Richard Kuklinski was born April 11, 1935 in a low income housing project in Jersey City. His father was a brakeman for the railroad, while his mother worked in a meat packing facility. He didn't like his father, who beat him whenever he felt like it, for no reason whatsoever. His mother was also very abusive, striking Richard with broomsticks and other objects when he didn't do exactly what he wanted. He was raised in a strong Catholic environment and his mother was extremely strict.
He grew up going to a Catholic grammar school and worked as an altar boy in the church. His father abandoned the family, leaving Richard on the streets to fend for himself. By the time he was sixteen, he was already reputable on the streets and took out anyone that got in his way. He once used a bar from a clothes line to severely beat six young men from a street gang that accosted him.
He expressed an unbelievable cruelty to animals. For pastimes, he would tie the tails of cats together and throw them over a clothesline to watch them tear each other apart. He would also put cats into the apartment building's incinerator to watch them burn alive. He also took dogs up to the roof of the building to throw them off and would tie them to the bumpers of city buses.
Richard was known for being very aggressive, and didn't hesitate to strike anyone that rubbed him the wrong way. He always carried at least two derringers and a knife on his person for protection while on the streets. He stated that his first murder was in 1949 at the age of fourteen, when he beat a bully to death. He felt terrible the first time and was very upset since the death was unintentional. However, he also felt a rush and began to love the rush and feeling of power that he got from beating other people or killing them.
By the 1960s, he had become a well known street tough and pool hustler. In 1960 he met a woman named Barbara and sought her affection delivering flowers to her door every day and buying her gifts frequently. They had three children, but he was not able to get a good enough job to support the family since he only had an eighth grade education. He worked at a film lab, where he pirated pornographic films and sold them to people connected with the Gambino Crime Family.
Soon he was doing hit jobs for the family, working with a gang that operated from the Gemini Lounge in Brooklyn. Kuklinski's brutality allowed him to collect money from debtors, who paid with either their money or their lives. In the basement of the Gemini Lounge, bodies were hacked up and carried out wrapped in plastic to be disposed of. Because of the fear that Kuklinski inspired in people, most people repaid their debts to the family.
One man tried to hide behind a door when Kuklinski arrived, but he saw the man's movement behind the door. When the man looked through the peephole, Kuklinski fired a gun through the peephole, killing the man. When on the job, Kuklinski pulled out all the stops and showed no mercy.
Richard sometimes used a chainsaw to dismember people while they were still alive. He described it as messy, but he was willing to do things such as remove a man's tongue and insert it in the man's anus to send a message across.
Richard was an expert in using cyanide (the same chemical used in gas chambers) to poison people. He would get it in liquid form and put it in their drink or merely dump it on them in a bar, where it would go through their sweat pores and go into their bloodstream, eventually killing them. His methods of disposing of bodies consisted of putting them in cars that were crushed, sides of roads, park benches, steel drums, and water bodies.
By the 1970s, Richard had become very wealthy from being a hitman. He lived in an expensive middle-class home in a good neighborhood with his wife and children. He charged at least $50,000 per hit and told his family and neighbors that he was a businessman. His wife never questioned his behavior, even though he left at odd hours and didn't say much about his work.
His wife and children had no idea of his real occupation and to outsiders they seemed like a perfect family. He hated traveling and returned as soon as he could to be with his family as much as possible. He made sure that his family was never given the same horrible experiences that he had endured during his own childhood. He was fascinated by the loving environment he experienced with his family since he had never known such love before.
Once, while his family was celebrating on Christmas Eve, he had to go out to collect some money. The man was giving Richard the runaround and he killed the man in his car with a handgun. He returned home to his family and put toys together for his kids for Christmas while he watched the newsreel on the murder.
By the 1980s, he had become the leading man in a crime ring. On one day, Paul Hoffman, a pharmacist, met with Richard to purchase Tagament and make a profit. When Hoffman showed up carrying $25,000 in cash, Richard put the gun under his chin, said "There is no merchandise" and shot him. The shot didn't kill Hoffman and he lay on the floor with blood pouring out, but Richard couldn't kill him since his gun had jammed. He used a tire iron to finish him off, put his corpse in a steel drum, and left it by a hotel, where it sat for several weeks.
Richard's abusive parents
He became involved in pornography, narcotics, contract killing, and gambling on a worldwide scale. His hits started to get sloppy and he began leaving behind evidence, which caused the FBI and police to keep a closer eye on him.
On December 27, 1982, the body of a man named Gary Smith was found in a hotel room, poisoned with cyanide and strangled to death. Twenty people used the room before the body was found under the bed, decomposing rapidly. Since Richard had left strangulation marks, it was obvious that the man was the victim of a murder.
On September 25, 1983, the body of Louis Masgay was found in a park. Richard had frozen the body two years before dumping it to confuse the time of death, earning him the nickname iceman from investigators. Unfortunately the body wasn't fully thawed before it was found and the forensics investigators discovered foul play was involved.
Another body was found on May 14, 1983 on a secluded bicycle trail. The man was named Daniel Deppner and was the third business associate of Richard to be found dead in the past year. After a few more months, two more bodies were found, whose last contact had been with Richard Kuklinski, implicating him in their murders. The police had been investigating him for three years and began to close their net on him.
In 1986, a task force of state, local, and federal authorities was set up solely to investigate past and current evidence possibly related to Richard Kuklinski. They found that the murders were diverse and didn't appear to have many connections, therefore they put an undercover agent in place to gather evidence that could lead to a warrant and putting Kuklinski on trial. The agent was named Dominick Polifrone and told Kuklinski that he was also a hit man, working for wise guys in downtown New York. He recorded Kuklinski talking about his murders and offering to perform a hit for him. It became apparent to investigators that Richard was planning on killing the agent, since he was so open about his murders and past experiences with him.
On December 17, 1986, the task force set up a road block and arrested Kuklinski. It took five people to restrain the huge man and put him in a vehicle. He was charged with five murders initially and his court trial was widely televised. He confessed to all of the murders, referring to the matter as merely business. His family was totally shocked and horrified, refusing to believe that Richard was a contract killer. He was sentenced to two lifetimes in prison, making him first eligible for parole at the age of 111.
Over his lifetime, he claims to have killed over two hundred people. He says that he feels no remorse for murdering people, but probably wouldn't do it if he didn't have to. He says that he doesn't think about his actions because they do bother him if he thinks about them enough. He regrets being a hit man since he now feels that he could have done something better. When he was interviewed in 1991 for a documentary, he showed little emotion, except when asked about the impact on his family, at which point he began tearing up.
Richard Kuklinski died at 1:15 AM on March 5, 2006. His death was reportedly due to natural causes, but some speculate that it was timed perfectly to prevent his testifying against Salvatore Gravano, former Gambino Family underboss.