Richard Kuklinski, The Iceman: Psychopathic Killer & Master Criminal

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Richard Leonard “The Iceman” Kuklinski (April 11, 1935 – March 5, 2006) was an American contract killer. The 6’5″ (195 cm), 300 pound (135 kg) Kuklinski worked for Newark’s DeCavalcante crime family and New York City’s Five Families. He claimed to have murdered over 100,[2] or possibly 250 men (his recollections varied) between 1948 and 1986. Kuklinski claimed to have committed his first murder at the age of 13.[3] He lived with his wife and children in the suburb of Dumont, New Jersey prior to his arrest.[4]
Early life
Kuklinski was born in a rented apartment on Third Street in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Stanley Kuklinski, a Polish emigrant from Warsaw and a brakeman on the railroad, and Anna McNally,[3] a daughter of Catholic Irish immigrants from Dublin and later an orphan, who worked in a meat-packing plant during Stanley’s childhood.[5]
His mother, Anna McNally Kuklinski, abused Richard, beating him with broom handles and other household objects. She believed that stern discipline should be accompanied by a strict religious upbringing, and raised her son in the Catholic Church, where he became an altar boy.[5]
Richard had three siblings. Florian died of injuries suffered by abuse from his father.[3] The Kuklinski family lied to the police, saying that he had fallen down a flight of steps.[3] His other brother, Joseph Kuklinski (1944–2003) was convicted of raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl.[1][6] When asked about his brother Joseph’s crimes, Richard replied: “We come from the same father.”[7]
As a boy, Kuklinski says that he killed and tortured neighborhood cats and dogs for amusement.[8]
Criminal career
By the mid-1950s, Kuklinski had earned a reputation as an explosive loan 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.
Beginning in the spring of 1954, Kuklinski began prowling Hell’s Kitchen in a search of victims. According to author Philip Carlo,
“He came to Manhattan numerous times over the ensuing weeks and months and killed people, always men, never a female, he says, always someone who rubbed him the wrong way, for some imagined or extremely slight reason. He shot, stabbed, and bludgeoned men to death. He left some where they dropped. He dumped some into the nearby Hudson River. Murder, for Richard, became sport. The New York police came to believe that the bums were attacking and killing one another, never suspecting that a full fledged serial killer from Jersey City was coming over to Manhattan’s West Side for the purpose of killing people, to practice and perfect murder. Richard made the West Side of Manhattan a kind of lab for murder, a school, he says.”[9]
Kuklinski later recalled,
“By now you know what I liked most was the hunt, the challenge of what the thing was. The killing for me was secondary. I got no rise as such out of it…for the most part. But the figuring it out, the challenge — the stalking and doing it right, successfully — that excited me a lot. The greater the odds against me, the more juice I got out of it.”[10]
According to author Philip Carlo,
“Richard was bipolar and should have been taking medication to stabilize his behavior, his sudden highs and lows, but going to see a psychiatrist was out of the question. He’d be admitting something was wrong with him, and he’d never do that.”[10]
In contrast to Carlo’s opinion, however, Kuklinski was interviewed by psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz at Trenton State Prison. Kuklinski and Dietz spoke at length, in a videotaped interview, about Kuklinski’s upbringing, family life, crimes, and other events in his past. Kuklinski told the doctor that he wanted to know what events or mental irregularities made him able to perform the acts of which he was accused. After a lengthy discussion, the doctor cited nature vs. nurture, stating that his professional opinion was that both played a part in Kuklinski’s development into a hitman who could be functional in other aspects of life. The doctor elaborated that Kuklinski likely inherited Anti-social Personality Disorder from his abusive parent(s) and that the abuse he claims to have suffered from his father reinforced violence, activities requiring a lack of conscience, and a lack of love. Dietz also stated that Kuklinski suffered from Paranoid Personality Disorder [11]
Gambinos and Roy DeMeo
Kuklinski became associated with the Gambino crime family through his relationship with the soldato, Roy DeMeo, which started due to a debt Kuklinski owed to a DeMeo crew member. DeMeo was sent to “talk” with Kuklinski and proceeded to beat and pistol whip him. Although Kuklinski was carrying a pistol at the time, he decided against using it; this earned him DeMeo’s respect.
After Kuklinski paid back the money he owed, he began staging robberies and other assignments for DeMeo and the Gambino family, one of which was pirating pornographic tapes. In 2011, former Gambino associate Greg Bucceroni alleged that Kuklinski often traveled between Philadelphia, New Jersey and NYC handling a variety of concerns involving the Gambino crime family’s pornography establishments including trafficking illegal pornography, debt collection and murder for hire on behalf of Robert “DB” DiBernardo and Roy DeMeo.
According to Kuklinski, DeMeo took him out in his car one day and they parked on a city street. DeMeo then selected a random target, a man walking his dog. He then ordered Kuklinski to kill him. Without hesitating, 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.

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