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Known alternatively as “The Polack,” “The One-Man Army,” “The Devil Himself” or, more frequently, “The Iceman,” Richard Leonard Kuklinski is to this day the most prolific hitman ever known in the United States of America, and possibly the second most prolific in the world behind the Brazilian hitman Julio Santana, who claims 500 victims in comparison with Kuklinski’s variable number of between 100 to 250 victims.

Two hundred fifty people are, to make a comparison, the entire capacity of an average movie theatre.

Also a high-level drug and arms dealer, money launderer, burglary, and car theft ringleader, and stolen goods salesman, Kuklinski played a part in his suburban neighborhood of Dumont, New Jersey, where he attended church frequently and maintained an unremarkable family life alongside his wife and two daughters.

Keep reading as we review ten shocking and chilling facts about the man who claimed to have killed, among other victims, two Mafia bosses, and Jimmy Hoffa.


10 Violent Blood

Richard Kuklinski was born on April 11, 1935, to Stanislaw Kuklinski, a Polish immigrant, and Anna McNally, the daughter of Irish immigrants.

The house was a living hell: Stanislaw was a violent alcoholic who regularly beat his wife and children (once going too far and killing his firstborn Florian, Richard’s brother, after a particularly savage beating), and Anna would equally do her share of evil, beating the children with random objects until they broke in her hands.

Kuklinski would later regard his mother as a “cancer” and express regret for not killing his father.

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9 His First Victim

Since a young age, he had to exhibit many of the traits of a psychopath, but with especially pronounced affection for animal killing.

He would later explain how he liked to torture stray dogs that he caught in the street and how he would incinerate live cats in basement incinerators.

Eventually, he stepped up his sick game and murdered his first human victim, one of the neighborhood bullies. But this wasn’t out of any sense of justice: the bully had crossed him, so he made him pay at 13 years old.



8 A Random Man Walking A Dog

This lack of any sense of justice would be evident in his first professional killing for the Mafia families that would (all of them) eventually employ him in one way or another.

Through his connection with Roy DeMeo, the Gambino family was the first to use him. His entry exam: killing a random person that DeMeo would pick off from the street.

The unfortunate victim (a man who was walking his dog) didn’t have any time to understand what was going on as Kuklinski got off from the car, usually walked behind the unsuspecting man, and in a heartbeat, took out his gun and shot him in the back of the head. He was in.

Filippo Macchi / Shutterstock.com

7 The Making Of An Iceman

But he didn’t become “The Iceman” until well after he had been earning money and making a career for himself in the dirty back alley of the world of organized crime.

He eventually came to make the acquaintance of Robert “Mr. Softee” Pronge, an “extremely crazy” hitman who used to surveil his victims disguised as a Mr. Softee truck driver.

Together, they discussed the idea of freezing their victims to make it more difficult to assert their time of death, which got him his nickname.

6 The Student Beats The Master

The collaboration between Kuklinski and Pronge (who also showed Kuklinski how to use cyanide nasal sprays to kill their victims quickly) didn’t last long, however.

After a discussion between them both, caused by Pronge’s desire to have Kuklinski kill his ex-wife and son, for his intention of poisoning an entire water reservoir to kill one family and for some threats that he had made towards the Iceman’s family, Kuklinski shot Pronge to death and left him to be discovered in his Mr. Softee ice cream truck.

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5 Good Richard, Bad Richard

But Kuklinski was far from a purely loving family man. Barbara Pedrici, his second wife, explained that he was alternatively “Good Richie” and “Bad Richie.”

While the “good” Richard showered his family with expensive gifts and vacations and was seen as a caring father and respected community figure, the evil Richard was just the regular Richard that his business contacts knew and sought and that his victims faced at their deaths.

He beat his wife, terrified his children, and was, in general, a horrible abuser.

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4 Family Abuse

One of the times when he showed his true nature to his family was after his daughter, Merrick, arrived home late: he took her dog from his bed and killed him in front of her as a punishment.

Another time his wife Barbara told him after a violent argument that maybe they should start seeing other people, and he slid a hunting knife in her back, so sharp that she didn’t felt the blade going in.

Then he told her that he couldn’t live without her and that he would kill her entire family if she left him.

Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo

3 The Iceman's Only Regret

The only self-stated regret of this cold-blooded killer was one of his murders, in which he claimed that the victim was asking God to help him, to save him.

So Kuklinski gave him half an hour before proceeding to kill him, in which God would have the time to keep him in some way.

After the half-hour passed, Kuklinski carried on with the murder. “It wasn’t too nice. That’s one thing I shouldn’t have done, that one. I shouldn’t have done it that way,” he would later state.

2 Richard Kuklinski, Burglar

And yet, despite all his dirty work as a Mafia hitman, the police initially investigated Kuklinski in what was probably the less chilling of his long list of crimes: burglary.

However, after he was causally linked to the murder of George Malliband (his business associate, whom he had killed in a fit of rage after he threatened his family), and later to other four killings, the police set a trap by sending one of Kuklinski’s friends, Phil Solimene, to contract his services as a hitman. Kuklinski fell into the trap and was eventually caught, tried, and jailed for life.

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1 Do Not Resuscitate

In prison, he started giving interviews to all those interested to hear his stories. From this period came all the information used to build his biography, much of which has later been called into question as inaccurate or outright false.

In any way, as it may be, the truths and the fantasized truths of his days of crime were enough for his then ex-wife to sign a “do not resuscitate” order against Kuklinski’s stated wishes.

He wasn’t renewed on March 5, 2006, when he died in prison of cardiac arrest.

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