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).

69 Responses

  1. This article was very interesting, I had never heard of Richard Kuklinski but his story was very intriguing. We know that often times serial killers come from disturbing childhoods as Kuklinski did. But very often serial killers that get caught are often from their own mistakes, rather than a friend that turned them in. This story was very intriguing because of that difference but also because of the very nature of Kuklinski who employed himself by killing people.

  2. This article was a great piece to read. It puts into perspective how people may not be who they seem to be. Even people who seem normal are capable of horrible things. It is also surreal how long it took for this man to get caught. It makes me think how many people are still out there not been caught yet. It is quite a scary thought.

  3. An interesting article that gives insight to how childhood experiences can shape a person’s emotional development and what compels someone to perform such horrific acts of violence. I had never heard of Richard Kuklinski’s case. Very thought provoking, in the sense that had events gone differently, such as the bullying he suffered as a child or abuse from his parents, would his life have gone a different direction?

  4. I am not familiar with Richard story, but its really saddening that a kid he began his killing spree at the age of 14 years old. Richard had a very unhealthy childhood where he had been abused at school and at home. He had anger built up from this rough childhood that lead him to lead this dark life. There are many factors that went his minded to make him committee the crimes that he did, its kind of shocking that he was a serial killer and also a normal person around his family. This article was well-written and very eye-opening for people to be cautious of who they surround themselves in life.

  5. I was shaken to see how this man was sent down a path that led him to believe killing was the right thing to do. Kulinski was a cold-blooded killer with a lust for blood. I was surprised to see how this man could kill so easily and still appear to be normal in front of his family. His way of confusing the feds surprised me and I was shocked to see how he was able to get these people in a place to freeze them. The fact that the task force was able to capture this man is truly a great thing.

  6. This was a very interesting story which was very disturbing. Richard Kulinkski seemed like a normal human being but actually had a dark secret. Richard had a very unhealthy childhood where he had been abused at school and at home. He had anger built up from this rough childhood that lead him to lead this dark life. Richard began his killing spree at the age of 14 years old which is disgusting. This man killed many people over the years which was awful. It is sad that people with dark pasts end up usually following down the same roads.

  7. This article was an amazing read. It is crazy to think that someone that seemed so normal could do such terrible things. It is crazy how long he went without getting caught. Im curious to how he kept this from his family for so long. I also wonder what the story was behind his first murder when he was 14.

  8. The topic of this article is very intresting and has a unique concept. This article proves that appearances are very misleading as well as illustractes the affect of abusive pasts on adulthood. Not that it is an excuse, the abuse that we expirenced as a boy remained with him when he approached adulthood. It would have liked to learn more about how the police came to realize that he was behind the murders. The story of Richard Kuklinski is very unique.

  9. This article was very well written and the topic is very surprising. How can Kuklinski do such acts and still go back to his family as if nothing happened. He had serious problems as he enjoyed killing people and he had many different methods. I am glad he was caught by police. Even though he trusted his best friend, his best friend turned him in because what he did was terrible and shocking.

  10. This article was interesting and appalling at the same time. It’s difficult to picture a family man committing murder many times over and simply enjoying the art of it. It’s truly disgusting, and I’m gad that he was eventually caught. I’m interested in learning more about how he was caught and how the police got his long-time friend to talk about what he knew. That seems like another interesting part of the story.

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