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
    Mara Martinez

    This article was great. It is crazy to think about how someone can just be out there killing, and getting paid to do it. How crazy. How one human can be so fine with killing another human baffles me. He really had no remorse for those that he killed, even with how he started at such a young age, there was no remorse. This was a really really interesting article, definitely my most favorite out of all the ones I have read.

  2. Avatar
    Michael Thompson

    This was a interesting article. Kind of scary someone so normal could do such a thing as murder 100’s of people, and do it while hiding it so well. And to see that it started at such a young age, it makes you wonder who around you is capable of murder. And really, it makes you realize in order to be a serial killer, you have to be super smart, otherwise you would just get caught. So it makes reality much more scary.

  3. Avatar
    Hannah Hennon

    It is sad when a kid is raised in an environment to where he is always getting abused that he turns to this lifestyle. Although he killed tons of people, he had to have been smart since he knew to freeze the bodies of his victims, so the time of death could have been off. It is good he was caught.

  4. Avatar
    Kristina Tijerina

    The fact that Richard Kuklinski was able to get away with so many murders and crimes starting at the young age of 14 is so insanely bizarre to me. I feel sorry that all this guy knew was violence. He was bullied at school and abused at home. He never knew what it was like to be a nice guy. It really goes to show that the way someone behaves is a reflection from the way they are/were treated. However, this doesn’t make up for his ridiculous actions. He claimed to have committed the murder of hundreds of people, and I don’t doubt it, but his tactics to avoid feds only gave him two life sentences for five accounts of murder.

  5. Avatar
    Sydney Hardeman

    Wow this story is crazy to read. It is crazy that there are people out there who want to kill and cause harm to others, just to see them suffer. Many people deal with abuse and bullying growing up, and instead of using that as justification to be a horrible person, they find help or find other ways to grow and learn and become better people despite what others have done to them.

  6. Avatar
    Nicole Ortiz

    I had never heard about the story of Richard Kuklinski until now and it’s shocking to read about him. Starting these horrible murders at such a young age and to constantly feel that thrill and urge to kill? He must have really been going through it. It makes me wonder if his family ever knew that he had committed all of these murders but I feel like they most likely didn’t because of how well he was able to cover the murders up.

  7. Avatar
    Briana Montes

    Great article. It is so scary to think people are capable of such terrible things. I’ve never heard of this man before reading this article. He killed at such a young age and then continued to do so to many innocent people.I feel he used his not so great childhood as an excuse to hurt people but that shouldn’t of been the answer. Overall this story was very tragic but very well written.

  8. Avatar
    Marco Montes de Oca

    For someone to kill another person at the age of 14 is sick. Wanting to kill people for the thrill of it is disgusting to begin with, but to want to kill people for no reason is disturbing and unpleasant. I had never heard about this man or his story until now and I was shocked. I was confused as to why he didn’t attempt to escape when he found out that his friend gave him poison that wasn’t poisonous.

  9. Avatar
    Amanda Quiroz

    I’m shocked that he was able to do it without his family knowing. I guess you really don’t know people. What’s scarier is that he started killing so young and without any remorse. I understand that he had an abusive childhood but I don’t believe that should give him a reason to kill off innocent lives. It’s scary how many methods of killing he was able to develop.

  10. Avatar
    Vanessa Quetzeri

    The fact that he first started killing at the age of fourteen is sickening. I do find it interesting that he killed for the mafia. Most of the articles I have read on this website over serial killers are usually individuals that work solo. I am glad that he got caught even though he, unfortunately, didn’t get charged for all of his murders.

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