Richard Leonard Kuklinski
Updated: Apr 20
Suspected contract killer for the Mafia (Gambino Family)
This article will cover an analysis of Richard Kuklinski's history, behaviour, motivations, drives and what possibly led to him becoming the man the world knows him as today.
It will also briefly cover the issues surrounding some of his claims of murder along with breakdowns of these murders. This article will not cover all of his criminal career, information on his burglary gang and other acts of his crimes such as fraud won't be discussed in any depth.
The sources used to verify events were a combination of police; court and FBI records, newspaper articles, testimonies from his family and police officers dealing with his case, direct testimony from Richard himself totalling to 17 hours of interviews that was recorded for episodes of a HBO series and a biographical based book written by Anthony Bruno.
Richard Kuklinski, more famously known as the Iceman, was a convicted killer. He had a history of violence and aggressive behaviours that occurred throughout his life.
He was a victim of violence and abuse at the hands of his parents during his early life and went on to become a perpetrator of the same thing as an adult.
The actual number of murders he committed isn't known and there is much speculation over some of the murders he's claimed to his name. He was convicted of 5 murders in total, however suspected to have committed many more.
Overall Richard was a career criminal and was involved in varying types of organised crime. His criminal activity ranged from murder, theft, bootlegging, assault/domestic violence and fraud.
The time frame of his criminal career spans from 1949 - 1986. His first crime was theft around the age of 13/14, he was never caught or convicted for this. His last known crime was conspiracy/attempted murder. It was this that led to the arrest of Kuklinski in 1986 and was achieved via an undercover operation led by the FBI.
D.O.B. 11th April 1935 - Jersey City, New Jersey
D.O.D. March 5, 2006 (aged 70) Died of natural causes (Death deemed suspicious by some)
Physical Disposition - roughly 300lbs, 6'4ft
Ancestry - Polish and Irish descent.
Father - Stanisław (Stanley) Kuklinski (1906 - 1977) a Polish immigrant from Karwacz, Masovian Voivodeship (East central Poland) worked as railroad break-man in New Jersey.
Mother - Maiden name - Anna McNally Marital Name Anna Kuklinski (1911–1972) Irish descent from Harsimus in New Jersey. Worked as a meat packer. Strict catholic.
Siblings - Brother Florian (1933–1941) Died from a beating by the hand of Stanley Kuklinski death officially recorded as bronchopneumonia, Sister Roberta Florence Kuklinski (1942–2010), Brother Joseph Michael Kuklinski (1944–2003)
Spouses - 2 -1st Wife Linda Kuklinski (divorced) - 2nd Wife Barbara Kuklinksi (estranged/ex)
Children - 5 - 2 boys from his 1st marriage, 2 girls and 1 boy from his 2nd marriage.
Criminal tactics - Con man, Car Thief, Bootlegger, Contract killer, Debt collector
Victim Pool - Males age 18+
Victims consist of - business partners/potential business partners of Kuklinski, 1 homicide was a police officer, he claimed this was a hit for the Gambino crime family.
Murder count - He has claimed multiple murders (200+) however many of his claims can not be substantiated or there isn't enough evidence to link him to the crime for a conviction to be possible.
M.O. - Richard had two distinct motives for killing these can be accounted for separately and are situational - Monetary and control/power/paranoia.
Mixture of disorganised and organised crimes
Address at time of arrest - 169 Sunset St, Dumont, NJ 07628. USA
Date of arrest - 17th December 1986
Charges - 5 counts of murder, 6 weapons violations, Attempted murder, Robbery, Attempted robbery
Date of trial - March 1988
Childhood and family life
Richard grew up in a strict catholic household which was mainly pushed via his mother.
He attended a catholic grammar school and was an alter boy.
His father was abusive verbally and physically to both the mother and children. He would regularly beat Richard and this began at a young age. He was also a drunk, causing the beatings to occur more often when under the influence.
He abandoned the family shortly after Richards sister Roberta was born, when Richard was around the age of 7/8. This affected Richard, he disliked his father due to the abuse but this made him hate and resent him.
Richard stated that after his father abandoned the family he would periodically show up at the family home (for short periods of time). During these times he would drink, verbally abuse and beat the children. This mostly occurred while his mother was at work, however Richard recalls times his mother was present. He said at times she would yell at his father to try to get him to stop hitting the children, but this would only cause his father to stop momentarily.
His father would eventually leave again after the birth of his brother Joseph and not be seen for prolonged periods of time. He describes visiting his father's workplace as a young boy in the hopes to catch a glimpse of him at times.
His mother Anna was also verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. She was also negligent the children's general care and due to financial issues was unable to provide the children with proper clothing or food.
His mother worked as a meat packer in a warehouse, therefore wasn't at home much. During the times she was at home she rarely interacted with the children, other than to discipline them. Richard recounts times where she used a broom stick to hit him with, he states that one occasion it even broke when she hit it off his body.
The verbal and emotional abuse carried out by Anna in Richards opinion was worse than the physical punishments. According to Richard, this had a profound effect on his self esteem and self worth.
He expresses a great distaste for his mother. He said she would give the children little to no attention or affection and was a very hard faced woman.
When she was at home she would often fall asleep listening to the radio leaving Richard and his siblings to their own devices, causing there to be no real structure or routine in his home life.
Socially, Richard didn't make friends easily and doesn't seem to recount any lasting friendships growing up. He does, however, describe being bullied by his peers, one boy specifically stands out for him (un-named).
In his local neighbourhood he describes a boy who would regularly bully him, this boy would publicly humiliate richard on a regular basis. Richard describes he would be scared to go out in case he bumped into this boy. He said the way he was treated by him had a lasting effect on Richard, and led to him feeling very insecure about things such as his appearance and his families overall wealth. He describes hating this boy with a passion.
His nurture-less environment meant richard didn't fully develop skills such as compassion or empathy. Little physical affection meant his tactile development also suffered. Any form of rejection from a parent, especially early on in a child's life, is known to have detrimental negative effects on mental development and mental health later in life.
Richards criminal and deviant behaviour began to occur around the age of 9/10 years old, it seems his father leaving was a trigger/contribution to this. Eventually, he dropped out of school and started mixing with local street gangs.
This type of behaviour isn't unusual for children experiencing abandonment issues. The symptoms for this can result in feelings of rejection, low self esteem, anxiety, anger, lack of emotional intimacy and the need to be accepted by others.
They will often seek acceptance from those outside of the family unit, such as peers. Often, due to the child's vulnerability, their behaviours can become more extreme as time goes on. They will seek to be accepted by less desirable members of society such as gangs who will take advantage of the person and manipulate them into a life of crime. To learn more about Abandonment Syndrome, please see the reference section at the end of this article.
Richard recalls committing his first crime as a young teen. This was the theft of a crate of wine, after stealing the wine he had hidden it, unsure what to do with it. He expresses feeling paranoid that he would be caught and felt as though everybody knew what he had done. This intense paranoia led to feelings of sickness, loss of appetite and restlessness. This continued for a while until a good few weeks had passed and he started to come to the realisation that he had gotten away with it. Once he had got over his initial bout of paranoia he started to feel more confident about what he had done.
As an adolescent he would torture animals, however, it is important to state that he wouldn't always watch the animals suffering. In some cases he would merely put the animal in a position of suffering then leave. It was the idea that he had control of their fate. He claimed that was the motivation for these actions, coupled with curiosity. Ultimately, he sought out to have power over them.
For example, in the interviews for HBO, Richard talks about tying dogs to the back of bus carts by a leash so the dog would have to run behind the bus cart. Eventually, the dog would get too tired and was dragged along until it died. When asked if he watched this, he stated, that he would just tie the dogs and leave, not looking to see the end result of his actions. He claimed he did these things out of boredom.
There was an incident where he tied two cats together by their tails and hung them from a clothes line. Leaving them to fight each other. He said he watched them fight for a while, got bored, and then left.
There were times he did discuss watching the animal suffer to the death, for example in the case of cats, he would throw them into incinerators and watch how they reacted to the flames. He would also kick dogs off roofs to watch them hit the floor and die. He explained it gave him momentary excitement, but it would eventually lead to a feeling of disgust.
Richard wasn't the only one from his family to go on to have violent and abusive behaviours.
Richards younger brother, Joseph, went to jail for the rape and murder of a 12 year old girl. He was in his early 20's at the time he committed this crime and later committed suicide in jail. He was incarcerated in the same jail as Richard. Although Richard said their relationship was estranged and they rarely, if ever, spoke.
The behaviour he had established during his teenage years firmly paved out the criminal career he chose to have in his adult life.
Jekyll and Hyde - Good Richie and Bad Richie
His ability to live two separate lives was helped by the fact his wife and children wouldn't question his day to day habits or work routine. She stated that if he got up in the middle of the night and left for whatever reason she would never question it or bring it up looking for a reason. This was something she learned to do early on in their marriage.
Barbara, was herself, a victim of abuse at the hands of Richard. She describes him as being two different people, much like Jekyll and Hyde, "there's the good Richie, then there's the bad Richie" - Barbara Kuklinski (1992).
Over the years she started to recognise tell-tale signs of Richards mood, she could almost predict if he was in a good mood or a bad one just from the atmosphere he brought into the room.
This wasn't something she was always able to do, in Anthony Bruno's book it is explained that there were times his outbursts had seemed to come out of nowhere. That he could be angry about something for weeks and keep it hidden so well she would have no idea about it until one of his rages happened.
Richard at times would have an explosive temper at home, one he would take out on his wife and kids at times. Yelling at them and smashing up parts of their home in a rage. He has hit Barbara on occasions and threatened her with violence. She found this very frightening at times.
On the other side of his personality, there was a loving caring man who wanted nothing more than to spoil his wife and children. A man who would do anything to satisfy their every wish. He would shower her with affection and gifts. Buy his children unnecessary, but lavish presents, take the family out to expensive restaurants and take them on family outings.
It seemed this part of richard craved what he saw as the perfect family, the family he never got to have growing up. The family he always wanted to have, and to be the father he never got. He was so focused on creating this perfect little bubble that when he would have an outburst he would feel guilt at the way he had treated them and try to correct his mistakes as soon as possible.
Links to the mafia
It was alleged that Kuklinski worked as a hitman regularly for the Gambino family, specifically for Roy DeMeo and his crew. However, this hasn't been completely verified. Roy DeMeo was involved in the contracted deaths of many people. The DeMeo crew would liaise at a place called the Gemini lounge in Brooklyn and it was here that they allegedly would treat the bodies of the victims for disposal.
It has been confirmed that he was associated to them in some ways, the film lab he worked in was controlled by the Gambinos and this is where he would make bootleg porn for them. He was initially linked to them through this job.
He was also photographed outside the Gemini lounge during police surveillance. This happened one time showing that he had definitely visited the lounge. However there is only one image of him and it was stated that on this specific occasion he went there to purchase a handgun, not because he was directly working for DeMeo.
There is one case of a contract hit that Kuklinski can be directly linked to. This is the homicide of police officer Peter Calabro, a hired hit organised by the Gambino family. Sammy the Bull was supposedly the one to arrange it. New Jersey prosecutors were forced to drop all charges against Sammy after Kuklinski's death. This is where the suspicions over Kuklinski's death come from, some suspect his death was down to slow poisoning over time rather than natural causes. Allegedly this was done in order to stop him testifying against Sammy the Bull.
Peters Calabros body was found March 14th, 1980 on the side of a road with two shotgun wounds being the cause of his death. When he was found he was still inside his car.
Calabro was a crooked officer who had information on a car theft ring operated by the crime family. The Gambinos were worried he would flip, inform on them and take a witness protection plea deal. So they wanted him killed before he could expose them. It is alleged that they hired Richard Kuklinski to do this.
The evidence that the police had on this hit wasn't enough to stand alone in court as definitive proof that it was set up by the Gambinos. Richard's statement, however, included information that was never released to the public, which supported the evidence that law enforcement already had about the case. With the inclusion of the confession Kuklinski made it meant they had enough to make a conviction against Sammy Gravano.
Once Richard died this all fell apart and they had to drop the case against Sammy the Bull.
Undercover Investigation & Richards Arrest
At the time, Richard was suspected of multiple murders (among other crimes). Various Law Enforcement agencies knew he was directly linked to these crimes, however, didn't have enough solid evidence to prove it in order to make an arrest and a conviction. A number of missing and deceased persons had been linked to Kuklinski, and were rumoured to of been with him shortly before they were killed or disappeared.
Working together, these agencies came up with a plan to infiltrate Kuklinski and get the evidence they needed to make an arrest and a conviction. A sting operation was put together called Operation Iceman.
Kuklinski was eventually arrested after the sting was set up, using an undercover federal agent, Dominick Polifrone. Dominick posed as a mafia associated drug and gun dealer called Michael Dominick Provenzano.
The facade was to build up a working relationship with Richard and gain his trust via criminal activity. Using current informants that had claimed to personally know Kuklinski, Dominick hoped to gain access to him. After a year and a half into the investigation Dominick still hadn't been introduced to Kuklinski.
Becoming impatient he approached Lenny DePrima, an informant in the Paterson store, a place many criminals would frequent. Lenny had agreed to set up a meeting between Dominick and Richard, in exchange for immunity of conviction.
Dominick pushed Lenny to arrange a meeting with Kuklinski multiple times, but had nothing come from it. Lenny had explained to him that Richard wasn't a man you could just approach and introduce someone to. That he was easily "spooked" (Bruno. 1993) and to have patience. Lenny referred to Richard as 'the devil himself', along with others from the store who knew Richard. Richard was not someone you could just call up and have a friendly chat with. Dominick, although impatient, understood his introduction would need to have purpose.
Polifrones first contact with Richard Kuklinski was due to Richard needing pure cyanide to carry out a murder. Richard had spoken to Lenny Deprima on the phone asking if he knew a guy that could get drugs for him. At this point Lenny recommended Dominick and asked Richard if he wanted to set up a meeting with Dominick to discuss getting it from him. Richard agreed to this meeting.
Dominick and Kuklinski met up for coffee to discuss the transaction. This was Dominick's moment to secure a working relationship with Kuklinski. This was the moment he had been waiting for. After a discussion about drugs, Richard seemed to feel comfortable enough to ask Dominick if he could get his hands on pure cyanide. Slightly taken aback by Richards upfront request, Dominick agreed and told Richard he had a guy he knew that could probably get it.
In response to Richards request, Dominick asked Richard if he could get hold of military grade weapons. He told Richard he needed these for the IRA and that they were good customers of his who would pay big bucks for the right weapons. Dominick said this knowing Richard couldn't refuse large sums of money.
After a brief discussion about the finer details of the jobs they had for one another, Richard asked how he could get hold of Dominick to let him know when everything was ready. They exchanged pager numbers and Dominick told Richard to keep in touch with him to make arrangements once the deal was sorted out.
Once a relationship was established via the initial meeting set up through Lenny, Dominick was able to approach Kuklinski to freely discuss the hit, and agree to provide the cyanide needed to carry it out. Kuklinski was under the impression he was being hired to kill a cocaine dealer who would have copious amounts of cash on their persons. Kuklinski had planned to poison the target, then take the money.
On the day of his arrest he had met up early in the day with the undercover officer to collect the cyanide that was to be used in the hit. After picking up what he believed was pure cyanide he knew he needed to test it out, something Dominick hadn't accounted for. Richard tested the cyanide on an animal. After there was no response Richard realised it wasn't cyanide and became frustrated. Instead of putting together the plan for the hit he decide to go home, annoyed that Dominick had wasted his time and money.
Due to this change of plan the arrest had to be made quickly in case Richard decided to retaliate and kill Dominick for his deception.
They knew him collecting what he thought was pure cyanide would be enough evidence of intent to arrest and convict Kuklinski for attempted murder.
A road block was then set up on his street a few hours after the meeting to collect the cyanide. They did this to trap him in order to make the arrest. Kuklinski is a tall and stocky man with a lot of natural strength, the officers that arrested him described him as difficult to take down due to his size and stature. Getting the handcuffs on him was a struggle.
Motives, Reasoning and Drives
Motive - In regard to contracts and cons solely monetary - In regard to personal slights revenge/control/power.
Richards motives for his crimes vary, however, the majority were motivated by greed. Specifically large sums of cash. He would set up fake deals/business transactions and then kill the person when they showed up with the money. ″He would set up business deals and when the people arrived with their side of the deal, with their part of the bargain, he would kill them,″ Attorney General W. Cary Edwards (1986)
The victims he targeted for this were associated to hired hits or cons. He did not know them personally, or at least not well enough that they would consider him a friend. In some cases he would have to get them into situations where he was alone or in a confined space with them. Enough to be able to execute the murder.
Examples of this can be seen in the cases of Peter Calabro and Paul Hoffman. He shot Calabro late at night and from a distance (from a vehicle), this was a hired hit.
Hoffman was only a distant associate/connection. He had no personal interaction with him other than arranging the exchange of drugs for money.
In some of the cases the motivation for the murders he committed was not monetary, but instead based around paranoia. The need to regain control of a situation where Richard perceived the person as a threat to either his family or himself. If he felt as though they would flip and go to the police and tell all he would act how he deemed appropriate. His resolution to this problem was to kill them.
He saw these killings as a practical necessity, to gain monetary profit or to ensure secrecy of his crimes.
His murders had a purpose. According to him that purpose being driven by the want for money and the urgency to not be caught by law enforcement. He would kill people he felt would expose him or had the means to expose him.
Drives - Richard wasn't driven to kill through any perverse sexual desire.
He didn't have a specific type of person or appearance that would trigger his desire to kill either.
His drives were associated to his personal experiences and perceptions, the desire for self preservation and the preservation of the family unit. Also to maintain control of that.
Richard seemingly had no addictions; he didn't drink, take drugs, or gamble. Nor did he frequent sex workers.
There have been times he claimed he had killed based on his emotional drives, reactivity, and feelings of disgust for the person. An example of this is Robert Prongay aka Mister Softee. He was personally associated to him and attributes much of his knowledge on explosives, poisons and body disposal to him.
When he talks of Robert, it's somewhat in admiration of his skills although Richard does state that Mr Softee, although deadly, was also crazy. He claimed he shot and killed Mister Softee after he had approached Richard about carrying out a hit on his ex wife and their children. This was an emotionally led reaction, Richard was disgusted by the notion that Robert would kill his own family and reacted almost instantaneously. He was driven by this internal disgust.
It's possible that this reminded him of the destructive and abusive nature his parents had towards him as a child, coupled with the fact he held his own children and family in the highest regard. They were the most important thing to him. In his mind the very reason he was involved in this criminal lifestyle was to cater to his family. To make sure they didn't grow up in poverty and pain like he had. Going to great lengths to make sure nothing negatively affected that.
In his eyes he could justify some of his actions regarding those he had killed. For example, if he felt that a person had made a threat against his family. In other cases, he had no justification, only the fact he had wanted the money.
He did have drives to harm others unprovoked and unnecessarily. This can be seen when he tortures or hurts animals. This drive and initial act would excite him, but he said eventually that feeling would lead to disgust. He was not clear if that disgust was at himself and his actions, or if he was disgusted by the remains of his actions.
He also explained that it made him feel powerful, confident and in control. These are things Richard said he lacked during his childhood and would often feel out of control of in his own life. Resentful and angry at those who he saw as having power over him.
He learned from a very young age that power and control can be achieve through brute force.
Style, Methods and Weapons
Most of Richards crimes were premeditated rather than impulsive the majority of the time, but also disorganised. His choice in method varied, dependant on the person, his relationship with them and the situation around the murder. This was also reflected in his weapon choices.
In some aspects he went to great lengths to cover up his crimes, such as storing a body in a freezer for two years. In order to distort time of death and sabotage the investigation. But then in other crimes he left obvious forensic evidence such as shell casings, and carelessly dumping bodies.
The crimes were planned, yet at times sloppy in execution.
In some cases he seemed to be led by impatience, using more than one weapon to ensure the victim was dead. E.g, using cyanide as a primary weapon and then strangulation as a secondary weapon.
Some of Richards victims were people that he could get up close and personal with. People who somewhat trusted him. He knew many of them personally enough for them to be around him alone and be close to him while eating/drinking. They were comfortable enough with this, despite some of them knowing that he had killed others using poison.
As time went on Richard seemed to become more complacent in covering up his crimes. For example previously he had gone to great lengths to dispose and hide bodies.
However, in the case of Gary Smith, he made no real effort to cover the crime at all, he merely stuffed the body under the motel bed "for someone else to find" - Kuklinski (1992). He did this despite people knowing he had a working relationship with Gary Smith. In previous murders he had been known to carefully wrap the body and either store it somewhere or make it look like the person died of natural causes.
This laziness could of also been a symptom of his confidence and arrogance, he had spent so much time 'getting away with it' that he may of felt untouchable in regards to getting caught. So over time became complacent and assuming he was too clever to be caught.
The choice of weapon would depend on the job he was doing. His methods varied from beating, strangulation, stabbing, shooting to poisoning.
When he was out on the street he carried 3 guns and a hunting knife. The amount of guns he carried was down to the fact that he said a gun had jammed on him before. He had no back up weapon so had to use his initiative to kill the person. This wasn't a situation he wanted to be in again so always had a back up gun from then on (a display of his level of experience in his work).
He kept a Derringer in each pocket and a revolver strapped to his ankle. He owned a 22 Caliber Black & White Derringer, which was recovered by Law Enforcement, reinforcing these claims.
He also tended to use shotguns from time to time.
He used cyanide, on occasions, in either powder or liquid form. He would use a spray bottle to administer it, or it would be put into the victims food. He prefered this method overall.
Richard has used strangulation as a method of killing. This is not his first choice in method and is a technique he uses as a back-up.
He doesn't carry a ligature as a weapon, there is no evidence that this weapon is a premeditated choice. The times he has used one it was an item already present and to hand at the primary crime scene.
In tapes that were recorded during the undercover investigation on Kuklinski he can be heard saying to agent Polifrone that he prefers to used clean methods. "The only thing I don't understand. Don't you use a fuckin' piece of iron to get rid of these fuckin' people, or do you use this fuckin' cyanide?" -Polifrone (1986). Richard replies, "Why be messy? You do it, nice and calm." - Kuklinski (1986).
This distaste for being messy is also apparent during his HBO interviews, when he talks about using tools such as chainsaws or tire irons. He explains they were never his first choice and ultimately his last choice, that he tried to avoid using those kinds of methods to kill.
This would make poisoning his prefered method, secondary would be shooting the target/victim, leaving strangulation being the third. These are all quick and efficient methods, creating situations where Richard can leave the crime scene quickly, leaving minimal mess.
Poisoning, in some cases, may even mean he doesn't have to deal with the clean up and disposal of the body, making his job much easier.
These types of crimes require a person to have built the trust of their target, or at least have some sort of purpose to be around them that wouldn't arouse suspicion. Richard would need to be up close and personal with them the majority of the time. In cases where he has poisoned a person's food, that person would need to have enough trust of him to leave food or have food around him.
In cases of shooting, Richard does this at close range he carries back up guns and shows clear pre-planning of how the crime will be carried out. He will often use the facade of business and drug deals as a rouse to lure targets to a location. This means he has full access to the person and they are alone in close proximity to one another. This enables Richard to dominate the situation and keep control.
Personality traits & Emotions
Dissociation is one of the main aspect of Richards coping mechanisms. It is one of the things that has given him this ability to switch off from the crimes he commits and detach himself from any feeling of guilt or remorse.
This was learned via early trauma in life. He talks about not thinking about certain things so that he doesn't have to feel them. He appears to have gained this skill during the various beatings his father would give him. He described, that while his father carried out those beatings he learned to "think of something else" Kuklinski (1992) to distract himself from what was happening and to nullify the pain from it.
This would suggest that he does feel emotion, discomfort and possible guilt. However only when he thinks about them and the implications.
This means he can possibly identify with his victims, or at least how they may of felt during that moment, but chooses not to so he doesn't have to face the implications of his actions. The motive for this disassociation appears to be to evade hurting himself in the process of remembering and identifying emotionally with the moment. Selfish acts regardless.
During his interviews with HBO he was diagnosed by Dr Park Dietz who is a Forensic Psychiatrist. After speaking with Richard over a few sessions Dietz identified that Richard had:
Anti-social Personality Disorder, with Traits of factor 1 & 2 psychopathy.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder - self serving, egotistical, constant need for admiration, lack of empathy.
Paranoid Personality Disorder.
The first two diagnostics seem fitting and reflect Richards personality. Historically there is evidence of his current and past behaviours that clearly identify issues such as antisocial and narcissistic traits.
Although he didn't score particularly high on the HARE PCL-R test he does have clear traits of both Factor 1 & 2 psychopathy.
He was diagnosed by Dr Deitz as having Paranoid Personality disorder. However this is debatable and can be contested and has by other medical professionals.
In order for the Paranoid diagnosis to be accurate, the paranoid episodes would need to occur independently of any crime being committed. The paranoia would need to been seen occurring with those in his life who are not criminally involved with him.
It appears from the evidence and information available that Richards paranoia was linked to his criminal behaviour rather than every aspect of his life. It is normal for a person who lives illegitimately to be paranoid about being found out and suspecting ulterior motives in other criminals. This wouldn't be deemed as a personality based disorder but rather a symptom of his lifestyle.
Someone who truly suffered this disorder would have it consistently manifest in multiple situations throughout their lifetime not just in specific circumstances, much like Richard's seemed to have been. His paranoid episodes are mostly linked with the idea that people he is involved with criminally can expose him. Which, in reflection, would be perfectly normal things to be paranoid about in that situation. There is no honour among thieves, as they say, so the idea that these people could turn on him to save themselves is not that far-fetched. There was a real possibility that these people could take him down if they decided to speak to Law Enforcement.
If we look at the victims of his paranoid based behaviours we see a pattern forming. The moment he suspects a person could flip on him he eradicates them. The notion that dead men tell no tales is prevalent here. Each of these victims were close to him, they all knew information about him that could potentially get him killed or arrested.
Had we seen Richard displaying behaviours or acting paranoid in other situations in his life this diagnosis may be a more fitting one.
Richard likes to come across as emotionless but that is far from truth. He is an emotional man but he does not regulate his emotions like a normal person would. He states he doesn't feel any way about killing but also contradicts himself later on in his interview tapes.
He feels anger and frustration and is somewhat led by these emotions, finding them difficult to control, they seem to be very reactive for him. We see this in some of his crimes with those he personally knows. In these instances he's reacted based upon emotions of anger, which is a trait linked with factor 2 Psychopathy. This high Neuroticism can cause explosive and chaotic behaviours leading to erratic disorganised outbursts of things like sudden rage.
On the flip side, Richards demeanor changes when he is dealing with someone he has no personal connection to. When it is a stranger he is able to remain emotionally disconnected and unreactive, he focuses only on the task at hand and the outcome. This callous and cold approach is something seen in a person with Factor 1 Psychopathy.
Those with factor 1 Psychopathy are believed to have decreased brain functioning in regard to attention, processing fear and connecting emotions with actions. This can be seen especially when looking at their comprehension of compassion, remorse and empathy. It is because of this interference in cognition that they can be callous, self serving and seemingly evade feelings of guilt. This can also make them come across as fearless, it has been identified that this type of fearlessness is also linked with brain functioning that can be found in those with Psychopathy. "higher-order cognitive processes moderate the fear deficits of psychopathic individuals. These findings suggest that psychopaths' diminished reactivity to fear stimuli, and emotion-related cues more generally, reflect idiosyncrasies in attention that limit their processing of peripheral information." - Newman, J et al (2009).
Although there is not a complete disconnect from emotion, it means that a person with factor 1 psychopathy is limited in emotional regulation and understanding.
Richard does seem to have clear traits of someone with factor 1 psychopathy, he has the ability to disconnect himself with his victims emotionally. He doesn't seem to acknowledge the impact of his actions on them nor does he seem to care.
This is most prevalent in those he killed that he was loosely associated to. In his interview tapes he gives the impression he is consciously aware of his ability to disconnect himself with specific acts. In fact that he does so through choice so he doesn't have to feel emotions. Suggesting that he does have comprehension of empathy and compassion, and chooses when he should apply it and why.
He states that the only reason he doesn't feel something/emotion for his victims is because he just doesn't think about it. But if he does think about it, then it upsets him, so he just doesn't. This shows that although he is able to disconnect himself in the moment of the killing he is not emotionally detached from it completely, as would first be assumed.
This is a learned skill that most likely developed as he was growing up.
He doesn't like to be upset or have those feelings, so uses techniques to avoid them, the skill of managing positive and negative emotions is a learned one. It is possible that Richard's learned ways of coping with these emotions is not to confront them, but to instead suppress them, giving the impression he is emotionless.
During his interviews he is asked "Are there any murders that haunt you?", Richard replies, "No murders haunt me. Nothing. I don't think about it. That's why it's hard for me to tell you. In order for me to be able to tell you when something happened, I'd have to think about it. If I think about it, it would wind up hurting me. So I don't, I don't think about it" - Richard Kuklinski (1992).
However in contrast to this, he also seems to be able to relate to the suffering of others if he is emotionally connected to them.
He feels personal loss and pain when he talks about his family. He is clearly emotionally affected by that. He attempts to suppress this during his interviews, however, it can be seen in various facial tells and body language, along with his construct of language.
At one stage he is questioned about his regrets in life, he starts to talk about his ex wife Barbara and their children and what he's put them through. Seemingly identifying with the pain he has caused them. At this point he becomes very emotional and the pain he is feeling can be seen outwardly in his facial expressions and breaks in speech.
He starts to cry and seems somewhat embarrassed about it. He sees crying as emasculating and shameful, this was possibly learned behaviour that stems from his childhood.
The feelings of shame and emasculation causes him to try to supress and ignore certain feelings. Not outwardly reacting to them, causing him to become numb and emotionally unresponsive over time.
Although this sudden show of emotion seems compassionate, it cannot be ruled out that the only reason he feels this emotion is because of the more selfish aspects. The idea that if it hurt him it must of hurt them (typical of a person who is self serving, it is only relatable if they feel it too). This isn't so much identifying directly with the victims, but rather indirectly through his own perceived pain and loss.
It appears as though he interchanges between factor 1 and factor 2 psychopathy based on the circumstance and connection with the victim.
Richard started out life being the victim and ultimately ended his life being the abuser. He talks about his childhood consisting of being beaten, ridiculed and bullied by others. The feeling of despair and lack of control overwhelmed him at times.
The desire to get that control back and make others suffer like he did grew over time manifesting into a frustration and rage. The hatred that built up over time for both his mother and father. The feelings of abandonment and loneliness, coupled with fear, meant Richard developed and learned coping skills built around being hurt, unloved and afraid.
This duration of early life neglect and abuse has been shown to be a contributor to violent and aggressive behaviour later in life. If it is not amended early on it can have devastating implications.
It got to a point where Richard would no longer put up with being a target and a victim. He chose in his eyes to fight back, to become the aggressive one. He describes that being the aggressor and not the victim made him feel excited and he got an adrenaline rush. He enjoyed the feeling of being in control and having the power. He states "that was the day I learned it was better to give than to receive" -Kuklinski (1992)
Lying/embellishment and truth
When he talks about killings he seems to embellish and can come across as he is lying. He seems to gain pleasure (excitement) from the idea that he's shocking the audience/interviewer and duping them. The idea that he is responsible for 200+ murders as he claims seems more of a baseless claim than a reliable one. Yes we know he is capable of killing and getting away with it, but such high numbers seems unlikely.
The motivation for this could be a number of things, he could be doing this to gain notoriety/infamy - to a person like Richard such violent and despicable acts show he is to be feared, he is not weak and can do terrible things if he is crossed. Fear in this instance equates to respect and admiration to the mind of a person like Kuklinski. So would not be an unusual thing for his to embellish or lie about in order to garner such a response from people.
It doesn't seem too far fetched to think that Richard knows he's never getting out of jail and also knows his name is somewhat infamous. Regarding the personality traits he has of enjoying power and control it could be said that these claims are false confessions or complete fabrication and lies to inflate his sense of self. So that people will see him as this ruthless killer a man to be feared and respected. Meaning he will leave a legacy behind as the most dangerous contract killer of all time. He has nothing left to loose in the moments he made these claims during HBO interviews.
He could also be lying to purposely deceive law enforcement, he knows that the interview was for the sole purpose of extracting information from him about his crimes. He is not stupid, he knows that the reason they did it via a television show was to feed into his ego and get him to agree to it. Therefore he may see it as an opportunity to get some revenge on the police for catching him by making them waste police time and resources looking into his involvement in crimes that never occured. Richard has a history of wanting to get revenge on those he feels have done injustices to him. This would be fitting of that aspect of his character.
It could also be down to the fact that Richard is compulsive liar, from his behaviours historically we know that Richard is an impulsive person who can be led by his compulsions. He may just be lying for the sake of lying due to the types of personality disorder and abnormalities that he displays in general.
Or lastly that he really did carry out all these murders and is in fact one of the worst mass murderers and contract killers in U.S. history.
One way to establish possible truth would be to try to link described acts with unsolved crimes which share similarities in descriptions, one must also be aware that he may of had access to news/stories/articles of unsolved crimes of which he could potentially claim.
He mixes truth with fiction, due to the crimes we know he has committed it can make it easier for him to lie about or fabricate other crimes.
(of which he had convictions for)
George Malliband was a criminal associate of Richards.
On the day he was killed by Richard, (Jan 31st 1980), he had indirectly threatened Richards family. They were driving in a van together when they got into a disagreement, Richard had stopped the vehicle at the point George had threatened his family.
He then shot George in the chest numerous times. George was killed instantly, Richard stole the cash George had on his persons, which was rumoured to be roughly between 25 and 27 thousand dollars. Then disposed of his body by putting it into a metal 55 gallon barrel which he then dumped near a chemical plant in New Jersey.
His body was found 3 days later. After speaking with George's family members they learned that George had said he was going that day to meet a Richard Kuklinski whom he had business with.
Last seen alive April 1982. The Pharmacist was tricked into thinking he was buying prescription drugs (Tagamet) from Richard, that he could then sell on at a higher price.
There never were any drugs. It was a con.
He had met Richard in a store in Paterson, a place many criminals and con men visited to purchase contraband and stolen goods from. At the time, Paul was looking for cheap drugs he could sell under the counter in his pharmacy.
He was shot by Richard during this goods exchange, the gun jammed which left Paul Hoffman alive but barely. Richard didn't want to leave him alive, so proceeded to grab a tire iron which was already at the location and beat Hoffman over the head with it until he had died. Richard then took the cash Hoffman had bought with him for the exchange which totalled to $22.000, then disposed of Hoffman's body.
Richard put Hoffman's body into a metal drum and left it outside Harrys Corner Luncheonette (3420 Boardwalk, Wildwood. NJ 08260. Now closed). The drum went missing after a while Richard didn't know what happened to it. He would visit the cafe daily to see if was still there, then one day it was just gone. His body has never been recovered.
Gary Smith was a close associate of Richards he was one of the members of Richards burglary gang. After one of the other members, a man by the name of Percy House, was arrested and turned informant on Richard agreeing to testify against him. Richard became extremely paranoid, Percy was placed into protective custody so that he would be safe from any retaliation by the rest of the gang members.
This led to a series of events involving the murders of the other members of the gang. The police were looking for them and had put out warrants for their arrest. Knowing that one person had already snitched on Kuklinski he had to act.
For a period of time he was hiding the other two members Gary Smith and a man called Daniel Deppner in the York Motel, in North Bergen New Jersey. They were using false names to book into the motel to avoid being detected. Richard would bring them food and check on them daily. He wanted to make sure they didn't go to the police.
Kuklinski had found out that Gary had decided to leave the motel room to meet up with his daughter one day. Paranoid that Gary had spoken to the police Richard became very angry at him. He made the decision that Gary had to go, it was too risky to keep him alive.
As Richard would regularly bring both of them food, he decided the best way to do this was using cyanide. He laced Gary's burger with the chemical before bringing it to him at the motel. As Gary ate the burger he seemed to have no reaction to the cyanide, becoming impatient Richard ordered Daniel to strangle Gary. Using the cord of a lamp Daniel strangled Gary until he had died.
They then stuffed Gary's body between the mattress and the bed frame and left it there. On December 27, 1982 a few days after they had killed him Gary Smiths body was discovered.
Daniel was killed shortly after Gary Smith. Richard had decided motels by this point were a no go. Instead he put Daniel into an apartment, this wasn't a property that was in Richards name. It was an apartment registered to the name of a man called Rich Patterson. Rich Patterson was the fiance of Richard Kuklinski's daughter.
During Daniels time staying there he was killed by Richard, the date of this is not know but it is assumed he was killed around March in 1983. Richard then enlisted Rich Pattersons help in disposing of Daniels body. He had told Patterson that someone else had killed Daniel and he didn't want the authorities to think that him and Patterson were involved. So it was better if they moved the body.
Panicked by this point Patterson agreed to help. They wrapped Daniels body in plastic bags and then dumped Daniels body along the Clinton Road in West Milford, NJ.
The decomposing corpse of Daniel Deppners body was found on May 14, 1983 by a passing cyclist.
The cause of death was similar to Gary Smiths, it appeared that Daniel had been poisoned and then strangled.
Louis Masgay was not a known associate of Kuklinski's, he was introduced to Richard via the purchase of stolen goods.
On the day he had gone missing, July 1st 1981, he was due to meet Richard to exchange some blank video tapes for cash. Upon meeting with Richard he was shot in the back of the head and killed.
Richard then took the $95.000 that was hidden in door of Masgay's van and hid Louis Masgays body in a freezer for almost two years. Richards reasoning for this was to distort time of death making it much harder for the police to link the death of Louis to him.
Eventually he dumped Masgays body as it defrosted, it was found by a park ranger on September 25, 1983, near a park off Clausland Mountain Road, Orangetown New York. Initially the police had no idea that the body had been frozen this wasn't identified until the autopsy was carried out. Once they knew it had been frozen they realised that it hadn't happened recently and started to investigate Masgays whereabouts the day he was reported missing by his family.
Speaking to Masgays wife they found out that the day of his disappearance he was due to meet a man by the name of Richard Kuklinski. It was this information and the act of freezing the body that earned Richard the nickname Iceman which was given to him by the police force investigating the Masgay Murder.
A Police officer who was shot by Richard at close range from a vehicle. He was shot and killed 14 March 1980 around 2 a.m. Kuklinski received an extra 30 years for this crime which was added to his sentence.
He stated at the time he didn't know it was a police officer, but that if he had known he would of killed him anyway. He also said that this was a hit arranged by Sammy "the Bull" Gravano who was at the time the under boss of the Gambino family.
He agreed to testify against Sammy, who was already serving a 20 year sentence by this point.
However it is disputed if Richard actually did kill this officer due to him attempting to extort $200.000 from Sammy Gravano's Lawyers, in exchange for him to not testify against him. This was confirmed by the FBI who had evidence of a note that was written by Kuklinski to Sammy's lawyers stating he wanted to be paid for his silence.
After Kuklinski died the case against Sammy was dropped.
The myth of Robert Prongay aka Mister Softee
There have been a lot of speculations around if Mister Softee was even a real person. It has been claimed by many that he was just a figment of Kuklinski's imagination, just another lie Richard had told.
However, this is not true, Mister Softee was indeed a real person. He rented garage space where he kept his ice cream truck, this was next to a property Richard Kuklinski rented on Newkirk Ave & 70th St, North Bergen, NJ 07047.
Richard had claimed to know this man through a coincidence. He described him as a military trained hitman who used the disguise of an ice cream vendor to stake out his victims for hired hits. He said Robert had extensive knowledge of chemicals, explosives and body disposal. Richard said he had learned some of his techniques such as the spray bottles of liquid cyanide and freezing bodies to distort time of death from Robert.
Robert Prongay was born December 30, 1945, he was a twin to his brother Kevin.
He attended Union Hill High School in New Jersey, (closed in 2008), and can be found in an image from the 1963 year book alongside his twin brother Kevin Prongay (See image below).
He was an ice cream man who did indeed have a criminal record for things such as explosives, among other crimes. He was married and fathered two children, as well as living and working in New Jersey.
At the time of his murder he had been due in court on Wednesday, 8th August, 1984, for the bombing of his ex wife's home. When he didn't show up for court police issued a warrant for his arrest and began to look for him.
When they learned of the Garage he was renting they decided to go and scope the area out. Upon arrival the found the garage door unlocked and ajar. When they entered the property Roberts body was found "hanging out of the drivers side door of his ice cream truck with two bullet holes in his chest" The Jersey Journal (1984). His body was discovered on Friday, 10th August 1984.
His death was reported by the papers on Saturday, 11th August, 1984.
Richard had claimed that Robert Prongay had asked him to carry out a hit on his family, something that disgusted Richard. The thought of a man willing to have his wife and child executed made Richard's blood boil, so he said he had shot Robert there and then.
There is no evidence to support Richard's claims that Robert Prongay was a hitman.
Nor is there any evidence that supports the idea that Richard was the one who killed him.
That said, Robert Prongay was murdered in his ice cream truck and did die of bullet wounds. Police records would also indicate that Robert seemed to be trying to kill his wife and child at that time like Richard had claimed.
If you found this case interesting you might find my books on Kuklinski interesting too.
The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a killer (1992). HBO, aired 1992 - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0874289/
The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman (2001). HBO, aired 2001 - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0347228/
Amazon Prime have released a film dramatizing the life of Richard 'The Iceman' Kuklinski, it is mostly accurate but not completely. Some events have been altered for dramatic effect.
"Chronicles the life of real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski, who was eventually caught and convicted in 1986. Perhaps most shocking of all was his family's total ignorance as to his real career."
Directed by Ariel Vromen
Starring Winona Ryder as Barbara Kuklinski & Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski
It can be watched here -https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/video/detail/B085L192CJ/ref=atv_dp_share_cu_r
Kuklinski Family Obituaries
& other records of death
Obituary Anna Kulinski (Maiden name Mcnally) - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/99066634/anna-mcnally
Obituary Florian Kuklinski - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/98307987/florian-kuklinski/flower
Obituary Joseph Michael Kuklinski - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/46846417/joseph-michael-kuklinski
Obituary Richard Leonard Kuklinski - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13709759/richard-leonard-kuklinski
Obituary Roberta Florence Boyle (Maiden name - Kuklinski) - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/174278721/roberta-florence-boyle
Obituary Stanisław 'Stanley' Kuklinski - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/98307995/stanley-kuklinski
US social security death index. Robert Prongay 1945 - 1984. Social Security Administration (SSA) retrieved from - https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-10002-15832332-/robert-prongay-in-us-social-security-death-index-ssdi?indId=externalindividual-7e4d8484f64ccab867e4536111c3ffad&trn=partner_Geni&trp=logged_out_matches_module Accessed: 28 Dec 2020
Baskin-Sommers AR, Curtin JJ, Newman JP. Specifying the Attentional Selection That Moderates the Fearlessness of Psychopathic Offenders. Psychological Science. 2011;22(2):226-234. doi:10.1177/0956797610396227
Bruno, Anthony (2013) . The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer. ROBERT HALE LTD. ISBN9780709052722.
Crystal Ponti. (2020). The Iceman': An Undercover Agent Reflects on Taking Down Notorious Hitman Richard Kuklinski. A+E Networks. Retrieved from - https://www.aetv.com/real-crime/the-iceman-richard-kuklinski-hitman. Accessed: 04 Jan 2021
Dolan, J.(Dec 18 1986) Man Charged With Killing Associates, Accomplices In Illegal Business Deals. AP News. Retrieved from - https://apnews.com/article/fd57cb7179ef65c91761c3ceeeab53dd Accessed: 04 Jan 2021
Iceman: Suspected in 5 deaths arrested (Dec 18 1986). The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from - https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=i1kiAAAAIBAJ&pg=952,4213260&hl=en. Accessed: 04 Jan 2021
Jacobs, A. (2003) Reality Tv Confession Leads to Real Life Conviction. New York Times. Section B, P1. Retrieved from - https://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/21/nyregion/reality-tv-confession-leads-to-real-life-conviction.html Accessed: 04 Jan 2021
Jayne Leonard, (2020). What to know about abandonment issues. Medical News Today. Retrieved from - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/abandonment-issues Accessed on 28 Dec 2020
Jerry Capeci, May 5, 2005. Case Builds Against Accused 'Mafia Cops' Retrieved from - https://web.archive.org/web/20201209060334/https://www.nysun.com/new-york/case-builds-against-accused-mafia-cops/13349/. Accessed 28 Dec 2020
N.D. (1970). Jersey City Man Arrested In Death of 12‐Year‐Old Girl. The New York Times. Archived. Retrieved from - https://www.nytimes.com/1970/09/16/archives/jersey-city-man-arrested-in-death-of-12yearold-girl.html. Accessed on 04 Dec 2020
Jersey man charged in 5 murders linked with fake business deals. New York Times. Dec 8, 1986, Section B, Page8 retrieved from - https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/18/nyregion/jersey-man-charged-in-5-murders-linked-with-fake-business-deals.html
Joseph P. Newman, John J. Curtin, Jeremy D. Bertsch, Arielle R. Baskin-Sommers. Attention Moderates the Fearlessness of Psychopathic Offenders. Biological Psychiatry. 2010; 67, (1):66-70.
ISSN 0006-3223. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.07.035.
Kimura Y, Yoshino A, Takahashi Y, Nomura S. Interhemispheric difference in emotional response without awareness. Physiol Behav. 2004 Sep 30;82(4):727-31. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2004.06.010. PMID: 15327923.
Martin, Douglas. "Richard Kuklinski, 70, a Killer Of Many People and Many Ways." New York Times, 9 Mar. 2006, p. C18(L). Gale OneFile: News, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A142989908/STND?u=tou&sid=STND&xid=087873a8. Accessed: 5 Jan. 2021.
Paul Galante. (2018) National security archive, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrived from -https://archive.org/details/RichardKuklinski/Richard%20Kuklinski%2001. Accessed: 28 Dec 2020.
Pundyk, J. Aldyer, F. (1984) Man on Trial Shot to Death. The Jersey Journal and Jersey Observer. Retrieved from - http://mediasvc.ancestry.com/image/a764b844-6b5c-4daf-9076-21447934feaf.jpg?Client=MCCManager&NamespaceID=1093&MaxSide=900. Accessed:28 Dec 2020
Pundyk, J. Aldyer, F. (1984) Man on Trial Shot to Death. The Jersey Journal and Jersey Observer. Retrieved from - http://mediasvc.ancestry.com/image/f249fd13-336b-4f22-9c29-89ca619e2c38.jpg?Client=MCCManager&NamespaceID=1093&MaxSide=900. Accessed: 28 Dec 2020