When dead bodies began turning up in New York and New Jersey in the early 1980s, investigators suspected they had a serial killer on their hands. But when they finally caught their man, he claimed he’d been hired by the Mafia and admitted to murdering many more...

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Richard Kuklinski was a family man. Known for his barbecues, he was also an usher at mass. Friends and neighbours respected the businessman.

But Kuklinski was hiding a dark secret…

His business was murder!

He was a professional hitman – hired by Mafia crime families.

Born on 11 April 1935, Richard Kuklinski was the son of Irish and Polish immigrants.

His mother, Anna, was a devout Catholic and his father, Stanley, worked on the railways.

It was reported Stanley was a violent alcoholic who beat Kuklinski and his siblings regularly. And it’s believed Kuklinski’s older brother died from the abuse.

Meanwhile, Kuklinski’s killer urges began in childhood, when he started killing cats. He said he graduated to humans when he was 14. It seemed to make young Kuklinski feel ‘empowered’.

Later, he met and married Barbara Pedrici, with whom he had three children.

Kuklinski played the family man well, fooling neighbours, friends, even his own wife.

But behind the facade, Kuklinski was a dangerous man.

He had a reputation as an explosive pool hustler who beat anyone who annoyed him. His rage and violence brought him to the attention of many crime families. And he then earned their respect when he shot and killed, without question, a random man selected on the roadside by mobsters.

Kuklinski’s career as a contract killer had begun. Many Mafia families hired him to carry out brutal slayings – mainly of other criminals and mob family members.

According to Kuklinski, over the next 30 years he committed more than 100 murders.

He evaded capture due to his differing murder methods.

The use of cyanide poison became a favourite, as well as guns, knives and chainsaws.

Kuklinski became known for removing his victims’ teeth and fingers, and dumping their bodies off bridges.

A killer without a conscience, at the end of his working day he’d return to his quiet family life.

For the next three decades, Kuklinski got away with his brutal crimes. But in the early 1980s, he began to make mistakes…

In September 1983, the partially decomposed body of Louis Masgay was found.

Wrapped in plastic bags, Masgay had been shot in the head and his body dumped in a park. He’d last been seen over two years earlier. When coroners investigated, they found ice crystals in Masgay’s body.

But it was summer in Orangetown, New York…

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Investigators believed his dead body had been frozen to disguise the time of death.

Police nicknamed the killer the ‘Iceman’.

In the years following, investigators began to link Masgay’s murder to others.

Months before, in May, Daniel Deppner’s body had been found, dumped in rubbish bags on a secluded road.

And, in December 1982, the decomposing body of 37-year-old Gary Smith had been discovered in a hotel. He’d been poisoned, then strangled, his body hidden between the bed’s mattress and springboards.

Horrifyingly, unsuspecting guests who’d then stayed in the room noticed the foul smell.

There was one link between all the murders – the person who’d last seen them alive.

Richard Kuklinski.

Special agents began watching him and even went undercover. An officer posed as a hitman and spent 18 months building up Kuklinski’s trust.

Eventually, Kuklinski confessed to killing people and boasted about his twisted methods.

In December 1986, Richard Kuklinski was arrested and charged with five counts of murder.

He’d evaded capture for so long, but it was a series of blunders that saw him caught.

When he murdered mob member Gary Smith in a hotel room, he’d laced Smith’s burger with cyanide, but Smith took longer to die than expected. So Richard Kuklinski decided to strangle him and hide his body under the bed.

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Kuklinski slipped up again with Louis Masgay. He’d stored his body in a freezer for two years, but hadn’t let it thaw out completely before dumping it. If he had, the medical examiner wouldn’t have noticed his trickery.

In 1988, a New Jersey court convicted Kuklinski of five murders, sentencing him to consecutive life sentences and making him eligible for parole at 110.

Then, in 2003, he admitted to the 1980 murder of detective Peter Calabro, and received another 30 years.

While in prison, Richard Kuklinski granted interviews to psychiatrists, writers, and TV reporters. He lapped up the attention and ‘fame’.

During documentaries, he confessed to several cold-blooded murders, bragged about his sadistic methods, and ability to detach himself emotionally from his own brutality.

Investigators didn’t buy everything Kuklinski claimed, and believed he’d exaggerated the number of murders he’d committed.

In March 2006, aged 70, Richard Kuklinski died of unknown causes.

For a killer without a conscience, the Iceman now knows himself if there is a Heaven or Hell.