The Untold Truth of Richard Kuklinski, Mafia’s Most Prolific Hitman

Mario Puzo’s book The Godfather and its subsequent movie adaptations are well-loved and the movies deemed one of the greatest ever made in Hollywood. Many have argued whether or not the story was based on real-life events, while the writer says his work is just fiction, there have been discoveries to proof that his works might have been loosely based on real life criminals including Richard Kuklinski whose real life story very well resembles that of Luca, the hitman that Godfather’s character Don Vito Corleone uses to force his way to become the head of organized crime families in New York City. In his bid to achieve his aim, he used an enforcer/hitman named Luca.

Richard Kuklinski’s Background

Richard Leonard Kuklinski was born at home in his family’s apartment on April 11, 1935, in New Jersey. His mother, Anna McNally worked in a meatpacking plant while his father, Stanislaw Kuklinski’s job was as a brakeman on the Delaware – Western Railroad; he also had 3 siblings – an older brother Florian, younger sister, Roberta and brother Joseph.

Richard Kuklinski was said to have had an abusive childhood in which both of his parents beat him repeatedly, in fact, his father’s cruelty to his children was so bad that he reportedly beat Richard’s older brother Florian to death while he was just 8. Richard also recollected an incident early on in his childhood where his mother stabbed his alcoholic father several times in a bid to kill him. Despite the abusive nature of his parents, his mother tried to bring him up in a religious way as he once served as an altar boy in a Roman Catholic church.

Somehow, the constant abuse and violence that Richard Kuklinski suffered as a child created a raging storm and appetite for violence in him which he initially satisfied by being cruel to household animals and pets. He would kidnap stray dogs and cats from his neighborhood and torture them to death or sometimes burn them in the furnace at home.

Family Life

Richard’s initial adult life wasn’t all about crime and killing, he actually started off working in a warehouse in his hometown. He got married to his first wife Linda with whom he had 2 sons – Richard Jr and David; he later became interested in another lady, Barbara Pedrici – who he, at some point in their relationship, stabbed and threatened into marrying him, telling her that if she didn’t he would kill her entire family.

Richard eventually married Barbara in 1961 and they had a son, Dwayne and 2 daughters – Christin and Merrick. Kuklinski was an extreme husband to his wife Barbara – extremely loving at times and also extremely violent and abusive.

Richard Kuklinski
Richard Kuklinski with wife Barbara and daughters: image source

How Richard Kuklinski Became Mafia’s Most Prolific Hitman

Richard Kuklinski was believed to have killed for the first time in his teenage years, he recollected killing a neighborhood bully for teasing and bullying him. Due to his imposing physique and intimidating size, he soon earned a notorious reputation as a deadly pool shark, who killed and maimed anyone who crosses his path. His notorious reputation soon brought him to the attention of the DeCavalcante family, who hired him to join their family for organized crime.

Kuklinski was said to have owed a member of the DeMeo gang some money and the leader of the gang, Soldato Roy DeMeo, instructed them to intimidate Richard to pay up; when the gang caught up with Richard and after pistol-whipping and torturing him, DeMeo was impressed with how Richard took the beating and became endeared to him.

After Richard Kuklinski’s debt was fully paid, he began to run small criminal errands for DeMeo and another family. DeMeo decided to test Kuklinski’s devotion and dedication one day, as he drove him in his car and parked on a city street, he then pointed at a random victim – an innocent man walking his dog, and asked Kuklinski to kill him. Richard got out of the car, walked straight to the man pointed out to him by DeMeo, and shot him in the head from the back and since that day he became DeMeo’s #1 hitman.

Over the next 3 decades, Richard Kuklinski then went on to become the most prolific hitman for several mob families, a killing spree which he confessed ran into hundreds. He was able to shake off the attention of law enforcement agents for so long as he never established a particular pattern of killing his targets and victims; he used several methods from beating his victims to death with his bare knuckles, asphyxiation, poisoning via cyanide, guns, explosives, and the likes.

His Arrest and Death

Richard Kuklinski was never caught by the law enforcement agents while carrying out his job as a hitman, but when a few of his associates namely George Milliband, Hoffman, Deppner, Smith and Masgay all ended up dead, investigations revealed Kuklinski as the last person they all met with and thus all attention turned to him.

An undercover detective, Pat Kane, and Special Agent Dominic Polifrone teamed up with a close friend of Kuklinski, Phil Solimene – who introduced Polifrone to Richard as a fellow hitman, soliciting his help to kill a target. Polifrone then went on to record Kuklinski giving a detailed account of how and when the hit would be executed.

See Also: Life and Crimes of Barry Seal, One of the Most Renowned American Drug Dealers

Polifrone gave Richard cyanide to poison the “contract” Richard before going ahead with the hit, he decided to test it on a stray dog but discovered that it didn’t die. As a result, he abandoned the job and headed home and a few hours later, he was arrested. A trial ensued thereafter and the jury only found him guilty of just two murders. He was sentenced to two consecutive lifetime jail sentences.

Richard Kuklinski while being interviewed in prison by Psychologists, prosecutors, criminologists, etc, confessed of his own free will to most of the murders that he had been suspected of carrying out and much more than was expected of just one man. Richard’s health deteriorated while in jail as he suffered from Kawasaki disease. During one of his cardiac arrests, his wife signed a “do not resuscitate” order on him. Kuklinski died in prison in 2006 aged 70 and his body was cremated.


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