Richard Kuklinski was an all-American spouse to his family and neighbors in suburban New Jersey. He was known as the “Iceman murderer” by the Mafia and his victims as an unethical hitman.
Do you think of yourself as a killer?” Richard Kuklinski, or “The Iceman,” was once asked this question by an interviewer.
“Assassin? With a smirk and a little smile, the hitman said, “It sounds so exotic.” Then his expression became solemn. “I was nothing more than a murderer.”
Richard Kuklinski, often known as “The Iceman,” was found guilty of killing six people but claimed to have killed hundreds more. Was the Iceman killer, however, a serial liar or one of history’s worst mass murderers?
Richard Kuklinski was born in Jersey City on April 11, 1935, to an alcoholic father and a strict religious mother, both of whom often abused him. Kuklinski’s older brother, who authorities say tumbled down the stairs, died as a result of his father’s beatings.
Kuklinski returned the brutality he had received to the world. He tortured and killed stray animals and dogs in the neighborhood.
He dropped out of eighth grade and, at the age of 14, beat the town bully to death the following year.
The juvenile misanthrope grew to be a colossus, standing six feet five inches tall and weighing about 300 pounds.
Richard Kuklinski became connected with the mafia in the 1950s.
He became indebted to mob soldato Roy DeMeo, and when DeMeo sent men to beat him into paying up, Kuklinski’s stoicism impressed the hardened Mafia guy, who hired him as an associate when he paid up.
He morphed into an all-purpose criminal, trading illegal pornography, arranging robberies, and thrashing individuals who the mob thought ought to be warned.
His ability to handle sticky circumstances and constantly bring in revenue for the DeMeo crew gained him their admiration. It drew the attention of the Gambino crime family, of which DeMeo was a member, over time.
Kuklinski wasn’t a professional assassin at the time, but rather a hobbyist. But all of that was about to change.
Kuklinski’s name became known among organized crime’s elite, particularly the renowned DeCavalcante family, who recruited him for his first major gang homicide.
He threw himself into his new job with zeal, committing extracurricular murders for research — and to fulfill his personal desire for blood.
In 1954, he began making regular journeys from New Jersey to New York City, looking for victims on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. People who irritated him, or who he believed had slighted him in some way, were frequently his targets. Other times, he simply killed for the purpose of murdering.
His techniques were as varied as his victims; depending on his mood, he shot, stabbed, strangled, poisoned, or bludgeoned them. His weapon choice changed frequently, preventing the police from concluding that the rash of deaths in the area were the result of a single individual. He employed a variety of weapons, including ice picks and bare knuckles, as well as hand grenades.
A nasal-spray bottle packed with cyanide, according to a statement made by Richard Kuklinski, was his favorite.
Kuklinski proceeded to carry out DeMeo and the Gambinos’ assignments, and his readiness to kill without hesitation alarmed even his criminal associates, who began to refer to him as the “devil himself.”
He only had two rules in his life: no girlfriends and no children. Anything was fair game after that.
Richard Kuklinski recalls preparing to kill a man who was begging and asking for his life on one occasion. Kuklinski advised the man he could pray to God for 30 minutes to see if God would intervene.
“But God never appeared, and he never corrected the situation, and that was the end of it.” It wasn’t really pleasant. That’s one thing; I probably shouldn’t have done that. Kuklinski admitted, “I shouldn’t have done it that way.”
It was one of the few times Kuklinski acknowledged regret for what he had done.
How Richard Kuklinski Became a Master of Detection Avoidance
When it came to eluding the authorities, Kuklinski was extremely astute. To keep his victims from being identified, he frequently amputated their fingers and teeth. He melted them in oil barrels or left them to be crushed in the backs of junkyard automobiles. He’d sometimes toss them into the Hudson River or bury them in mine holes.
His favored tactic was to place the bodies of his victims in industrial freezers and then dispose of them months or years later. The corpses would look to have been slain recently when the police discovered them, and Kuklinski would never be suspected.
Kuklinski gained the moniker “Iceman” as a result of his skill.
The authorities initially assumed it was a case of homeless individuals attacking and killing each other. They had no idea that a merciless killer from New Jersey was planning to murder people at random in the city.
Kuklinski’s family was completely unaware of what was going on.
Barbara, his wife, he married in 1961. She had no idea that by the time they met, the man who doubled as the Iceman killer had allegedly committed 65 killings by the time they met. They had three children together and were the ideal all-American family to their suburban New Jersey neighbors.
They had a comfortable lifestyle. The children attended prestigious private schools, and the family enjoyed backyard barbecues by the pool and holiday excursions to Disneyland. Every Sunday, Kuklinski served as an usher at Mass.
Barbara had no idea what her husband had done to break the law when the cops finally caught up with him.
He did, however, have a temper, which she was aware of. Richard Kuklinski had terrible days, and when he was out of sorts, he was aggressive, hitting Barbara so hard that she broke her nose. He was notorious for leaving bruises.
“I used to call it rage, but it was so much more. She would later say, “He was unwell.” Despite this, she maintained that she had no suspicions that he was a murderer. “I’ll be the first to admit that I may have been naive, since I’ve never seen anything like that, and my family has never done anything like that.”
The Iceman Killer’s Plans Fall Apart
Richard Kuklinski maintained his family-man persona for 25 years by compartmentalizing his life. He never spoke about his personal life, family, or where he lived with the criminals with whom he worked; he never interacted outside of work.
He avoided narcotics and prostitutes, and he never purchased anything from the mob – he was an employee, not a client.
But, after 25 years as a mafia hitman, Kuklinski launched his own crime organization in the 1980s, and he began to make mistakes.
Phil Solimene, a local Mafia figure and Kuklinski’s closest buddy, was his undoing. Solimene assisted the ATF in a sting operation and introduced Kuklinski to ATF agent Dominick Polifrone as a potential client.
Polifrone approached Kuklinski with a job offer and then recorded Kuklinski’s promise to murder for money.
The Iceman’s journey has come to an end.
Unmarked automobiles surrounded Richard and Barbara Kuklinski on their way to breakfast one morning in 1986. The cops brandished their weapons at them. In the midst of her bewilderment, Pat Kane, the chief investigator, approached a heartbroken Barbara and stated flatly, “He’s a murderer.”
He was charged with five murders the next day and found guilty of four of them in 1988. He was eventually found guilty on two more counts and sentenced to life in prison.
“He killed anybody he wanted, whenever he wanted,” said Detective Pat Kane, who suspected the Iceman killer murdered as many as 300 men.
Kuklinski didn’t hold back after his arrest. Prosecutors, psychologists, reporters, criminologists, and newscasters — everyone who wanted to talk to him — were all given interviews.
“It was a man beseeching, imploring, and praying, I suppose.” And he was all over the place saying, ‘Please, God.’ So I told him he could have a half-hour to pray to God, and if God could come down and change the situation, he could have it. But God never showed up, never changed the situation, and that was the end of it. It wasn’t really pleasant.”
The Iceman, Richard Kuklinski
He appeared in two documentaries about his life and spoke openly about what he did and why he did it. He claimed he was paid $40,000 for killing Jimmy Hoffa, a known corrupt figure.
“I’ve never felt guilty for anything I’ve done,” he stated in a TV interview from prison. Apart from causing harm to my family. I sincerely hope that my family will forgive me.”
Kuklinski’s health began to deteriorate after 25 years in prison. In 2005, he was diagnosed with an incurable blood vessel inflammation and was admitted to the hospital, where Barbara would pay him one last visit.
In and out of consciousness, Kuklinski requested physicians to revive him if he should flatline in a moment of clarity.
Barbara, on the other hand, signed a Do-Not-Resuscitate form on her way out. They called her a week before he died to check whether she had changed her mind. She hadn’t done so.
The infamous Iceman Killer, Richard Kuklinski, died on March 5, 2006.
- Camisa, Harry; Franklin, Jim (January 1, 2003). “RICH JOHN AND THE ICEMAN”. Inside Out : Fifty Years Behind the Walls of New Jersey’s Trenton State Prison. Windsor, N.J.: Windsor Press. pp. 247–249. ISBN0-9726473-0-9. OCLC52937928.
- Dolan, Julia (December 18, 1986). “Man Charged With Killing Associates, Accomplices”. Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021.
- Ice Man: Tells of Killings”. The Record. Hackensack, New Jersey. September 2, 1993. pp. D2. Archived from the original on February 4, 2021.
- Douglas, Martin (March 9, 2006). “Richard Kuklinski, 70, a Killer of Many People and Many Ways, Dies”. The New York Times. ISSN0362-4331. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2019.