On the surface, Richard Kuklinski appeared to live a normal middle-class existence in the suburbs of New Jersey. Behind the facade, however, was a cold-blooded killer who earned the nickname “Iceman” because of his habit of freezing his victims’ bodies after he murdered them.
Kuklinski was born in Jersey City in 1935, and he grew up in an abusive household dominated by a violent father. One of Kuklinski’s brothers died at the hands of their father, but the family lied to police and said the boy had suffered serious injuries from falling down the stairs. He claimed he committed his first murder at the age of 14, murdering a bully with a piece of wood. He gained a reputation as a young man with a hot temper and reportedly killed men who beat him in pool games.
While still only 19-years-old, the young man stalked and killed victims, usually homeless men, around Manhattan, simply for the fun of it. He shot, stabbed, and used his car to increase his body count. The DeCavalcante crime family took notice of his violent behavior and recruited Kuklinski to carry out murders on their behalf. He then teamed up with New York’s Gambino crime family, committing robberies and duplicating pornographic videotapes to sell.
The Gambino family soon discovered another talent that Kuklinski possessed; a willingness to murder anyone for any reason. For 30 years, Richard Kuklinski killed those he was ordered to eliminate by the Mafia, and some for personal reasons. He used every weapon imaginable, including his fists sometimes “just for the exercise.” Authorities began to suspect Kuklinski was a mob enforcer, and in 1985 they set out to bring him down. The prospect of putting Kuklinski away was a tough one because law enforcement had no concrete evidence tying him to any murders. An undercover ATF agent posed as a fellow hitman and lured Kuklsinki into a murder-for-hire plot.
Kuklinski was arrested on December 17, 1986 and charged with a large number of crimes including murder and robbery. He was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to life behind bars. Kuklinski remained in prison until he died in 2006 at the age of 70.
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