Richard Kuklinski: The story of the Mafia hitman known as The Iceman

Known by his friends and family as the all-American man, Richard Kuklinski became one of the most prolific Mafia killers in history. Suspected of murdering around 200 people, the Iceman was a human killing machine.

An interviewer once put the question to Richard Kuklinski, "Do you liken yourself to an assassin?" The Iceman simply replied "Assassin? It sounds so exotic, I was just a murderer".

Richard Kuklinski, AKA The Iceman, was convicted of the murder of six people, however, he claimed he had killed hundreds of people, even claiming to have killed at least a hundred people whilst still in his youth, authorities believed him.

Richard Kuklinski was born on April 11, 1935, in Jersey City, his father was an aggressive drunk who often beat him severely, whilst his mother was described as 'stern' and extremely religious.

Kuklinski's father's beatings were that aggressive that he actually killed The Iceman's older brother, claiming to the authorities that he fell down the stairs.

Richard Kuklinski spent his life giving back the violence and beatings he had received as a child back to the world throughout his lifetime. Kuklinski admitted that in his younger years he would torture and kill stray dogs and family cats in heinous ways, sometimes to simply see how long it would take them to die.

Whilst in the eighth grade Kuklinski dropped out of school at the age of 14, he beat the local town bully to death that very same year.

The Iceman grew from a young abused boy into a mountain of a man, he grew to be six feet, five inches tall and weighing just under 300 pounds.

Richard Kuklinski pictured here with his wife Barbara Kuklinski
Richard Kuklinski pictured here with his wife Barbara Kuklinski

By the time the 1950s came around, Richard Kuklinski became involved with organised crime and was introduced into the Mafia world.

Kuklinski ended up getting himself in debt to a mob associate Roy DeMeo, the mob man sent a group of men to issue a heavy beating to Kuklinski in order to force him into repaying his debt. The way that Kuklinski accepted and took a such a beating from the mobsters impressed the Mafia men, after he paid off his debt they brought him into the mob as an associate.

Richard Kuklinski quickly turned into a heavy-duty criminal, becoming involved in robberies, trafficking pornography and dishing out vicious beatings to those that the mob wanted to send a message to.

Kuklinski's ability to recover debts and make money for the DeMeo crime gang quickly earned him respect in the underworld. Later on in his criminal career he would come to the attention of the Gambino crime family.

At this time Kuklinski wasn't a hitman or professional killer, he had just killed before, but never in a planned scenario, that quickly changed when he became involved with the big players within the world of organised crime.

Richard Kuklinski was seen by those outside of his criminal life as a normal family man
Richard Kuklinski was seen by those outside of his criminal life as a normal family man

Richard Kuklinski's reputation soon spread through the hierarchy of the high level mob bosses, in particular the notorious DeCavalcante family, they hired him for his first major gang murder.

The Iceman carried out his new career position with extreme violence and brutality, but also with perfect precision and intelligence.

Kuklinski even started killing people for simply annoying him or those he believed had done him wrong in the past, he says other times he killed at random, just for the sake of killing.

Richard Kuklinski became proficient in various different ways of committing murder, he shot, stabbed, strangled, poisoned and even beat some of his victims to death with his hands. The mix of ways Kuklinski killed his victims prevented the police from presuming that the increase in murders in the area were all down to one man.

Kuklinski himself claimed that one of his favourite choice of weapon was a nasal-spray bottle that he filled with cyanide, he described this as being an easy way to almost guarantee the target would die, whilst being easy to disguise.

His criminal colleagues, hardened killers themselves, even started to find Kuklinski's willingness to commit murder without hesitation disturbing, often referring to him as the "devil."

Kuklinski said that when it came to murder he had two simple rules, no women and no children. After that he said he would kill whoever, however.

In Richard Kuklinski's famous prison interview (shown above) he recalled getting read to kill a man who was praying and begging for him to spare him. Kuklinski said to the man that he could have 30 minutes to pray to God, to see if God would come and change the circumstances.

“But God never showed up and he never changed the circumstances and that was that. It wasn’t too nice. That’s one thing, I shouldn’t have done that one. I shouldn’t have done it that way,” Kuklinski said.

Richard Kuklinski as a young man
Richard Kuklinski AKA the Iceman, pictured in his younger days

Kuklinski was not just a violent brute, he was intelligent and had a skill for avoiding the authorities. He would frequently remove the teeth and even the fingers of his victims to make it more difficult for them to be identified. He would also melt the bodies in oil drums or put them in the back of cars that were waiting to be crushed.

Famously he would leave his victims bodies in large freezers, dumping them in a visible location several months or sometimes even years later, this would give the impression that the deceased had recently been killed, ensuring Kuklinski would never be suspected. This technique was what gave him the nickname, the Iceman.

in 1961, Richard Kuklinski married his wife, Barbara. Barbara Kuklinski had no idea that by the time she met her future husband, he had already killed approximately 65 people. The married couple went on to have three children together, their New Jersey neighbours saw them as an everyday nice family.

Richard and Barbara Kuklinski lived a good life, their children attended posh private school, they went on holiday to Disneyland and hosted parties in the backyard for the neighbours.

When the police finally arrested Kuklinski, his wife Barbara still had no idea what he husband had done or was being accused of.

Although Barbara Kuklinski did not know of her husbands violent career choice, she was fully aware that he had a bad temper, when Richard Kuklinski would have a bad day he would frequently beat her, breaking her nose on one occasion.

“I used to call it anger — it was way beyond anger. He was sick,” she said later on in an interview. Still, she claimed that she never suspected he was a killer. “I’ll be the first one to say, maybe I was naive, because I never saw anything like that, my family never did anything like that.”

Richard Kuklinski managed to keep up his family man image by separating his home life from his work life for 25 years. He never spoke to his criminal associates about his family, or where he lived, he did very little socialising outside of his work life.

Kuklinski stayed away from drugs and prostitutes which was unlike many of his criminal colleagues, he kept it simple, he was an employee of the mob.

After 25 years of working as a killer for the Mafia, Kuklinski started his own crime syndicate, and he quickly began to make mistakes.

The undoing of the Iceman came via a man called Phil Solimene, he was a local Mafia man who was the closest thing to a friend that Kuklinski had.

Solimene got involved in setting up Kuklinski in an ATF sting operation, he told Kuklinski that a man by the name of Dominick Polifrone was a potential client for him. Dominick Polifrone went to Kuklinski with a job offer, he then proceeded to record Kuklinski's offer of murder in exchange for money.

This was the the downfall of Richard Kuklinski, the Iceman.

In 1986, Richard and Barbara Kuklinski were on their way to breakfast when a group of unmarked police cars surrounded them, guns drawn and pointed at their heads. Pat Kane, the lead police investigator in the case went over to Barbara and simply said to her, "He's a murderer."

Richard Kuklinski was charged with five murders, when his case went to trial in 1988 he was found guilty of four of the five murders, he was later convicted of two more murders and was given consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole.

Detective Pat Kane said publicly that he believed Richard Kuklinski killed as many as 300 men, saying, "He killed who he wanted, whenever he wanted.”

Richard Kuklinski walking into court
Richard Kuklinski never showed any remorse for any of his victims

Richard Kuklinski went on to say “I’ve never felt sorry for anything I’ve done. Other than hurting my family. I do want my family to forgive me.”

Kuklinski served 25 years in prison when his health started to deteriorate. He was diagnosed with incurable inflammation of the blood vessels in 2005, eventually resulting in him being transferred to hospital where Barbara Kuklinski would go and visit him for one last time.

Richard Kuklinski was in and out of consciousness at the time, but he did ask doctors to revive him if he flatlined, however, when Barbara left the hospital she signed a do-not-resuscitate form.

A week before Kuklinski died, the hospital made a phone call to Barbara to ask her if she had changed her mind about the forms she signed, she hadn't.

Richard Kuklinski, the Iceman died on March 5, 2006.

If you enjoyed reading this story, then take a look at our story on The Truck Stop Killer

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