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Mafia Torturer - The Story of Richard Kuklinski, The Iceman
Richard Kuklinski was a monster, a brutal and sadistic killer and torturer. Some of the crimes he committed are beyond imagining, the stuff of nightmares. Known as the Iceman and feared throughout the underworld, he was for many years a top mafia hitman, murderer, enforcer and torturer. This is his story.
Early Years of Physical Abuse
Richard Kuklinski was born, the second of 4 children, on April 11, 1935, to poor Polish parents in a low income area in Jersey City. His father was a brakeman for the railroad and his mother worked in a meat packing plant. Both parents were physically abusive to Richard and to his brothers, beating them constantly. In 1940, the beatings resulted in the death of Kuklinski's older brother, Florian. His parents hid the cause of the child's death from the authorities, saying he had fallen down a flight of steps. His father finally abandoned the family, leaving them to fend for themselves.
In 1949, at the age of 14, Richard committed his first murder. A local gang of youths had begun picking on him, taunting him for having protruding ears and for 'being Polish'. Full of rage he took a steel clothing rod and bludgeoned the gang leader to death. For months afterwards he was terrified thinking he would be arrested for the crime but he also felt a rush and began to love the feeling of power that he got from the killing. He then went on and nearly beat to death the remaining six gang members.
He also expressed an unbelievable cruelty to animals. He would tie the tails of cats and throw them over a clothesline to watch them tear each other apart. He would also put cats into the apartment building incinerator to watch them burn alive.
He had a brother who'd gone to prison at the age of 25 after raping and killing a twelve-year old girl and throwing her body from the roof of a building. He then threw her dog to the ground after her. For this he was sentenced to life at Trenton State Prison.
Professional Hitman and Torturer
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. It was the relationship which would define the rest of his life.
As his work with DeMeo advanced his ability to be an effective killing machine was recognized. Kuklinski was a physically powerful man, weighing 300 lbs and standing 6ft 5 inches. 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, icepicks and chainsaws. He also killed with crossbows, with bats, with clubs, and with plastic bags. He beat people to death with his fists and feet, threw people off buildings, and drowned people. Any way that there was to kill somebody he did it.
Brutality and torture would often precede death for many of his victims. This included his own 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. Kuklinski saw himself as something of a rat specialist and set up a video camera to capture the rats at work.
He also specialised in dismembering his victims alive, using a chainsaw. He described this method as 'messy'. His capacity for violence and torture was absolutely mind-numbing. He killed 13 of his victims after he destroyed their lower spines with a screwdriver. They'd be paralyzed-unable to scream or move-and they had to watch as he cut their bodies apart. When asked why he killed that way Kuklinski said he did it for the exercise.
One man he was hired to kill had raped a Mobster's daughter. He tied the man to a tree, stripped him of his clothes, and then pulled off the guy's genitals-literally pulled them off. Then [using a knife] he began slowly slicing off pieces of flesh-just like strips of meat. While the man was still alive Richard poured a box of kosher salt over all his wounds.
At the same time as he was making a career as a hit man, he met and married Barbara Pedrici, and later fathered two daughters and a son. Much like his father, Kuklinski began to beat and terrorize Barbara and the children. On the outside, however, the Kuklinski family was admired by neighbors and friends as being a happy and well adjusted. Neither his family nor his neighbours were ever aware of his illegal activities, instead believing that he was a successful businessman.
Initially nicknamed "The Polack" by his Italian associates because of his Polish heritage, Kuklinski earned the nickname "Iceman" following his experiments with disguising the time of death of his victims by freezing their corpses in an industrial freezer. Kuklinski himself claims that he used a Mister Softee ice cream truck for this purpose, although the FBI doubts the veracity of this claim.
Soon he was doing hit jobs for the Gambino 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. Once he cut off a man's tongue and inserted it into his anus to get his message across. He did not believe in half measures and because of the fear that Kuklinski inspired in people, most people repaid their debts to the family.
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 continued to tell his family and neighbors that he was a businessman. His wife never questioned his behavior, even though he left at odd hours and kept his business extremely quiet.
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Crime And Punishment
By the 1980s, Kuklinski had become the leading man in a crime ring. He became involved in pornography, narcotics, contract killing, and gambling on a worldwide scale. But he became overconfident. His hits started to get sloppy and he began leaving behind evidence, which caused the FBI and police to take a keen interest in him. When three associates of Kuklinskis turned up dead in quick succession, a task force was organized with the New Jersey authorities and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 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 put Kuklinski on trial.
Special Agent Dominick Polifrone went undercover and spent a year and a half disguised as a hitman and eventually met and gained Kuklinski's trust. Kuklinski bragged to the agent about his proficiency with cyanide and boasted about freezing a corpse in order 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. 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 business. His family was completely 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. He was sent to Trenton State Prison, where his brother was already serving his life sentence rape and murder.
Richard Kuklinski spent the remainder of his life in prison. He died at 1:15 AM on March 5, 2006. His death was reportedly due to natural causes, but it is speculated that it was timed perfectly to prevent his testifying against Salvatore Gravano, former Gambino Family underboss. Kuklinski had been going to testify that Gravano had hired him to kill a police officer in the 1980s. Charges against Gravano were dropped after Kuklinski's death because of insufficient evidence.
Watch And Tremble
When asked why he had become one of the most diabolical mass murderers in history, Kuklinski cast blame on his father's extreme physical abuse and admitted the one thing he regretted was not killing him. It is beyond dispute that Kuklinski was shaped by the degrading example of his parents. What is not easy to understand is how he could not feel any regret for his actions, any remorse for his victims and their families. Indeed, during his prison years he revelled in his own publicity and granted interviews to prosecutors, psychiatrists, criminologists, writers, and television producers about his criminal career, upbringing, and personal life. Two documentaries, featuring interviews of Kuklinski by Dr. Park Dietz aired on HBO after interviews in 1991 and 2001 and Philip Carlo also wrote a book in 2006, entitled The Ice Man. During these interviews Kuklinski confessed to several cold-blooded murders and spoke of his ability to detach himself emotionally from his own brutality.
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