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. Victoria Davis

    I have never before heard of Richard Kuklinski but it was a very interesting article to read. The background information about his life and being bullied gave a real insight on why he did what he did. Reading the introduction on how he lived such a normal life lead me to believe that he was not scared of getting caught. He was suspicious when he received the poison from a friend and knew he would get caught but did not try to flee or anything.

  2. Addie Piatz

    I hadn’t heard about Richard Kuklinski until reading this but i have always hated bullying and this is a perfect example of why its so bad. You can’t completely blame the bullying however because he took lives and they’re no excuse for taking innocent peoples live and feeling no remorse for it. The freezing the victims sounded something of a crime show which scared me that people do those kinds of things in real life.

  3. Kelsey Sanchez

    This article was shocking to read due to presenting a person named Richard Kuklinski, who would love killing people. I was surprised to see how he would get away with it and that he did not kill women. I have never heard of him before, but it was crazy to read all the things he would do. However, I believe since he had a childhood that was not so great he would take that and transform it into something harmful for others. It would be harmful to others because it could be expressed in the way he was treated.

  4. Alin Bocardo Felix

    Many murderers kill for the thrill and for the credit, and so with that note, it is interesting to read that the Iceman was only convicted for 5 murders. That, weirdly enough, must have been devastating for the Iceman and what he had spent so much time on. Another interesting part of the article is when he sprayed the dog, which basically meant he knew he was being sabotaged by whoever provided him with that cyanide. Reading such a well written crime article almost makes the reader forget it’s actually true.

  5. Kathryn Martinez

    I found this article interesting and it makes you wonder whether his wife and children ever had a suspicion this was occurring or not. And from a forensic science standpoint, it’s also interesting to see a killer that went through the time to freeze his victims to ‘change’ the time of death. It makes you wonder even further how he would do this, where he would put these people etc.

  6. Jacob Silva

    I’ve never heard of this man and hearing about all the horrible things he has done, it sends chills down my spine. From claiming his first life at such a young age to claiming up to a hundred more while experiencing a sense of pleasure and enjoyment is unsettling thought to think about. Truly a heartless monstrosity of a human.

  7. Audrey Uribe

    The lack of appreciation and compassion for human life in this man portrayed in this article is disturbing. Having no motive whatsoever for killing an innocent person makes this story even worse. Beginning to kill people at such a young age as fourteen is unbelievable. Kuklinski also joined the mafia at age sixteen and was fed into a nasty lifestyle.

  8. Sabrina Doyon

    He used cyanide in spray bottles? How concentrated is that solution oh my god. This man was a killing machine and he ever worked with the mafia? I have to wonder if the family, at least the wife, knew of his actions. I mean he had to pay taxes and stuff right? I really enjoy how he used freezing the bodies to bamboozle the feds. I’m glad he was caught in the end.

  9. Felipe Macias

    People make it seem as killing a person automatically gives you a timer until you are caught. The truth is, people are only caught if they do not cover up their tracks correctly. As for Kuklinski, he was able to murder over a hundred of people without being caught due to his ability. Also, the people who murder are the ones you’d never see coming.

  10. Nicholas Hatch

    This was a very interesting article. Before reading this article, I had no prior knowledge of Richard Kuklinski. When reading about his sentencing, it was really surprising that he was only sentenced for 5 accounts of murder even though he admitted to many more. I feel very bad for all of his victims and their families. I also feel bad for his own family, no one should ever have to discover that their husband or father is a murderer. Very good article with a lot of information.

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