Early life Edit
Richard Leonard Kuklinski was born in the projects in Jersey City, New Jersey to a family of mixed Polish and Irish-American descent. Stanley Kuklinski was an alcoholic who frequently beat his wife and children. Decades later, after being asked about his brother Joseph's crimes, Richard Kuklinski replied: "We come from the same father." Despite being a devout Roman Catholic, Anna Kuklinski was also abusive to her children, sometimes beating them with broom handles. Kille In 1940, Stanley's beatings resulted in the death of his son, Florian Kuklinski. In the aftermath, the Kuklinski family lied to the police, saying that Florian had fallen down a flight of steps.
By the age of 10, Richard Kuklinski was filled with rage and began acting out against the priests and nuns at parochial school. For amusement, he would torture animals.
First murder Edit
In 1948, a thirteen year-old Richard ambushed and viciously beat Charley Lane, the leader of a small gang who had been picking on him. Although he denied wanting to kill Lane, the bully did not wake up. Kuklinski then dumped Lane's body off a bridge.
At first, Richard felt remorse for Lane's death. Eventually, he began seeing it as a way to feel powerful. He then went on to beat and nearly murder the remaining six boys in Lane's gang. Richard later joked that, "Giving is better than receiving."
By the mid-1950s, Kuklinski had earned the reputation as being an explosive pool shark who would beat or kill those who annoyed him. Eventually, his criminal acumen brought him to the attention of Newark's DeCavalcante crime family, who employed him in his first gangland slayings. This interested Kuklinski, seeing as though his financial status at the time was not what he wanted.
In his spare time, however, Kuklinski began roaming the West Side, Manhattan and killing transients. He would later state that those who reminded him of his father Stanley were the people he enjoyed murdering the most.
Association with the Gambinos and Roy DeMeo Edit
Association with the Gambino crime family came through his relationship with the mobster Roy DeMeo. This relationship started because Kuklinski owed an associate of DeMeo's a lot of money, so DeMeo was sent to 'talk' with him. He and his crew beat and pistol whipped Kuklinski. 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.
According to Kuklinski, one day, DeMeo 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, walked towards the man and shot him in the back of the head as he passed by. From then on, Kuklinski was DeMeo's favorite enforcer.
Over the next 30 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 over 200 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 DeMeo's murder, 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 crime 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. However Kuklinski hated to work on holidays, especially during Christmas, as he felt it was important to be with family.
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. Later, he told author Philip Carlo that he got the idea from fellow hitman Robert Pronge, nicknamed "Mister Softee", who drove a Mister Softee truck to appear inconspicuous. Pronge taught Kuklinski the different methods of using cyanide to kill his victims. Kuklinski also claimed to have purchased remotely detonated hand grenades from Pronge. Pronge allegedly asked him to carry out a hit on Pronge's own wife and child. In 1984, Pronge was found shot to death in his truck.
Kuklinski's method was uncovered by the authorities when he 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 victim's heart.
State and federal manhunt Edit
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, who entered the case six years earlier. The investigation involved a joint operation with the New Jersey Attorney General's office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Kuklinski claims in the HBO interview that there was only one friend he did not kill, which he believed was the reason for him being arrested. Kane was not mentioned, but they had been friends for 30 years.
ATF Special Agent Dominick Polifrone had undercover experience specializing in Mafia cases. The New Jersey State Police and ATF began a joint operation. Detective Kane recruited Phil Solimene, a close friend of Kuklinski, who introduced undercover agent Polifrone to the killer. Polifrone acted as if 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 his wife was also arrested and charged with gun possession because the car was registered under her name. When his wife 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.
Incarceration and death Edit
In 1988, a New Jersey court convicted Kuklinski of five murders and sentenced him to consecutive life sentences, making him ineligible for parole until age 110. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to the 1980 murder of NYPD detective Peter Calabro and drew another 30 years. In the Calabro murder, in which Sammy "The Bull" Gravano was also charged, Kuklinski said he parked his van on the side of a narrow road, forcing other drivers to slow down to pass. He lay in a snowbank until Calabro came by at 2 a.m., then stepped out and shot him with a shotgun.
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". However, according to one of his daughters he once told her that he would have to kill her and her two siblings should he happen to beat her mother to death in a fit of rage. At the same time, his wife Barbara has stated that he never actually did hurt the children.
He also confessed that he once wanted to use a crossbow to carry out a hit but not without "testing" it first. While driving his car, he asked a random man for directions, shot him in the forehead with the crossbow, and stated that the arrow "went half-way into his head."
He also claimed that on multiple occasions, he would kidnap his victims, and rather than conventionally murdering them, he bound their hands and feet with tape. He then left the victims in a cave in the wilderness where they were eaten alive by rats attracted by the victim's cries. Kuklinski claimed he filmed these deaths as proof to the buyer that the people did suffer before death.
In one interview, Kuklinski confessed that he only regretted 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 30 minutes to save him, but once the time was up, he would be killed. Forcing the man to wait 30 minutes for his demise struck Kuklinski as his most sadistic murder.
Kuklinski died 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, 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 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 Kuklinski was scheduled to testify, 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. At the request of Kuklinski's family, forensic pathologist Michael Baden examined the results of Kuklinski's autopsy to determine if there was evidence of poisoning. Baden concluded he died of natural causes.
Actor Mickey Rourke will play Kuklinski in a film based on Philip Carlo's book. The film, to be co-produced by Rourke, is scheduled to be shot in 2010.
Michael Shannon is playing Kuklinski.