Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski (April 11, 1935 – March 5, 2006) 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 Gambinos and DeMeo
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.
 State and federal manhunt
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, tied him up with tight strips of wet rawhide, which would constrict as they dried. The constriction would be so great as to cause strangulation and draw blood. He then left the man in a "cave" in the "wilderness" where he was eaten alive by rats that were attracted by the smell of blood. 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.
 Involvement with Jimmy Hoffa disappearance
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.