Published on May 22, 2012
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A mind made for murder:
Richard Leonard "The Iceman" Kuklinski (1935 - 2006) was a Polish American contract killer. Kuklinski claimed to have murdered over 250 men between 1948 and 1986. His first murder at the age of 13.
His father was an alcoholic who frequently abused his wife and children and once beat one of his sons to death.
Kuklinski spent the remainder of his life fantasizing about murdering his father. His mother was also abusive to Richard, hitting him with broom handles and other household objects.
In 1949, Kuklinski ambushed and beat the leader of a small gang of teenagers who had bullied him for some time. Following a particularly bad beating Kuklinski sought revenge, eventually beating him to death. Kuklinski then dumped his body off a bridge in South Jersey after removing his teeth and chopping off his finger tips in an effort to prevent identification. He then went on to savagely beat the remaining six boys.
Eventually, his criminal acumen brought him to the attention of Newark's DeCavalcante crime family, who employed him in his first gangland slayings.
In 1954, Kuklinski began prowling Hell's Kitchen in a search for victims.
He came to Manhattan numerous times to kill men, always someone who rubbed him the wrong way, for some imagined or extremely slight reason. He dumped some into the Hudson River. Murder 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 was coming over to Manhattan for the purpose of killing people, to practice and perfect murder. Richard made Manhattan a kind of lab for murder, a school.
"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."
Kuklinski became associated with the Gambino crime family through his relationship with the soldato, Roy DeMeo.
DeMeo took him out in his car one day. DeMeo then selected a random target. 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. From then on, Kuklinski was DeMeo's favorite enforcer.
Lack of attention from law enforcement was partly due to Kuklinski's ever-changing methods; he used guns, knives, explosives, tire irons, fire, poison, asphyxiation, and even bare handed beatings, "just for the exercise." 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.
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.
One of his favorite methods of disposing of a body was to place it in a 55-gallon oil drum. Other methods included dismemberment, burial, or placing the body in the trunk of a car and having it crushed in a junkyard, or leaving bodies sitting on park benches.
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. 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 was found shot to death.
When the authorities finally caught up with Kuklinski, they based their case almost entirely on the testimony of undercover agent Dominick Polifrone, who acted as if he wanted to hire Kuklinski for a hit, and recorded him speaking in detail about how he would do it.
In 1986, Kuklinski met with a federal agent to get cyanide for a planned murder. He was arrested at a roadblock later. He was charged with five counts of murder and six weapons violations, as well as attempted murder, robbery and attempted robbery.
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