The Deadliest Mafia Hitmen In History — And The Gruesome Stories Behind Them

Published October 4, 2021
Updated June 7, 2024

Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski

Richard Kuklinski Mafia Hitman

Bettmann/Getty ImagesRichard Kuklinski in New Jersey court for closing arguments during his 1988 murder trial.

A prolific Mafia hitman, Richard Kuklinski worked for the Genovese, DeCavalcante, and Gambino crime families. He stood six-foot-five-inches tall and weighed 300 pounds. But it was his cold-blooded methods of murder that instilled true terror in his victims — who only knew him as “The Iceman.”

Kuklinski was born on April 11, 1935, in Jersey City, New Jersey. His father was a violent alcoholic who beat him and his brother so badly that his brother eventually died. Kuklinski’s first murder occurred shortly after that. He took his rage out on a local bully, whom he beat to death before removing identifying markers from the body.

Kuklinski’s temper led him to wanton killings across New York City as an adult. The Mafia caught wind of his brutal indifference, with loanshark Roy DeMeo of the Gambino Family hiring him to strong-arm debtors. The Genovese family made him their primary hitman, while the DeCavalcante Family hired him for specific hits.

Family Of Richard Kuklinski

Ed Clarity/NY Daily News/Getty ImagesKuklinski’s daughter (left) and wife (right) were entirely unaware he was a hitman until he was arrested.

Kuklinski’s modus operandi involved removing the teeth and fingers of his victims to prevent authorities from identifying the bodies. His monicker came from the fact that he would often freeze the bodies in order to prevent experts from assessing their time of death. Others, he simply threw off bridges or down mine shafts.

The towering hitman enjoyed a multitude of weapons. From guns, ice picks, and grenades to crossbows and chainsaws, nothing was off limits. His favorite method involved a nasal spray bottle full of cyanide. According to Kuklinski himself, he murdered between 100 and 200 people, including teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Richard Kuklinski
History Uncovered Podcast
Episode 43: Richard Kuklinski, The Mafia Killer Known As ‘The Iceman’
Hitman Richard Kuklinski claimed to have killed some 200 people in ways that remain viscerally horrifying several decades later — but many believe that his story is largely made-up.

Even more remarkably, however, Kuklinski had been family man all along. His three children attended private schools and were taken to Disneyland on vacations. Kuklinski regularly served as an usher at his local church and held popular neighborhood barbecues. He never killed women or children, but was finally captured by the ATF in 1986.

Ensnared by authorities, fellow Mafia man Phil Solimene wore a wire while getting Kuklinski to agree to murder somebody for money. Convicted of six first-degree murders, Kuklinski was serving consecutive life sentences when he died behind bars of an incurable inflammation of the blood vessels in 2006.

author
Marco Margaritoff
author
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
editor
Cara Johnson
editor
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "The Deadliest Mafia Hitmen In History — And The Gruesome Stories Behind Them." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 4, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/mafia-hitmen. Accessed June 22, 2024.