Richard Kuklinski PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 March 2009 17:09

Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski

Born: April 11, 1935, Jersey City, New Jersey

Died: March 5, 2006

Age: 70

Cause of death: Natural causes while in prison.

Notable because:  A Catholic and a suburban family man with three children was actually a 50K per hit - extreme contract killer claiming over 200 assignments and regretting only one - where he gave his praying victim 30 minutes for God to save him, prolonging his torture hopelessly.

Kuklinski was a convicted murderer and notorious contract killer. He worked for several Italian-American crime families, and claimed to have murdered over 200 people over a career that lasted forty-three years; he killed his first victim at age fourteen.

He was the older brother of the convicted rapist and murderer Joseph Kuklinski.

Richard Leonard Kuklinski was the second of four children born to Stanley Kuklinsky and Anna Kuklinsky (née McNally) of Polish and Irish origin. Kuklinski was born on April 11, 1935 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His mother Anna was born in Dublin and her parents emigrated to Jersey City in 1904. His father Stanley had emigrated from Warsaw, Poland and after a three month courtship married Anna, Richard's mother, in July 1925.

Association with the Gambino crime family came through his relationship with the mobster Roy DeMeo. This relationship started because Richard owed an associate of Demeo's a lot of money, so DeMeo was sent to 'talk' with Richard Kuklinski. He and his gang of serial killers pistol whipped Richard into a bloody pulp, a move for which Richard may eventually have killed DeMeo. However, Richard didn't avenge this action for many years, as he knew people would link the murder of DeMeo with himself, and he could very well be murdered in turn for it. Moreover, Richard realized DeMeo could offer Richard a lot of 'work', thus plenty of money, so after he paid back the money he owed, he began staging robberies and other assignments for the family, one of which was pirating pornographic tapes. But soon his talent for killing was realized, and he stood out amongst his associates, standing 6 feet and 5 inches and weighing 300 lb. DeMeo decided to put him to the test. One day, he took Kuklinski out in his car and they parked on a city street. DeMeo then selected an apparently random target, a man out walking his dog. He then told Kuklinski to kill him. Without questioning the order, Kuklinski got out and walked towards the man. As he passed him, he turned and shot the man in the back of the head. From then on, Kuklinski was DeMeo's favorite enforcer. In fact DeMeo thought of Richard as a sort of 'secret weapon' that he had moulded himself.

Over the next thirty years, according to Kuklinski, he killed numerous people, either by gun, strangulation, knife, or poison. The exact number has never been settled upon by authorities, and Kuklinski himself at various times claimed to have killed between 100 and 130 individuals. He favored the use of cyanide since it killed quickly and was hard to detect in a toxicology test. He would variously administer it by injection, putting it on a person's food, by aerosol spray, or by simply spilling it on the victim's skin. One of his favorite methods of disposing of a body was to place it in a 55-gallon oil drum. His other disposal methods included dismemberment, burial, or placing the body in the trunk of a car and having it crushed in a junkyard. He also claimed to have left bodies sitting on park benches, thrown bodies down "bottomless pits" and fed still-alive victims to giant rats in Pennsylvania.

Despite Kuklinski's claims that he was a frequent killer for DeMeo, none of DeMeo's crew members that later became witnesses for the government admitted that Kuklinski was involved in the murders they committed. Only photographed on one occasion at the Gemini Lounge, he reportedly visited the club to purchase a handgun from the Brooklyn crew. Kuklinski claimed to have been responsible for the 1983 murder of Roy DeMeo, although the available evidence and testimony points to the murderers being fellow DeMeo crew associates Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter as well as DeMeo's supervisor in the Gambino family, Anthony Gaggi

According to Kuklinski, at the same time he was allegedly a career hit man, he met and married Barbara Pedrici, and later fathered two daughters and a son. His family and neighbors were never aware of his activities, instead believing that he was a successful businessman. Sometimes he would get up and leave the house at any time of the day or night to do a job, even if it was in the middle of dinner.

Initially nicknamed "The Polack" by his Italian associates because of his Polish heritage, Kuklinski earned the nickname "Iceman" following his experiments with disguising the time of death of his victims by freezing their corpses in an industrial freezer. Kuklinski himself claims that he used a Mister Softee ice cream truck for this purpose, although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) doubts the veracity of this claim. Later, he told author Philip Carlo that he got the idea from a hitman nicknamed "Mister Softee", who drove a Mister Softee truck to appear inconspicuous. Kuklinski's method was uncovered by the authorities when Kuklinski failed to let one of his victims properly thaw before disposing of the body on a warm summer's night, and the coroner found chunks of ice in the corpse's heart.

Kuklinski became friendly with a man named Robert Pronge, the man nicknamed Mister Softee. Pronge supposedly was a military-trained demolitions technician. It was from him that Kuklinski learned of the different methods of using cyanide to kill his victims. Kuklinski also claimed to have purchased remotely detonated hand grenades from Pronge. Kuklinski later stated that Mister Softee was "extremely crazy," after Pronge allegedly asked him to carry out a hit on Pronge's own wife and child. In 1984, Robert Pronge was found shot to death in his truck. Kuklinski claims to have murdered Pronge, fearing that one day Pronge would kill him.

When the authorities finally caught up with Kuklinski in 1986, they based their case almost entirely on the testimony of an undercover agent. New Jersey State Police detective Pat Kane started the case 6 years prior to the arrest and the investigation involved a joint operation with the New Jersey Attorney General's office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Special Agent Dominick Polifrone had undercover experience specializing in Mafia cases. The New Jersey State Police and the Bureau began a joint operation. Detective Kane recruited Phil Solimene, a close friend of Kuklinski, who introduced undercover agent Polifrone to the killer. The Bureau agent had acted like he wanted to hire Kuklinski for a hit, and recorded him speaking in detail about how he would do it. When state police and federal agents went to arrest Kuklinski they blocked off his street, and it took multiple officers to bring him down. In the process of doing so Mrs. Kuklinski was also arrested and charged with gun possession because the car was in fact registered under her name. When Mrs. Kuklinski was arrested, a police officer put his boot on her back while detaining her. This enraged Kuklinski, and that is one of the reasons why they needed multiple officers to bring him down.

During his incarceration, Kuklinski granted interviews to prosecutors, psychiatrists, criminologists, writers, and television producers about his criminal career, upbringing, and personal life. Two documentaries, featuring interviews of Kuklinski by Dr. Park Dietz (best-known for his interviews with and analysis of Jeffrey Dahmer) aired on HBO after interviews in 1991 and 2001. Philip Carlo also wrote a book in 2006, entitled The Ice Man.

In one interview, Kuklinski claimed that he would never kill a child and "most likely wouldn't kill a woman". He also confessed that once he had wanted to use a crossbow to carry out a hit but did not want to use the method without having "tested" it first. While driving his car, he picked a man at random to stop and ask for directions. Kuklinski told the HBO interviewer that when the man bent forward, he shot him in the forehead with the crossbow and stated "it went half-way into his head".

He also claimed that he once kidnapped one of his victims, and rather than conventionally murder him, bound him with rope. He then left the man in a "cave" in the "wilderness" where he was eaten alive by rats that were attracted by the man's cries. Kuklinski claimed he filmed the man’s death as proof to the buyer that the man suffered before he died.

In one interview, Kuklinski confessed that he regretted only one murder, which he deemed particularly cruel. As he was about to kill a man, the man began praying to God for his life. Kuklinski told him that he would give God thirty minutes to save the man, but once the time was up, he would be killed. Forcing the man to wait thirty minutes for his demise struck Kuklinski as his most sadistic murder.

Kuklinski died of unknown causes at the age of 70 at 1:15 a.m. on March 5, 2006. He was in a secure wing at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey at the time. Authorities said they believed he died of natural causes although the timing of his death has been labeled suspicious. Kuklinski was scheduled to testify that former Gambino crime family underboss Sammy Gravano had ordered him to murder New York Police Department Detective Peter Calabro. Kuklinski had admitted to murdering Det. Calabro with a shotgun on the night of March 14, 1980. He denied knowing that Calabro was a police officer, but said he would have murdered him regardless. At the time, Gravano was already incarcerated for an unrelated charge, serving a 19 year prison sentence for running an ecstasy ring in Arizona. Kuklinski also stated to family members that he thought "they" were poisoning him. A few days after Kuklinski's death, prosecutors dropped all charges against Gravano, saying that without Kuklinski's testimony there was insufficient evidence to continue.

In April 2006, news reports surfaced that Kuklinski had confessed to author Philip Carlo that he was part of a group who kidnapped famed union boss Jimmy Hoffa. However, during the earlier HBO interview he denied any knowledge of Hoffa's fate. Kuklinski claimed that he had only heard rumors, specifically, that Hoffa had been killed, put in a barrel, placed into a Toyota car which was compacted with other cars, and shipped overseas. Interestingly, these were Kuklinski's preffered methods of corpse disposal. It is unclear whether Kuklinski was being honest about his involvement, or honest about his lack thereof.


Richard Kuklinski was born April 11, 1935 in a low income housing project in Jersey City. His father was a brakeman for the railroad, while his mother worked in a meat packing facility. He didn't like his father, who beat him whenever he felt like it, for no reason whatsoever. His mother was also very abusive, striking Richard with broomsticks and other objects when he didn't do exactly what he wanted. He was raised in a strong Catholic environment and his mother was extremely strict.

He grew up going to a Catholic grammar school and worked as an altar boy in the church. His father abandoned the family, leaving Richard on the streets to fend for himself. By the time he was sixteen, he was already reputable on the streets and took out anyone that got in his way. He once used a bar from a clothes line to severely beat six young men from a street gang who accosted him on the street.

He expressed an unbelievable cruelty to animals. For pastimes, he would tie the tails of cats together and throw them over a clothesline to watch them tear each other apart. He would also put cats into the apartment building's incinerator to watch them burn alive. He also took dogs up to the roof of the building to throw them off and tie them to the bumpers of city buses.

Richard was known for being very offensive, not hesitating to strike anyone that rubbed him the wrong way. He always carried at least two derengers and a knife on his person while on the streets for protection. He stated that his first murder was in 1949 at the age of fourteen, when he beat a bully to the death. He felt terrible the first time and was very upset since the death was unintentional. However, he also felt a rush and began to love the rush and feeling of power that he got from beating other people or killing them.

By the 1960s, he had become a well known street tough and pool hustler. In 1960 he met a woman named Barbara, who thought he was incredibly sweet by delivering flowers to her door every day and buying her gifts frequently. They had three children, but he was not able to get a good enough job to support the family since he only had an eighth grade education. He worked at a film lab, where he pirated pornographic films and sold them to people connected with the Gambino Crime Family.

Soon he was doing hit jobs for the family, working with a gang that operated from the Gemini Lounge in Brooklyn. Kuklinski's brutality allowed him to collect money from debtors, who paid with either their money, or their lives. In the basement of the Gemini Lounge, bodies were hacked up and carried out wrapped in plastic to be disposed of. Because of the fear that Kuklinski inspired in people, most people repaid their debts to the family.

One man tried to hide behind a door when Kuklinski arrived, but he saw the man's movement behind the door. When the man looked through the peephole, Kuklinski fired a gun through the peephole, killing the man.

Among his methods of torture, Richard used a chainsaw to dismember people while they were still alive. He described it as messy, but he was willing to do things such as remove a man's tongue and insert it in the man's anus to send a message across.

Richard was an expert in using cyanide (the same chemical used in gas chambers) to poison people. He would put it in liquid form and put it in their drink or merely dump it on them in a bar, where it would go through their sweat pores and go into their bloodstream, eventually killing them. His methods of disposing of bodies consisted of putting them in cars that are crushed, sides of roads, park benches, steel drums, and water bodies.

By the 1970s, Richard had become very wealthy from being a hitman. He lived in an expensive middle-class home in a good neighborhood with his wife and children. He charged at least $50,000 per hit and told his family and neighbors that he was a businessman. His wife never questioned his behavior, even though he left at odd hours and kept his business extremely quiet.

His wife and children had no idea of his real occupation and to outsiders they seemed like a perfect family. He hated traveling and returned as soon as he could to be with his family as much as possible. He made sure that his family was never given the same horrible childhood experiences that he had endured during his own childhood. He was fascinated by the loving environment he experienced with his family since he had never known such love before.

Once, while his family was celebrating on Christmas Eve, he had to go out to collect some money. The man was giving Richard the runaround and he killed the man in his car with a handgun. He returned home to his family and put toys together for his kids for Christmas while he watched the newsreel on the murder.

By the 1980s, he had become the leading man in a crime ring. On one day, Paul Hoffman, a pharmacist, met with Richard to purchase Tagament and make a profit. When Hoffman showed up, he carried $25,000 in cash, Richard put the gun under his chin, saying "There is no merchandise" and shot him. The shot didn't kill Hoffman and he lay on the floor with blood pouring out, but Richard couldn't kill him since his gun had jammed. He used a tire iron to finish him off, put his corpse in a steel drum, and left it by a hotel, where it sat for several weeks.

He became involved in pornography, narcotics, contract killing, and gambling on a worldwide scale. His hits started to get sloppy and he began leaving behind evidence, which caused the FBI and police to keep a closer eye on him.

On December 27, 1982, the body of a man named Gary Smith was found in a hotel room, poisoned with cyanide and strangled to death. Twenty people used the room before the body was found under the bed, decomposing rapidly. Since Richard had left strangulation marks, it was obvious that the man was the victim of a murder.

On September 25, 1983, the body of Louis Masgay was found in a park. Richard had frozen the body two years before dumping it to confuse the time of death, earning him the nickname iceman from investigators. Unfortunately the body wasn't fully thawed before it was found and the forensics investigators discovered foul play was involved.

Another body was found on May 14, 1983 on a secluded bicycle trail. The man was named Daniel Deppner and was the third business associate of Richard to be found dead in the past year. After a few more months, two more bodies were found, whose last contact had been with Richard Kuklinski, implicating him in their murders. The police had been investigating him for three years and began to close their net on him.

In 1986, a task force of state, local, and federal authorities was set up solely to investigate past and current evidence possibly related to Richard Kuklinski. They found that the murders were diverse and didn't appear to have many connections, therefore they put an undercover agent in place to gather evidence that could put Kuklinski on trial. The agent was named Dominick Polifrone and told Kuklinski that he was also a hit man, working for wise guys in downtown New York. He recorded Kuklinski talking about his murders and offering to perform a hit for him. It became apparent to investigators that Richard was planning on killing the agent, since he was so open about his murders and past experiences with him.

On December 17, 1986, the task force set up a road block and arrested Kuklinski. It took five people to restrain the huge man and put him in a vehicle. He was charged with five murders initially and his court trial was widely televised. He confessed to all of the murders, referring to the matter as business. His family was totally shocked and horrified, refusing to believe that Richard was a contract killer. He is considered one of the most diabolical killers in history and was sentenced to two lifetimes in prison, making him first eligible for parole at the age of 111.

Over his lifetime, he claims to have killed over two hundred people. He says that he feels no remorse for murdering people, but probably wouldn't do it if he didn't have to. He says that he doesn't think about his actions because they do bother him if he thinks about them enough. He regrets being a hit man since he now feels that he could have done something better. When he was interviewed in 1991 for a documentary, he showed little emotion, except when asked about the impact on his family, at which point he began tearing up.


Last Updated on Friday, 06 March 2009 17:21

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