, and Lorraine Marie Kelly, 16, went missing on a scheduled trip to a Paramus mall.

New Jersey man pled guilty in 1974 murder case

According to witnesses, the girls were hitchhiking and had taken a ride in a man's vehicle. Richard Cottingham, 74, also identified as the "Torso Killer," pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping the girls before drowning them in a motel room bathtub at a court appearance Tuesday. 

On August 9, 1974, Pryor and Kelly were last seen walking together on Broad Avenue in Ridgefield, New Jersey. Witnesses said they saw the two girls hitchhiking and getting into a car with an unnamed white man, CBS News New York reported.

Since failing to return home that night, the teens have been missing. Their remains were discovered five days later, according to the prosecutor's office.

Lorraine was allegedly discovered wearing a beaded bracelet and a necklace with the words "Lorraine and Ricky," a reference to her boyfriend. Mary Ann was found wearing a gold cross that had been given to her by her godfather.

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In a statement, Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said, "Today is a somber day as we remember the heinous actions of terror this man brought upon Bergen County nearly 50 years ago." Cottingham, 73, is charged with two more counts of murder for his confession on Tuesday, which he gave to Chief of Detectives Robert Anzilotti, who has been questioning Cottingham for the past 15 years to see if he was involved in any other killings.

Cottingham's defense counsel, John Bruno, reportedly said that he wanted to bring justice to the girls' families. Bruno said, "He's glad this shadow hanging over his head for many, many years is now gone," as per The Associated Press.

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His defense attorney, John Bruno, reportedly said that Cottingham hoped to bring the girls' families closure. Bruno did not respond to a PEOPLE's request for comment. Cottingham has now been sentenced to life at the state prison. Authorities have so far identified him to 11 homicides, including three that he admitted to last year, though they believed the death rate is likely to rise.

He's been dubbed the "Torso Killer" because he dismembers his victims by removing their limbs and heads, leaving behind their torsos. The Associated Press said he had taken responsibility for up to 100 killings. Cottingham only spoke with one- and two-word answers during Tuesday's hearing while responding to questions from state Superior Court Judge Keith Bachmann and prosecutors, as per the NBC News.

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