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October 4, 2019

Richard Kuklinski: The Ice That Melted

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).

Mitchell Yocham

I am a Criminal Justice Major, class of ‘23, I’m from San Antonio, Tx. I love volunteering and studying things that I find interesting. I’m still trying to find my full faith here at St Mary’s, and I’m convinced I will.

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Recent Comments


  • Emily Rodriguez

    First off, this was such a creative title for the article. I had never heard of this killer before, but this article sure was interesting to read about. I like how the author went into detail about the killer’s troubled childhood and what led him to turn to such violence. I feel that this article was structured in a good way and kept the readers interested throughout this article’s entirety.

  • Maria Luevano

    This was such a great article and super interesting! I had never heard of Richard Kuklinski and am shocked that he started at the young age of 14. It is sad that something like bullying would trigger a lifetime of hate. It is always the people you least expect to have a secret and brutal background. Great job on the article Mitchell!

  • Jadyn Evans

    You never really know what is going on until the end. After learning about this killer it makes me wonder who else out there lives a double life. I was unfamiliar with this story but it was an interesting read. I always find it interesting to learn information like this.

  • Aracely Beltran

    I must say, I am pretty sure we have all been bullied at one point in our lives. However, this does not mean you can just go and kill people. The icepick idea is kind of smart and freezing his victims it seems so weird, like the things they think about. His rule about not killing women, makes me have mixed feelings.

  • Melanie Fraire

    This was my first time hearing about “the ice man” but it’s interesting how he showed no remorse when it came to killing however, he still had his rule of not killing women. It’s also interesting to read about all the precautions he took such as freezing his victims and how long he went without getting caught.

  • Juliana Montoya

    The story of the iceman is very chilling because I had never heard of him but what he would do to his victims is very disturbing. The fact that he would kill people for fun is what made the story even more disturbing because the killer always has a motive and he just liked the blood of his victims.

  • Kennedy Arcos

    I was unfamiliar with this story before reading. It was very interesting and surprising. It honestly blows my mind how someone who seems completely normal could have such a dark secret. Even though he went through an abusive childhood, I still do not think that excuses his actions. It’s disgusting how he truly enjoyed killing people just for the thrill of it.

  • Brandon Torres

    I always knew of this name, due to its synonymity with a San Antonio Spurs Legend, however, this article really showed me a grand new bout of information that really left me wanting more! The way that the author described the yin/yang aspect of Richard doing these moral-less killings, while also interacting his family really sent chills down my spine, due to the realization that this man was truly a calm and composed psychopath!

  • Carlos Apodaca

    Its insane how some people can live a double life and nobody can even know about it until they get caught up. Its sickening to hear that someone can enjoy killing other people and even though he had a troubled upbringing that is no excuse to just kill someone especially at the age of 14 like the article states. I will admit its crazy how he was able to hide his tracks by freezing the bodies he would kill. I also found it interesting how even when he found out the chemical he was given wasnt poisinous he didnt go back and question it and just went home.

  • Anthony Coronado

    I have heard of ‘The Iceman’ as a reference in documentaries shows about the convicted felons from the American Mafia, on Netflix. I didn’t know he was like living a mobster life (of criminal life, as well as a family man’s life), double life. This article was very eye appealing to the factors that had an influence on the creation of the Iceman, such as the amt of bullying/ abuse he received during his childhood, such that there was no safe place for him.

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