The Iceman -THE HISTORY
Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski parlayed his penchant for violence into a hitman contract for some of the most prominent Mafia crime families, and is believed to have killed between 100-200 men.
“My friend, there’s more than one way to do it … there’s more than one way to skin something.”
—Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski
Born on April 11, 1935, Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski committed his first murder when he was 14. He grew up to become a Mafia hitman, known as “The Iceman” for often freezing his victims to obscure their time of death. Kuklinski was contracted by Newark’s DeCavalcante crime family and New York’s Five Families of the American Mafia. After being arrested in 1986, he became enamored with the spotlight, giving interviews to writers and psychiatrists, spilling about the myriad ways he’d killed his victims and bragging about how many lives he’d taken—up to 200. He died in prison in 2006.
Richard “The Iceman” Leonard Kuklinski was born on April 11, 1935, in the Polish section of Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Irish and Polish immigrants. His mother, Anna McNally, was a devout Catholic, and his father, Stanley, who worked on the railroad, was a violent alcoholic who beat him regularly. He was the second of four children, and his elder brother died from their parents’ abuse.
Kuklinski said that he began killing cats as a child and graduated to his first murder at the age of 14—a teen in a neighborhood gang—disposing of the body by removing any identifying markers; the body was never found. He told a prison interviewer later that his first kill made him feel “empowered.” By the eighth grade, Kuklinski had dropped out of school.
Emboldened by the kill, Kuklinski began killing anyone who annoyed him—loud-mouths who reminded him of his father, adversaries at the pool table, among various others. The west side of New York City became his testing ground, honing his “talents”; the police thought that bums were killing each other.
While working on a New Jersey loading dock, Kuklinski met his future wife, Barbara, a recent high school graduate who was working as a secretary at the trucking company. She discovered that he was already married with two boys, but he was romantic and persistent. When she eventually expressed doubts about marriage, he pierced her back with a hunting knife and told her that he couldn’t live without her, she later said.
They married, had three children and lived in suburban New Jersey, where he was an usher at mass, held backyard barbecues and organized trips to Disney World.
Kuklinski’s enthusiastic criminal career included robbery, hijackings and pornography, but murder was his forte. He earned Mafia respect at age 18 by efficiently and unquestioningly killing a random man selected for him on the sidewalk. He soon became the Genovese crime family’s indispensible hitman, known for thoroughly disposing of his victims—removing their teeth and fingers, or dumping them off bridges, in rivers or down mine shafts. He also worked for Newark’s DeCavalcante crime family and New York City’s Five Families, including the Gambinos.
At a towering 6’5″, weighing an eventual 300 pounds, Kuklinski had an imposing and fearsome bearing. His resume for killing included guns, ice picks, hand grenades, crossbows and chainsaws, but his favorite method of murder, he’d later proudly confess, was a nasal-spray bottle filled with cyanide. Kuklinski would later say that he learned many of these tactics from fellow hitman Robert Pronge, also known as “Mister Softee” because he drove an ice cream truck as his cover. Kuklinski earned the moniker “The Iceman” for freezing many of his victims to obfuscate their time of death.
Prison and Death
Richard Kuklinski was caught in December 1986, at age 51, and incarcerated for life in 1988. In prison, he granted interviews with writers, psychiatrists and criminologists, waxing hyperbolic about how many men he killed—up to 200—and appearing in two HBO documentaries. He first denied then claimed involvement in the death of teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance and death.
Kuklinski died on March 5, 2006, in Trenton, New Jersey, under mysterious circumstances. He was set to testify in another crime family murder, and had told family members prior to his death that he was being poisoned. Law-enforcement officials believe that Kuklinski was responsible for somewhere between 100-200 murders.