Born 1935 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Richard Leonard Kuklinski was an American contract killer and serial killer who was convicted of murdering 200 or more people. He was associated with members of the American Mafia, namely the DeCavalcante crime family of Newark, New Jersey, and the Five Families of New York City.
Kuklinski was given the nickname “The Iceman” for his method of freezing a victim to mask the time of death. During his criminal career, fellow mobsters called him “the one-man army” or “the devil himself” due to his fearsome reputation and imposing physique of 6’5″ (196 cm) and 270 pounds (122 kg). Kuklinski lived with his wife and children in the New Jersey suburb of Dumont. His family was apparently unaware of Kuklinski’s double life and crimes.
By the early to mid-1980s, Kuklinski was involved in narcotics, pornography, arms dealing, money laundering, hijacking and contract killing. While his range of criminal activities expanded, he began to make mistakes. Although Kuklinski is claimed to have killed anyone who could testify against him, he got sloppy about disposing of his victims. Law enforcement began to suspect Kuklinski and started an investigation, gathering evidence about the various crimes he had committed. The eighteen month long undercover investigation led to his arrest in 1986. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1988.
After his murder convictions, Kuklinski took part in a number of interviews during which he claimed to have murdered from over 100 to 250 men between 1948 and 1986, though his recollection of events sometimes varied. Though some have expressed skepticism about the extent of Kuklinski’s alleged murders, police are confident in their belief that he was a serial killer who killed at least several dozen people both at the behest of organized crime bosses and on his own initiative. Many of Kuklinski’s claims were substantiated by author Philip Carlo in over 240 hours of interviews and via the dozens of cases Kuklinski helped New Jersey police clear after his incarceration.
In 2005, after 17 years in prison, Kuklinski was diagnosed with an incurable form of Kawasaki disease, an inflammation of the blood vessels and was transferred to a secure wing at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey. Although he had asked doctors to make sure they revived him if he developed cardiopulmonary arrest (or risk of heart attack), his then-former wife Barbara had signed a “do not resuscitate” order. A week before his death, the hospital called Barbara to ask if she wished to rescind the instruction, but she declined. Kuklinski died at age 70 in 2006. His body was cremated.