Richard Kuklinski: The Ice That Melted

Robert Kuklinski's mugshot after he was detained | Courtesy of Wikipedia
Robert Kuklinski's mugshot after he was detained | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Richard Kuklinski appeared to be a stereotypical, suburban dad, mowing the lawn and cooking hot dogs every Saturday. With his wife and three kids and his office job, he was living the American dream. Just like any other father, he loved his family with all of his heart — he would take them to the fair, he would take them on vacation, and he would do just about anything for them. Except, what his family didn’t know was that instead of having an office job he was actually making money through contract killing.

When he was growing up, bullies abused him in school, because of his small size, and at home, his parents abused him too.1 Due to this lack of a healthy family and troubled childhood, Kuklinski went down a path of low self-control. This led him to make choices that were impulsive and thrill-seeking, and he learned to solve his problems with violence instead of using intelligence. All of these decisions led him into thinking that’s how he must live, and so, he killed his first victim at the age of 14.2

Kuklinski’s concoction of cyanide was put into these containers to spray at victims | Courtesy of fdanews

Kuklinski started his real crime career by selling pornographic movies to different mafias. Once affiliated with the mafia at the age of 16, he became a hit man for the Gambino family. He grew to be 6’5 and 300 pounds, and as he grew older, his lust for blood grew greater. He was a “pool shark” for the mafia, which meant that he went around collecting money from those who owed debts and killing those that needed to be killed. However, the one rule he made for himself was that he refused to kill women.3

Kuklinski’s favorite method of killing was cyanide poisoning, which involved him filling up little spray bottles with cyanide and spraying it into his victim’s face. Despite this preference for cyanide, he killed with many different things, including crossbows, ice picks, hang grenades, and an array of firearms. Over his lifetime, Kuklinski boasted completing over a hundred murders. His weapons got more creative with each kill that he was assigned. For Kuklinski, it was more than just murder — it was the thrill and the strategy to stay in the game of killing.4

Because of the abuse he received as a child and the hard lifestyle he led, hate brewed in him, where if someone rubbed him the wrong way, he’d want to kill that person. However, shortly after he left the mafia, he started killing more privately in 1983. As he got older, his crime rate slowed down. He started to kill for money rather than because an innate desire to kill.5

Kuklinski had the ability to kill people easily and without remorse, and so he used this skill to his advantage. Just as drug dealers work hard to make a great amount of money fast, Kuklinski reproduced that strategy by killing. Drug dealers do illegal acts which are considered high misdemeanors to third degree felonies. When they do get caught, many only get sent to jail for a couple of days, and they still get to keep the money they earned. However, the difference between Kuklinski and drug dealers is that he didn’t get caught. He had different strategies to help him escape the feds. For instance he froze his victims for long periods of time to mess up the “time of death,” giving him the name, “The Iceman.” In spite of all of his efforts, the feds ultimately caught him in the act in 1985.6

Richard Kuklinski’s mugshot after he was detained | Courtesy of Wikipedia

The state of New Jersey made a task force to catch Kuklinski, which they called “Operation Iceman.” A policeman with the name of Pat Kane investigated him with the help of one of Kuklinski’s long time friends. However, Kuklinski wasn’t as ignorant as he looked because he caught on to them. His friend had given him a new dose of cyanide to use for his next murder, but instead of using it rashly, he tried it on a dog. When he found that it wasn’t poisonous at all, he decided it was best to go home than to get caught with murder. Despite him not killing anyone that night, he was still arrested two hours later.7

Kuklinski was sentenced with two life sentences in 1988 for five accounts of murder. Although he had claimed to taking the lives of hundreds of people in an interview, none of these claims have been confirmed because of the tactics and precautions that Kuklinski took to evade the feds. Despite that, the idea of a man killing because he wanted to is just sickly to think about. However, with this lust for blood that he had, his claims might have well been true. Although Kuklinski was living “the American dream,” his exhilarating life had finally come to an end.8


  1. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2019, s.v. “Richard Kuklinski,” by Paul M. Klenowski.
  2. Larry K. Gaines and Roger LeRoy Miller, Criminal Justice in Action the Core (Boston: Cengage, 2017), 52.
  3. Andrew Jacobs, “Reality TV Confession Leads to Real-Life Conviction,” New York Times, February 21, 2003.
  4. Andrew Jacobs, “Reality TV Confession Leads to Real-Life Conviction,” New York Times, February 21, 2003.
  5. Andrew Jacobs, “Reality TV Confession Leads to Real-Life Conviction,” New York Times, February 21, 2003.
  6. Douglas Martin, “Richard Kuklinski, 70, a Killer of Many People and Many Ways,” New York Times, March 9, 2006.
  7. Reynolds Dodson,” Tracking the Iceman,” Reader’s Digest Vol. 149, no. 893 (1996): 181.
  8. John Edward Ruark, “A Chilling View into the Mind of a Serial Killer,” PsycCRITIQUES 58, no. 49 (2013).

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This Post Has 63 Comments

  1. Avatar

    It’s crazy to think that Richard Kuklinski killed his first victim when he was just 14 years old. I thought it was interesting that he would freeze his victims’ bodies to mess up the “time of death,” since it shows that he was very meticulous about his “work.” I also couldn’t believe that he had caught on to what the authorities were doing and figured out that his friend had given him a faulty dose of cyanide. This article goes to show that not everyone who appears to be a good person is, in fact, that person. There can be a whole different side to them that is only shown behind closed doors.

  2. Avatar

    A very interesting article. It is truly disturbing how he would kill for fun and to maintain a living. He had a family and none of them knew he was one of the best killers for the mafia. I wonder if the people he killed were mostly mafia members if that’s the case then if I was in the mafia I would have hired him to eliminate the enemies and competition. But what he did was horrific and gruesome and not okay.

  3. Avatar

    This article kept me wanting to read the next line. It is crazy to see a man who was abused by peers and parents, turn into a murderer who not only killed people, but enjoyed doing so and thought of new ways to do it. Additionally, the fact he was in a mafia at the age of 16 is insane, I was just getting my drivers license. Good article!

  4. Avatar

    The fact that he killed for the first time at fourteen years old and that he was associated with the mafia at sixteen years old is disturbing. How he saw his job as a game because of the abuse he encountered is shocking and troublesome. The way he could escape the feds by manipulating his victims or outsmarting them is a scary thought considering his active time killing people wasn’t too long ago.

  5. Avatar

    The fact that Richard Kuklinski didn’t have a motive towards the victims is scarier, he didn’t know the victims, he only wanted to kill for his own twisted desire of wanting to kill someone. I think that is dangerous because it would be different than being a “motivated killing” because there would be a relation between the killer and the victim. He also did it for money but it’s very scary that even nowadays murderers do not have remorse.

  6. Avatar

    It is very tragic that many people had to suffer and lose their lives due to Richard Kuklinski’s desire to murder. This is the craziest story ii have read due to the interesting facts on Richard Kuklinski. The fact that he was a murderer is so unfortunate and knowing that his first murder occurred when he was only 14 and had a relationship with the mafia at age 16 is beyond horrific.

  7. Avatar

    This was a chilling article to read from beginning to end. Richard really made himself look like a family man, except he was not. He then had a blood lust to kill people for. He worked for the mafia as a hitman and the way he killed was terrible. The way his life played out was sad to hear because it made him snap later on in life.

  8. Avatar

    Richard Kuklinski is an interesting case. If I’m comparing him to some other well-known serial killers and their tactics, his seem to be the most well thought out and constructed. I feel that his past trauma had to do with him being so diligent with his moves. The way that he progressively became more accustomed to the killing life style is also very sickening. The fact that Richard maintained a “family” and his killing habits, is very corrupt.

  9. Avatar

    This is a very different thing to learn compared to what other killers are known for. Richard Kuklinski was unfortunately an oddly clever person by freezing his victims in order the trick investigators through the time of death method. It’s also terrifying how he would just spray harmful chemicals on someone’s face to kill them and how he began at such a young age to work for the Mafia. The mafia is such a serious thing to even consider and it’s pretty sad that he ended up enjoying it while becoming such a blood thirsting person.

  10. Avatar

    This was an interesting article. People are strange at times, there is nothing more dangerous than a person with out a sense of morality. A person like this is unpredictable, granted Kuklinski had some morality considering he didn’t target children or women, regardless, enjoying taking a life if horrible. I don’t understand how humans can be so careless and brutal towards others.

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