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 67 Comments

  1. Avatar
    James Disrud

    This is a very interesting article I had no past knowledge about Richard Kuklinski. Its shocking the turn he made to become such a prolific killer, but you can see how his tragic past shaped him.He would do horrible things to his victims which he enjoyed doing . This article was very well written and it gives a good look into a serial killer.

  2. Avatar
    Sierra Salas

    This article intrigued me because I wonder where someone draws the line on who to kill. What I mean by this is, Kuklinski had a rule which was to not kill women, is this because he actually have some sort of sympathy for them? Also, I think he was an intelligent guy because of the fact that he froze his victims body to mess with the coroner determination of the time of death. This article made me wonder if his wife or family ever questioned who he really was.

  3. Avatar
    Azucena Cuevas

    This article is really interesting and it had me really intrigued. I have never heard of him, but it is so scary to think he had a lust to kill and felt no remorse in doing so. I feel terrible that he was abused as a child by his family and school bullies. However, it is tragic that those incidents can turn somebody so violent. He was such a family man and I could not imagine what his family went through when they found out about him.

  4. Avatar
    Shea Slusser

    I have never heard of this man before reading this, but it was surprising to me that he had an “American Dream” family and lifestyle, yet was a part of the mafia without his family knowing. Its heartbreaking for the family and for all of his victim. Its also scary because it makes it just that more difficult for Americans to realize that citizens that appear somewhat normal, could however be a great monster in secret.

  5. Isabella Torres
    Isabella Torres

    Before reading this article, I had never heard of this story before. It’s crazy how Kuklinski got involved in this violence at such a young age and also hoe he wasn’t caught for so long. I definitely think he was more than capable of committing the number of murders he claimed. Stories like this make me wonder if he would have turned out to be a killer if he had not experienced the bullying and abuse during his childhood. I will never understand how some people have complete absence of even the slightest bit of remorse when killing other person. Overall a great article!

  6. Avatar
    Priscilla Poorbaugh

    I have never heard about this guy but his story is so interesting. He had a desire to kill but used that to his advantage and made money off of it. His first human kill was at 14, which is crazy to me but it also makes sense because of the childhood he had. I also think that its interesting that he hid behind being a family man. You can tell he was a really smart killer.

  7. Avatar
    Kimberly Parker

    It’s shocking what being treated badly can do to a person. I mean Richard Kuklinski was not only abused by his peers, but his parents as well. The people that were supposed to love him unconditionally, and because they failed to do so, no only did they play a part in him becoming who he became, but so did his peers. It all turned him into a murderer who not only killed people, but enjoyed doing so and was thinking of new ways to do it. And the fact that his first kill was when he was only fourteen years old is just nerve-wracking.

  8. Avatar
    Kaleb Werku

    I will never understand what goes on in a serial killer’s mind and honestly, I don’t want to. I know that having a bad childhood can affect you but I know plenty of people who been through a lot of bullying and have turn out into great people. I do feel bad for his family through the realization that your dad is a serial killer I would imagine is traumatizing.

  9. Avatar
    Gabriel Lopez

    I was really surprised to read that he was sentenced for only 5 accounts of murder, out of the hundreds that he claimed. It’s also ironic, in a way, that he grew to be so large when he was bullied for being small in size. It was horrifying reading that Kuklinski got a thrill from murdering people and what he grew to be, and I can’t imagine how he killed his other victims.

  10. Avatar
    Judy Reyes

    It was quite interesting to see that despite Richard’s love for killing, he had one rule for himself–no killing women. Another interesting thing he did was freezing his victims to mess up the time of death. It is crazy because there are people out there doing these horrendous things, such as killing, for their own enjoyment. They have no remorse whatsoever.

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