Profile of Richard Kuklinski

Murder Suspect Richard Kuklinski Enter Courtroom
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Richard Kuklinski was one of the most diabolical, and notorious, confessed contract killers in American history. He took the credit for over 200 murders while working for various mafia families, including the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. Because of his sheer number of kills, as well as his approach to killing, many believe he should be considered a serial killer.

Kuklinski's Childhood Years

Richard Leonard Kuklinski was born in the projects in Jersey City, New Jersey to Stanley and Anna Kuklinski. Stanley was a severely abusive alcoholic who beat his wife and children. Anna was also abusive to her children, sometimes beating them with broom handles.

In 1940, Stanley's beatings resulted in the death of Kuklinski's old brother, Florian. Stanley and Anna hid the cause of the child's death from the authorities, saying he had fallen down a flight of steps.

By the age of 10, Richard Kuklinski was filled with rage and began acting out. For fun, he would torture animals, and by the age of 14, he had committed his first murder.

Taking a steel clothing rod from his closet, he ambushed Charlie Lane, a local bully, and leader of a small gang who had picked on him. Unintentionally he beat Lane to death. Kuklinski felt remorse for Lane's death for a brief period, but then saw it as a way to feel powerful and in control. He then went on and nearly beat to death the remaining six gang members.

Early Adulthood

By his early twenties, Kuklinski had earned the reputation as being an explosive, tough street hustler who would beat or kill those who he didn't like or who offended him. According to Kuklinski, it was during this time that his association with Roy DeMeo, a member of the Gambino Crime Family, was established.

As his work with DeMeo advanced his ability to be an effective killing machine was recognized. According to Kuklinski, he became a favorite hitman for the mob, resulting in the deaths of at least 200 people. The use of cyanide poison became one of his favorite weapons as well as guns, knives, and chainsaws.

Brutality and torture would often precede death for many of his victims. This included his description of causing his victims to bleed, then tying them up in rat-infested areas. The rats attracted to the smell of blood would eventually eat the men alive.

The Family Man

Barbara Pedrici saw Kuklinski as a sweet, giving man and the two married and had three children. Much like his father, Kuklinski, who was 6' 4" and weighing over 300 pounds, began to beat and terrorize Barbara and the children. On the outside, however, the Kuklinski family was admired by neighbors and friends as being happy and well adjusted.

The Beginning of the End

Eventually, Kuklinski started making mistakes, and the New Jersey State Police were watching him. When three associates of Kuklinski's turned up dead, a task force was organized with the New Jersey authorities and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Special Agent Dominick Polifrone went undercover and spent a year, and a half-disguised as a hit man and eventually met and gained Kuklinski's trust. Kuklinski bragged to the agent about his proficiency with cyanide and boasted about freezing a corpse to mask his time of death. Afraid Polifrone would soon become another of Kuklinski's victims; the task force moved quickly after taping some of his confessions and getting him to agree to do a hit with Polifrone.

On December 17, 1986, Kuklinski was arrested and charged with five counts of murder which involved two trials. He was found guilty in the first trial and reached an agreement in the second trial and was sentenced to two life sentences. He was sent to Trenton State Prison, where his brother was serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl.

Enjoying the Fame

While in prison, he was interviewed by HBO for a documentary called "The Iceman Confesses," then later by author Anthony Bruno, who wrote the book "The Iceman" as a follow-up to the documentary. In 2001, he was interviewed again by HBO for another documentary called "The Iceman Tapes: Conversations With a Killer."

It was during these interviews that Kuklinski confessed to several cold-blooded murders and spoke of his ability to detach himself emotionally from his own brutality. When on the subject of his family he uncharacteristically showed emotions when describing the love he felt towards them.

Kuklinski Blames Childhood Abuse

When asked why he had become one of the most diabolical mass murderers in history, he cast blame on his father's abuse and admitted the one thing he was sorry for was for not killing him.

Questionable Confessions

Authorities do not buy everything Kuklinski claimed during the interviews. Witnesses for the government who were part of DeMeo's group said Kuklinski was not involved in any murders for DeMeo. They also question the number of murders he claimed to have committed.

His Suspicious Death

On March 5, 2006, Kuklinski, age 70, died of unknown causes. His death came suspiciously around the same time he was scheduled to testify against Sammy Gravano. Kuklinski was going to testify that Gravano hired him to kill a police officer in the 1980s. Charges against Gravano were dropped after Kuklinski's death because of insufficient evidence.

Kuklinski and the Hoffa Confession

In April 2006, it was reported that Kuklinski had confessed to author Philip Carlo that he and four men had kidnapped and murdered union boss Jimmy Hoffa. In an interview aired on CNN's "Larry King Live," Carlo discussed the confession in detail, explaining that Kuklinski was part of a five-member team. Under the direction of Tony Provenzano, a captain in the Genovese crime family, he kidnapped and murdered Hoffa in a restaurant parking lot in Detroit.

Also on the program was Barbara Kuklinski and her daughters, who spoke about the abuse and fear they suffered at the hands of Kuklinski.

There was one telling moment which described the true depth of Kuklinski's sociopathic brutality. One of the daughters, described as Kuklinski's "favorite" child, told of her father's attempt to get her to understand, when she was 14, why if he killed Barbara during a fit of rage, he would also have to kill her and her brother and sister.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Richard Kuklinski." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Montaldo, Charles. (2023, April 5). Profile of Richard Kuklinski. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Richard Kuklinski." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).