Richard Kuklinski

From Real Life Villains Wiki

Richard Kuklinski
Full Name: Richard Leonard Kuklinski
Alias: The Iceman
The Polack
Big Rich
The Devil Himself
The One-Man Army
Origin: Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation: Contract killer
Hobby: Killing people
Crimes: Murder
Illegal pornography
Money laundering
Illegal drug trade
Arms trafficking
Domestic abuse
Cruelty to animals
Type of Villain: Serial Killer / Mobster

When I was a young man, I found out that if you hurt somebody bad enough, they'll leave you alone. When I tried to leave everybody alone and just do my own thing, everybody just wanted to hurt me. Until one day I just decided, well, I've had enough of this picking. And there were like six young men still figuring they were going to mess with my head. And we went to war. To their surprise, I was no longer taking the beating, I was giving it.
~ Richard Kuklinski

Richard Leonard Kuklinski (/kʊˈklɪnski/; April 11th, 1935 – March 5th, 2006) was an American hitman, mobster, and serial killer. He was convicted of murdering six people, but confessed to and is suspected of far more murders. He was associated with members of the American Mafia, namely the DeCavalcante crime family of Newark, New Jersey, and the Five Families of New York City.

Kuklinski was given the nickname "The Iceman" for his method of freezing a victim to mask the time of death. During his criminal career, fellow mobsters called him "the one-man army" or "the devil himself" due to his fearsome reputation and imposing physique of 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) and 270 pounds (120 kg). Kuklinski lived with his wife and children in the New Jersey suburb of Dumont. His family claims to be unaware of Kuklinski's double life and crimes.

Throughout his criminal life, Kuklinski was involved in narcotics, pornography, arms dealing, money laundering, collecting debts for loan sharking, hijacking and contract killing. While his range of criminal activities expanded, he began to make mistakes. Although Kuklinski is claimed to have killed anyone who he thought might testify against him, he became sloppy regarding the disposal of his victims' bodies. Law enforcement began to suspect Kuklinski and started an investigation, gathering evidence about the various crimes he had committed. The eighteen-month long undercover investigation led to his arrest in 1986. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1988, with an additional 30 years added on for murdering a mob-corrupted police officer.

After his murder convictions, Kuklinski took part in a number of interviews during which he claimed to have murdered anywhere from 100 to 250 men between 1948 and 1986, though his recollection of events sometimes varied. Some have expressed skepticism about the extent of Kuklinski's alleged murders, but law enforcement are confident in their belief that he was a serial killer who killed at least several dozen people both at the behest of organized crime bosses and on his own initiative.

Three documentaries, two biographies, a feature film starring Michael Shannon, and a play have been produced about Kuklinski, based on his interviews and the results of the task force that brought him to justice.


Kuklinski’s parents were both violently abusive toward him and his siblings. He maintained that he killed neighbourhood cats as a child and committed his first murder when he was in his early teens.

Kuklinski left school after eighth grade, and by his account he embarked on a varied career of odd jobs and criminal undertakings punctuated by a great many murders committed by a variety of methods. One of his criminal enterprises was the bootlegging of pornographic films, and it was through this activity that he became connected with organized crime.

Eventually, he was hired as a hitman, carrying out assignments from several crime families, including the Genovese, Gambino, and DeCavalcante organizations.

In 1986 Kuklinski was arrested and charged in connection with five murders. The first, George Malliband, was killed in 1980 after he met with Kuklinski to sell videotapes; his body was found stuffed into a barrel. The second, Louis Masgay, also sought a videotape deal. He was last seen in 1981, and his partially decomposed body was discovered some 15 months later. The medical examiner found ice crystals in the body’s tissues and determined that it had been kept frozen; this led to Kuklinski being called “The Iceman.”

Malliband and Masgay had been shot to death. Gary Smith, who had been a member of a burglary ring run by Kuklinski, was given cyanide and then strangled; his body was found under a bed in a motel in 1982. The body of Daniel Deppner, another member of the burglary ring, was found the following year; he had also been poisoned. The body of Paul Hoffman, who disappeared in 1982 after trying to buy prescription drugs from Kuklinski, was never located.

After Smith’s body was discovered, a six-year investigation ensued, and Kuklinski was arrested in 1986 after agreeing to help a federal undercover agent murder a fictitious man. In 1988 he was found guilty of charges related to the murders of Smith and Deppner. He later pled guilty to the murders of Malliband and Masgay. He also confessed to the murder of Hoffman, but charges in that case were dropped.

Kuklinski was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment. In 2003 he also entered a guilty plea for the 1980 murder of New York City police detective Peter Calabro.

While in prison, Kuklinski gave numerous interviews to psychiatrists, criminologists, journalists, and writers, telling the story of his life and providing detailed descriptions of how and why he committed dozens of murders. In later interviews he claimed to have killed increasing numbers of victims, many of them members of organized crime, but investigators largely regarded the assertions as dubious.

These interviews resulted in three television documentaries—The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992), The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman (2001), and The Iceman and the Psychiatrist (2003)—and two biographies, The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer (1993) by Anthony Bruno and The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer (2006) by Philip Carlo. Bruno’s book and the first documentary were the basis for the 2012 motion picture The Iceman.