Richard Kuklinski Family Interview Essay
One evening in 2012, Merrick Kuklinski attended the premier of a film about her late father, Richard, the notorious New Jersey killer and reputed mafia hit man. The film, titled “The Iceman,” stars the rangy Michael Shannon as Kuklinski, and the waifish Winona Ryder as his wife, Barbara. As the actor depicting Kuklinski committed multiple murders on mobsters’ requests and chopped up his victims, Merrick was profoundly focused on how her home life was portrayed. Particularly, she was bemused at the movie’s gauzy depiction of domestic bliss. And so, after the screening, she walked up to Ryder, and said, “If the character you played had been my mother, my life would have been very different…Good movie. Not much reality.”
Indeed, the truth was much, much worse. Despite many opportunities over the years, however, Merrick, now in her 50s, has talked little about her painful, chaotic upbringing. Instead, filled with contradictory feelings of love and loyalty for her father and horror at his deeds, she jammed those memories into secure boxes. Even now, 10 years after his death in prison, she is still hesitant to confront life in Kuklinski’s orbit.
“If you don’t say it out loud, you don’t have to deal with it,” she tells me. “Once you say it, you have to deal with it.”
Kuklinski died in prison at age 71 in 2006. He was a bear of a man, 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, with enormous hands and shoulders, and a volcanic temper, set to a hair trigger. He was born in 1935 to an alcoholic father and a domineering mother in the Jersey City projects. They beat him constantly, as if they were trying to create a sociopath. He channeled his rage into torturing cats. As a teen, he left home, and took to hanging in pool halls and getting into fights. He later claimed to have beaten his first victim to death in his early teens. He also boasted he poured gasoline on a man who slighted him in a bar and burned him alive.
In all, before and during his years as a mob hitman, he claimed to have poisoned, torched, shot, fatally beaten, stabbed and strangled more than 100 people. Law enforcement dubbed him “The Iceman” because he froze the bodies of victims, held them for months and then dumped them, so the time of death would be harder to establish.
He was finally caught in 1986, in an undercover sting. In 1988, a New Jersey jury convicted him of the murders of five business associates and sentenced him to life in prison. He barely missed the death penalty. Prosecutor Bob Carroll called him “one of the most dangerous criminals [we have] ever come across in this state.” He added, “We may never know how many people he killed.” When he met Kuklinski, the undercover agent Dominick Polifrone thought, “This is the devil.”
Leaving the light on
On an unseasonably warm day in early March, the day after the anniversary of Kuklinski’s death, Merrick is a passenger in a friend’s SUV driving west into New Jersey. She has agreed to take me on an impromptu tour of her past life.
The oldest of three siblings and a mother of two, Merrick is almost six feet tall. She has her father’s broad shoulders and large hands. Her striking blond mane is partially braided. She is clad in a loose fitting black dress, black tights and leather boots. Tattoos decorate her arms. She wears multiple earrings and piercings. Silver bracelets and rings festoon her wrists and fingers. Despite her imposing presence, she is mild and easy to laugh. “I’m a very private, quiet person,” she says. “I’m really more of a listener than a talker.”
The SUV arrives at a tiny, worn apartment building where Merrick lives with her daughter. Upon entering the cramped living room, the first thing that catches my eye, to my surprise, is a framed 8×10 photograph of Kuklinski, prominently placed in a bookcase at the nexus of two sofas, and surrounded by swan figurines and Elvis Presley dolls.
And then there is a second surprise. Positioned carefully behind the photo is a grey-green enameled metal urn containing her father’s cremated remains. “Do you want to hold it?” she asks. “Careful, it’s pretty heavy.”
Asked why she keeps his ashes, she pauses. “I never really thought about it. I’ll keep him until I pass on,” she says.
Merrick now produces a clear plastic shopping bag. This, she says, contains all that Kuklinski left her. Gingerly, she pulls out a black binder filled with memos from Trenton State Prison, medical reports, envelopes of family photos, and other ephemera. There are a few sheets of his prison stationary. There is a list of his favorite songs. There is also a two-page, hand-scrawled list of several dozen poisons and their fatal effects.
The bag also includes several of Kuklinski’s sketches—a drawing of rats gnawing on a corpse, a tattoo reading, “Grim Reaper Behind the Eight Ball,” a scene depicting a woman in a bikini praying to a black spider, and a self-portrait—his face, bracketed with skulls. A card from Merrick to her father reads, “Remember dad, you always left a light on for me. That warm light still shines in my heart.”
The ‘perfect’ family
On the way to her childhood home in DuMont, N.J., the SUV rolls haltingly through traffic. Merrick’s beloved roller rink, where she spent many Saturday nights, is gone, replaced by a Sears Auto Parts franchise, but Matthew’s Diner remains. The SUV rolls up to the split-level house at 169 Sunset St. in DuMont. Merrick has not visited the old house since the family moved out—a period of 28 years.
The house seems smaller than it should for the out-sized character who once lived there. The cherry blossom tree in the front yard remains, but the pool, the rock garden, the cedar shake and red window trim are all gone. Merrick leaves the SUV immediately for a nervous smoke. She stands slightly to the left of the house on the sidewalk. Why, I ask her, haven’t you ever stopped back to see the house? She shrugs. “I left it behind. I closed the chapter and moved on,” she says.
The family arrived in DuMont in 1972, and set about living the American dream. Kuklinski was already deep into his life of crime, but he presented himself as a respectable businessman. He was desperate to project the aura of a family man with a perfect wife and perfect kids. It didn’t take long for Barbara and the kids to understand that you never asked him where he went on his outings, but when he was home, there were many good times.
He called Merrick “Snuggler.” He shot hours of home movies: Merrick playing Ring Around the Rosie during an all-girl’s birthday party, a lavish Christmas, Merrick and her sister Chris in matching denim outfits decorated with smiley faces. “If dad was filming, he wanted everyone to smile,” she says. “We learned to take advantage of the happy moments.” When Merrick fell ill with a serious bladder ailment, Kuklinski was a regular visitor at the Holy Name Medical Center, and played Santa to the kids in the pediatric ward.
She describes play dates at friends’ houses, evening games of Manhunt, the block barbeques her father organized. “We were in some ways the hub of the neighborhood,” she says. Kuklinski was extremely charming with neighbors and friends. He loved to hang around the house and spend time with the kids. “He denied us nothing,” Merrick says. “He wanted his life to be like it was on television. He just didn’t know how to get there.”
Indeed, the scrim of placid home movies and matching outfits and lavish Christmases concealed a much darker reality.
Inside a life of terror and abuse
Unlike the Hollywood portrayal, Kuklinski’s rage in the home was a constant from the time Merrick was five until he was arrested, when she was 22. His furies lasted for hours, sometimes days. Anything could trigger them—some deal gone bad, some minor tiff with Barbara that metastasized.
For his stature, he was incredibly sensitive to any kind of slight. According to Merrick, Barbara had a sharp tongue and she did not back down, Merrick says. He might say, “I’m the king of the castle,” to which she would respond, “You’re the king of nothing.”
“When it came to their arguments, she wasn’t an angel herself,” she says.
Kuklinski never physically assaulted the children, but he did strike his wife on numerous occasions. He was merciless with furniture, cabinets and decorations. He also brutalized the family pets, killing at least three dogs, Merrick says. “I was late coming home once and he took Princess and broke her neck,” she says. “Princess was a Samoyed, not a small dog. He said I would never be late again, and I wasn’t.”
Kuklinski would boast, “You know who you’re messing with? I am a hit man for the mob,” Merrick says. He told his daughters if he ever lost control and killed Barbara, he would have to kill them, too. Merrick told him she understood.
The family learned to stop in place during his tirades. And so there would be this frozen tableaux—the sisters, shoulder to shoulder on the stairs, and mom, down in the kitchen, as the growling bear prowled, and china, vase and love seat exploded into shards. “He could erupt and then take a phone call and make small talk with a business associate, hang up and pick up where he left off,” she says. “One of us would whisper, ‘Is it over?’ And someone would say, ‘Don’t let him hear you.’”
When these rages subsided, Kuklinski would replace every broken object. “The garbage men loved us, we must have furnished their homes,” Merrick says.
As a result, Merrick and her sister had to be constantly on alert. She recalls physical reactions to the fear: fainting spells, trembling, vomiting, a racing heart at the sound of his car. The sisters kept emergency bags packed under their beds. They slept in hourly shifts. They carried emergency dimes for the pay phone. Merrick found it astonishing that no one intervened, even on the day that Barbara ran out of the house and down the sidewalk, and Kuklinski dragged her back. Another time, a carpenter who came to repair a kitchen obviously shattered by violence told Kuklinski, “Don’t worry. These things happen.”
The police weren’t much help either. According to Merrick, in one instance, after Barbara was hospitalized for an attempted overdose, cops patted him on the shoulder and said, “It’ll get better.” “They would say things like, ‘Tomorrow’s going to be a better day,’ but he was going to do the same thing the next day,” Merrick says.
Merrick says she once called a local precinct, but they wanted her to come in. She was afraid Kuklinski would find out and kill her. Another time, the sisters snuck to a pay phone and called a psychiatric center to see if they could get their father committed. That call also went nowhere. For Barbara and the kids, these events confirmed that they were trapped. That led to a desperate meeting in which Merrick recalls a suggestion to spike Kuklinski’s meatloaf with a fatal dose of Valium. But they all feared him too much to actually do it.
Thinking back now, Merrick sees a more calculating motive behind the rages. “You would think once you lose control of your temper, you lose control, but it was more of a reminder that he was powerful,” she says.
A young confidante
Down the street from the house, there is a rusty one-lane bridge. “That bridge was our greatest nightmare,” she says. “One Sunday we were on our way to church and another car cut us off at the bridge. Dad tore the driver’s door off and beat him up pretty bad. And then we went to church as if it never happened.”
Another time, Kuklinski thought another driver was trying to race him, so he forced him to pull over, beat him severely and left him by the side of the road. “He gets back in the car, and starts singing a song on the radio,” Merrick says. “I didn’t say a word.”
The SUV now drives about 20 minutes from the house, to the duck pond. Merrick has another nervous smoke, and notes this was the one place that calmed her father. “I would try to get him here if I thought he was losing his patience,” she says. “Sometimes, he would talk about things.”
Merrick wasn’t even 10 years old, but Kuklinski began confiding in her. “I guess I was the one person he knew would never say anything,” she says. He opened up about his abusive childhood, his acidic hatred of his parents, and eventually, some of his murders. “He told me about the time he used a wooden clothing rod to beat to death another teenager who had been bullying him,” she says.
Later, he told her that he had “killed men in anger.” “He would talk about people pissing him off, people he considered scum,” she says. “He assigned a value to everyone else, but he never wanted to be judged.” At one point, Kuklinski mentioned three more men he had killed as a teenager. There was also the time he described to her the difficulty of cutting the legs off of one of his victims to make the body fit into a steel drum.
“Each time I talked to him, I was trying to make him feel better, to save other people, but I wanted to be saved, and there was no one there to save us,” she says. [Many years later, after his arrest, the police sought to interview her, but they couldn’t force her to cooperate. She never had to disclose these conversations with her father to law enforcement.]
After Merrick learned to drive, things got even worse. The mental abuse was already constant, he was dumping his toxic stories on her, and now he began using her as an unwitting assistant for his murky activities. She says he would call the house in the middle of the night and asked her to pick him up, or give her a package and tell her to deliver it to some stranger. She never questioned him. Fearing for her own life, she did what her father ordered her to do.
“One time, he calls me to pick him up in Richfield [N.J], which wasn’t far from the warehouse where he used to commit crimes,” she says. “He slips out from between two buildings, seems distracted, unsettled. I was nervous that I would drive wrong.” He would have her drive him to his rented warehouse, but tell her keep her eyes front. “There were times when he would tell me not to look in the back seat or in the trunk, and I would drive him to some garage and pop the trunk, looking straight forward as he told me to do, while he would unload whatever it was,” she says.
After high school, she went to Montclair State University, but her father’s hold on her was so strong that he convinced her to drop out so she could help him more.
“What haunts me most is the reality that my father was a very, very sick, demented man. Between his own background as an abused child and the experiences that shaped his adulthood, the die was cast. Maybe if he’d gotten treatment some or all of this could have been prevented. That thought haunts me every day,” Merrick says.
Locked up, and infamous
After successfully ducking law enforcement for decades, Kuklinski was arrested in December, 1986 while driving Barbara to a diner. A swarm of police cut off his car just outside 130 Sunset St., the home of Merrick’s babysitter.
The usual tabloid frenzy ensued. Merrick, conflicted as ever, was upset but also relieved. Reporters, camped outside the DuMont house, asked Merrick whether she helped her father kill people. The once-close relationships with the neighbors cooled, and Barbara soon sold the house.
Merrick attended her father’s 1988 trial almost every day, and often brought her newborn. After all that, she was still there to support her father. The jury deliberated just four hours before finding him guilty. She visited him regularly at Trenton State Prison. These visits could be cordial, but unpredictable. “One time, he punched the security glass so hard, he cracked it,” she says.
Meanwhile, Kuklinski turned into a kind of true crime industry all his own. In the spring of 1991, he gave 17 hours of interviews to producers with HBO, which became “The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer,” airing in 1992. A second HBO special aired in 2001, and a third—a contrived affair in which Kuklinski sparred with a psychiatrist—aired in 2002.
The story behind these specials, Merrick says, is that Barbara was paid handsomely for convincing her husband to sit for the interviews. “Dad never would have spoken to anyone if mom didn’t tell him to,”. Kuklinski gave another 240 hours of interviews to crime writer, Phillip Carlo, for his book, “The Iceman,” which came out in 2006, months after the killer died in a prison hospital.
Living with the past
Merrick, for her part, tries to live a life as separate as possible from that of her father’s. She has other priorities, especially her son and daughter, both living productive, positive lives. She has fostered or adopted over fifteen stray cats and dogs. Her relationship with her mother is guarded but they speak every day. She speaks occasionally to her sister and a bit more to her brother. She continues to live humbly, in a small apartment in New Jersey. She drove a school bus for years, until serious, persistent back problems forced her to retire. These days, she works hard, living on odd jobs and temp work..
Interviewing Merrick these weeks, I kept asking her how life inside a tabloid horror story shaped her, and how she has been able to cope with it and move forward. As we know, life doesn’t stop, but the past never disappears.
Well, she tells me, she has never lost that alert watchfulness, honed in those tense years on Sunset Street. She will bend over backward to avoid confrontation. She is adept at answering a question without answering, at smoothly changing the subject. But she can also walk away when the moment demands. She can make a crisis seem normal. One night, for example, a police SWAT team seeking a fugitive insisted on searching her daughter’s basement bedroom. “I gently woke her up and said, ‘Don’t worry babe, these gentlemen just need to search your room, as if it was the most normal thing in the world,” she says. “I expect chaos to break out and I’m prepared for it.”
Her upbringing clearly colored her romantic relationships, however. Her first serious boyfriend, Richie, was actually well liked by her father, to the point where Kuklinski used his apartment to drug and strangle one of his victims. Merrick wasn’t aware of that until later. Though she cared for him, she broke it off because she wanted to protect him from one of her father’s murderous rages. Eventually, Richie was granted immunity and testified against Kuklinski at trial.
And then there was Mark. She married him in Alpine, N.J., when her father was in prison. “Mark struggled with a lot of demons,” Merrick says. Merrick stayed with him through the birth of their two children, but their relationship gradually deteriorated and they grew apart. The turning point came for Merrick when one night, looking out at their large 5,000-acre backyard, he told her, “Wow, I could kill you and bury you back there, and no one would ever find you.”
“That’s a two-way street,” Merrick replied, and left him the following day.
Sometime later, Mark severed his spine in a car accident. Though she was no longer with him, she spent years visiting and caring for him. He eventually died of an infection 13 years later; medicine could no longer defend his wrecked body.
After her marriage, Merrick, who has always identified as bisexual, began to date women. She thought things would be more peaceful, she says. But she learned that chaos can be just as much a part of a relationship between two women as between a man and a woman. “I came into it thinking that they would be my best friends, and I was really caught off guard,” she says. “With men, I always expected the craziness. I let my guard down, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t prepared for it.” But I’m trying to make better choices and to forgive myself and others for mistakes.” Merrick is currently single.
When it came to her kids, however, she made sure she wouldn’t repeat her parents’ mistakes. She wanted peace in the home, so she insisted there would be no slamming of doors. When they butted heads, she insisted on cooling off periods. At the same time, she wanted them to feel like they could speak up. “I always wanted my kids to feel they had freedom of expression, which I never had,” she says.
She is acutely sensitive to parents who mistreat their kids. On a number of occasions, she says, she has intervened with parents verbally abusing their children in public. “I believe you should get one chance with kids, and if you mess it up, you’re done,” she says.
Scars remain, yet hope for the future
Now having opened those secure boxes, Merrick talks about using her experiences for a positive purpose. She would like to perhaps counsel victims of domestic abuse, give speeches about the long-term effects of abuse, and maybe even write a book. “I feel with what I’ve been through, I might be able to help others get through it, too,” she says.
The scars remain. She has had nightmares for decades about her father’s victims, about her father. She takes sleep medication so she doesn’t dream. “They are so vivid, his victims, nobody helping them, no one helping us, and there’s no way out of it,” she says. “It’s guilt in that I couldn’t love him enough to make him stop killing people.”
Merrick pauses and tears roll down her face. Choked up, she continues, “I’m sorry. In this very moment, saying these things out loud for the first time in my life, I just realized my dad was the one who didn’t love me enough. He was the adult and I was the child. He put this on me and knew how it hurt me and how hard I tried to obey and please him. I loved him blindly, unconditionally, but he didn’t do the same. That realization has made me sadder but also maybe a little lighter.”
Sitting with her, it is striking that it took her to the shores of middle age to finally really confront her experiences. “One thing that’s been occurring to me lately is how unresolved and uncomfortable I was over the years,” she says. “I had never given a lot of thought about what I carried with me. I couldn’t while trying to raise healthy children I was determined to shield from the violence and sickness I grew up with. Right now, I am struggling. A part of me is sad, alone, a bit trapped in it. I am supposed to be the strong one. But I see the light at the end of this tunnel. I am trying to forgive the sins my father committed again me and others. I’m learning to focus on what I can do to help other victims of violence and abuse, like encouraging others to tell their stories and turn the shame and guilt and pain into something constructive. I’m learning to focus my whole soul on love.”
When a friend suggests, during the course of the interview, that she might seek therapy to explore her past further, she looks at me, and says, “I thought this was therapy.”
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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Family of a Mafia Hitman
Aired June 26, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, GUEST HOST: Tonight, exclusive, inside the chilling double life of a convicted killer who claimed to be a brutal Mafia hit man with more than 200 victims. Now in their first ever interview his own family, who he terrorized but didn't know about his deadly secret life until he was arrested next on LARRY KING LIVE.
And good evening, I'm John Roberts sitting in for Larry King tonight. Over the next hour we have a chilling story to tell you of a man who brutally murdered as many as 200 people. His name was Richard Kuklinski, also known as the "Ice Man." Here's his story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Law enforcement authorities have arrested one of the most notorious contract killers in state history.
ROBERTS (voice-over): Richard Kuklinski was a brutal killer. That much is known. What's less certain is how many he killed. He's only been officially linked to six deaths but the self-proclaimed mafia hit man who died in March says he murdered as many as 200.
Guns, knives, bombs, poison, Kuklinski says he used them all. He even claims he killed the man who sold him the cyanide he used to murder two of his criminal associates.
He sometimes killed for money, sometimes in anger, sometimes for experimentation. It was money he says that drew him into the death of Jimmy Hoffa. Kuklinski claims he helped kill Hoffa too and knows where the body went.
Richard Kuklinski was dangerous but what was it like to live with him? We'll get some firsthand accounts and try to answer the question how many people did the "Ice Man" kill.
ROBERTS: Quite an amazing story and here to help tell it for us tonight is Philip Carlo. He's the author of a new book called "The Ice Man, Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer." He spent more than 240 hours with Richard Kuklinski, AKA the "Ice Man" as well as hundreds of hours with his family doing interviews with them.
And we have the members of his family, Barbara Kuklinski, Richard Kuklinski's former wife; Merrick Kuklinski, who is one of his daughters; as well as Christen Kuklinski, younger daughter of Richard and Barbara Kuklinski, welcome to you all. PHILIP CARLO, INTERVIEWED RICHARD KUKLINSKI FOR BOOK: Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: Philip, let's start with you first of all. Your book "The Ice Man, Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer" for the first time has a link between Richard Kuklinski and Jimmy Hoffa. Tell us about what that link is. What happened to Hoffa?
CARLO: Well basically the long and the long and the short of it is this. When I was interviewing Richard he never mentioned Hoffa to me at all. In fact, it was Lieutenant Pat Kane that first mentioned the connection between Hoffa and Kuklinski and I said "Well why?"
He said, "You know you should ask him" because he knew I was interviewing Richard, "about the Hoffa connection." And I said, "Well why do you think there is a connection?"
He said "Word on the street is that he had something to do with the murder, number one. Number two, he was very friendly with Tony Provenzano. They were teenagers together in Hoboken."
ROBERTS: Who is known as Tony P. in your book.
CARLO: Tony Pro in the book, exactly, Tony P. in the book. They hung out together as teenagers.
ROBERTS: So, cut to the heart of it. What did he tell you he did?
CARLO: Well, basically he told me that when Tony Pro decided that Hoffa had to go he put together an efficient hit team and he tapped Richard. At that point, Richard had garnered a reputation as a very, very efficient contract killer that kept his mouth shut and that was the truth. That's exactly what he did.
ROBERTS: So, this happened in Detroit in a restaurant parking lot?
CARLO: Right, well basically what he told me was that they met in Union City. They got in the car. They drove 12 to 13 hours to Detroit. They stopped in a hotel. They were in the process of having breakfast when a call came that they had to get it over. It had to be done now.
Richard knew there was a murder going down. He didn't know it was Hoffa. They pulled into the parking lot. He saw what he described as a little guy with his hair slicked back and not until he got close to the car that he knew it was Hoffa.
Hoffa got in the front seat. They drove for a bit. Hoffa thought he was going to have lunch. And when indicated by Tony Pro, Richard took a knife and stuck it in his skull and killed him that way.
ROBERTS: Ran the knife up into his brain through the back of his head? CARLO: Yes, exactly. He developed this way of killing people because it was efficient and there was little blood. And, he told me if you left the knife in the skull there's no blood at all.
ROBERTS: So what happened to the body?
CARLO: The body he said they put in a body bag and they asked him to drive it back to Jersey City. Now, it's interesting because some FBI agents criticized that. And they said "Why would he be driven all the way back from Detroit to New Jersey?"
ROBERTS: But one of the theories is he's buried on the 50-yard line of Giants Stadium.
CARLO: That's nonsense (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTS: But they had the body coming back to Jersey. What did he do with it when he got it back here?
CARLO: Well, he said he brought it to a junkyard that the mafia controlled. There was already a hole dug there. They put him in a 50-gallon drum. They set it on fire. He burned for about a half an hour. When he was little more than ashes and bones, they sealed it. They welded it shut and they put it in the hole and it was covered. He was paid and he split.
It was a Saturday, a very hot Saturday, went back home to his family. Believe it or not he was truly a devoted family man. His whole life revolved around that.
ROBERTS: And we want to get into some of that too.
CARLO: And there was a barbecue that day and he's telling me the story. By the way, as he's telling me this, we're sitting knee-to- knee as close as you and I now and I really felt he was absolutely telling me the truth, never bragged, never seemed to...
ROBERTS: But the body didn't stay in the junkyard?
CARLO: No, actually. Two years later one of the individuals involved in the hit team got in trouble and he was talking to the FBI about saying where the body of Hoffa was. They knew about. They dug it up.
They put it in the back of a Toyota, a car that was squashed in those metal squashes into a 4x4 foot square and several thousand others were sold to Japan as scrap metal. So, I said to him "Where do you think the body is now?" He said to me as part of a fender somewhere in Japan.
ROBERTS: So this is all a litany of a long career that lasted from about the age of 20 I guess until he died or until he went to jail in 1986. And through all of that time, all of these dozens and dozens and maybe as many as 200 murders probably, you didn't know that anything was up? You lived with this man for 25 years. You knew nothing? BARBARA KUKLINSKI, FORMER WIFE OF RICHARD KUKLINSKI: No. First of all you never questioned Richard who is very quiet. He always had a legitimate business so money coming in was not unusual.
When he said he was getting into currency exchange and that was the reason he had to start traveling, you know, all over Europe it made sense. I don't, you know, I didn't question why he was getting into currency exchange suddenly but that was what he told us.
ROBERTS: You have said in the past that he would sometimes he would get up two o'clock in the morning, leave the house.
B. KUKLINSKI: Or in the middle of dinner and leave the house and you'd never ask him why or where.
ROBERTS: You'd just say goodbye?
B. KUKLINSKI: Bye.
ROBERTS: See you later?
CARLO: And, John, if I may interrupt, Richard was 6'5". He was 300 pounds. And Barbara was battered and beaten by him. He broke her nose twice. He broke her ribs four times. And she was not in a position to ever question him about where he was going and where he was coming back and he was extremely macho, so she was really put upon actually as were her children.
ROBERTS: So, you're saying he's a scary individual. Let's listen to Richard Kuklinski in his own words about the type of person he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD KUKLINSKI, THE "ICE MAN": I was very smooth, able to hurt somebody at any given time with no remorse and I could do it over and over again without it bothering at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you think of yourself as an assassin?
R. KUKLINSKI: Assassin, it sounds so exotic. I was just a murderer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, Barbara you said this in Philip's new book about Richard Kuklinski. "My husband is a good man, a kind man, a great father. All my children's friends are saying they wish they had a dad like my husband, like Richard." That was on the day he was arrested.
Merrick and Christen what did you think of your father?
We're burying how we felt about him.
ROBERT: How about you Chris, why don't you go ahead? CHRISTEN KUKLINSKI, DAUGHTER OF RICHARD KUKLINSKI: I found fault in a lot of what he did. Merrick pretty much made excuses for everything that he did so we did not agree on that. And Merrick and him were very close. I was not close with him. I was more -- I protected my mother and that was where my alliance leads.
ROBERTS: Merrick, you made excuses for him for his behavior at home? I mean you didn't know about the killing.
MERRICK KUKLINSKI, DAUGHTER OF RICHARD KUKLINSKI: I don't know if it was excuses per se but I think that I tried to make him be different, to try to calm him and so my role was to try to keep him happy.
M. KUKLINSKI: To keep him calm so that the outbursts were less.
ROBERTS: I want to get into the outbursts in our next little segment of talking together. But, here we had this contradiction of a man who was well liked by his neighbors, had barbecues for the neighborhood, seemed to be a devoted family man and, at the same time, was this cold-blooded killer.
Phil, illuminate for us this contradiction. What was the most chilling murder that he told you about in the hours that you spent together?
CARLO: Well, first off, Merrick was hospitalized a lot when she was a child. In the first ten years of her life she spent a good three and a half years in the hospital and her father regularly came to her and brought her toys and he made sure that poor children on the ward got medicine that they would not have gotten if it wasn't for him. He made sure that they had televisions.
All Merrick ever saw was a good, kind, loving man. No other parent ever did what Merrick saw her father consistently doing. To Merrick her father was sunshine.
Chris saw her father in another light. Forgive me for speaking for them but I think they're a little overwhelmed right now. But, Chris saw him for what he was and she held it against him. She still does. Merrick doesn't. To Merrick he was the best father a child could have. Barbara feels kind of the way that Chris does.
But to answer your question, he was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He had a duality that is very, very, very rare. He could be the nicest, sweetest, giving guy, a good neighbor, somebody you want to live next door and the next minute he could be slowly torturing somebody.
You asked me the worst thing that he did. Well, the reason I got involved in this, to make a long story short, I was watching an HBO special and he talked about feeding human beings to rats while they were still alive and my jaw fell open. I wrote the "Night Stalker." I've dealt with serial killers, Ramirez. This guy I thought made Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, seem like a choir boy lost in the woods, so I thought I got to meet this man.
And I wrote him a letter and we started talking and I managed to get him to confide in me and to like me and to tell me the truth by not judging him, by just looking him in the eye and talking about everything but the murders.
We talked about his childhood and eventually got to the murders. And the rat thing, it was like how could you feed human beings to rats, man? What is that about?
ROBERTS: And he did this more than once?
CARLO: He did it seven times and he filmed it. And it was like so interesting his answer. He said "Well, first I did it just because the mark had to suffer. That was called for.
But then I started wondering why doesn't this bother me? Why doesn't this trouble me? And what I did was I was kind of self analyzing myself and I watched the videos and I thought why isn't this troubling me? Why isn't this bothering me?"
And I said, "Well did you come to any kind of conclusion?" And he said, "Yes, I came to a conclusion." I said, "Well what's that?" He said, "Well I decided that I needed help. I need psychiatric help or medication." I said, "Well, why -- did you get it? Did you get it? Did you seek it out?" You know what he said? "What am I going to do go to a chiropractor and tell him I like killing people?" Did I say chiropractor -- psychiatrist, excuse me.
ROBERTS: Psychiatrist. We're going to get inside the mind of a killer this hour. More on Richard Kuklinski coming up after the break, stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: I got into a fight in a bar. We got into an argument, a fight, and I hit him with a cue stick a few too many times and he died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you feel after, when you found out he had died?
R. KUKLINSKI: I felt very bad, very, very bad. I was upset. I didn't mean to do it actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: There was nothing I wouldn't do for my children, nothing. I'd kill everybody in this room for them. That's just -- I'll show you a point, not that I would or want to. I'm just saying I would if it meant I had to for them I would do it without even thinking twice. It might upset me. It might hurt me but I would do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: More of the contradiction of Richard Kuklinski you see there talking about wanting to defend his family at all cost but at the same time subjecting his family to forms of terrorism.
We're back to talk more about "The Ice Man, Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer." We're here with Phil Carlo, Barbara, Merrick and Christen Kuklinski, the family of Richard Kuklinski, deceased since March of this year.
Phil, set the stage very briefly if you could. What was the founding ground? What was the template upon which this mass murderer was formed?
CARLO: Well, basically Richard was a severely abused child. His father Stanley Kuklinski beat him regularly. His father actually beat to death Richard's brother Florian (ph) when Richard was almost five years old and Florian was almost seven. He had a tendency -- he wrapped a garrison belt around his fist and he'd hit them in the head and knock them out.
ROBERTS: So, this is a case of the abused becomes the abuser?
CARLO: This is the case of a severely abused child turning into an abuser, a classic case of that. I'm not trying to make any excuses for him. This is just the way it was.
By the time he was ten years old he was filled with fiery anger. He murdered his first victim when he was 14 years old. It was a neighborhood bully that was bothering him. He took a pole and he meant to just beat the guy up and he killed him.
ROBERTS: Killed him.
CARLO: And he ended up disposing of the body. Initially he felt bad about it but then he got like an omnipotent power he developed and he started killing people. If they looked at him crossways he'd kill them.
ROBERTS: And he could control people this way right?
ROBERTS: Barbara, you have said of Richard "There were two Richards. I never knew who would be walking in the door. He could be generous to a fault or the meanest man on earth." Tell us more about that.
B. KUKLINSKI: That's true. He was kind, considerate. You know he would have done anything for all of us, very generous gifts and flowers and the best dinners and nice wine. But when whatever twisted him, whatever happened, it didn't matter how good those times were because the bad was so bad then.
ROBERTS: And he abused you physically?
B. KUKLINSKI: He certainly did.
ROBERTS: What did he do?
B. KUKLINSKI: Stabbed me, broke my nose, lost consciousness many times, strangled me, would wake up, you know, at two o'clock in the morning with a pillow over my face and he would tell me that he decided that was the day I die.
ROBERTS: So the idea that he may have killed you was not outside of the realm of possibilities?
B. KUKLINSKI: Absolutely not, no.
ROBERTS: Merrick, he talked to you about that. What did he say?
M. KUKLINSKI: Well, it was after actually an episode of quite a long terror, you know, terrible situation, and I had gone to him and he had said that if he ever went too far with mom...
ROBERTS: Killed her?
M. KUKLINSKI: Right that I would have to understand that he would have to take care, you know, get rid of all of us because he could leave no witnesses and that it would be hardest.
ROBERTS: He would have to kill you?
M. KUKLINSKI: And my sister.
ROBERTS: Chris, Dwayne (ph).
M. KUKLINSKI: My brother.
ROBERTS: Your younger brother.
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes.
ROBERTS: Your younger brother.
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes.
ROBERTS: And how old were you when he told you this?
M. KUKLINSKI: That was probably about 14.
ROBERTS: You were 14 years old.
M. KUKLINSKI: Fifteen.
ROBERTS: Your father said "If I accidentally kill your mother in a fit of rage, I'm going to have to kill you too?"
M. KUKLINSKI: But that could have happened at any time during the rages that he could have slipped and killed any of us or all of us.
B. KUKLINSKI: We expected that.
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes.
ROBERTS: And he was -- you accepted that?
M. KUKLINSKI: Well at times that might have been easier.
B. KUKLINSKI: There was no choice. What was the choice?
M. KUKLINSKI: We had a bag packed in case that that did happen that we could try and escape in case of that.
B. KUKLINSKI: Right.
ROBERTS: And he says, as Phil quotes you, and he said as Phil quotes you in the book saying that you were his favorite.
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes.
ROBERTS: It was going to be hardest to kill you.
M. KUKLINSKI: I would be last, right.
ROBERTS: And it would be hardest to kill you.
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes.
ROBERTS: Here's what Richard said. Here's what Richard told HBO when he was in jail about what his spree of death did to his family. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: I do want my family to forgive me. Do you see the Ice Man cry? Not very macho but I have hurt people that mean everything to me. They're the only people that mean anything to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLO: Hey, John, if I may, I mean that -- and see Merrick is crying now and he was crying because he really loved them in his own sick, weird way. He loved them more than anything. They were his pride and joy. All his life what he wanted was what he had with them which was a really nice loving family and...
ROBERTS: What's really tragic is throughout the hours and hours of interviews that HBO did with him that was the only show of emotion in the whole thing.
CARLO: It was all about his family. The only time I ever got any emotion out of him during all the many hours I spoke to him was when he spoke about his family, his dear, profound, twisted, sick love for them.
ROBERTS: Chris, when you see that so many years later what goes through your mind?
C. KUKLINSKI: I can't believe that we're all here and we survived and we did outlive him, which is kind of something that shocks me to this day.
C. KUKLINSKI: And I guess that it was so hidden and such a secret from so many people and that it still just now is coming out. That amazes me.
ROBERTS: What do you think when you see that Barbara? Here is the man who, as Phil said, 6'5", 300 pounds, toughest guy on the block, killed dozens of people, going all soft when he's talking about how he hurt his family?
B. KUKLINSKI: That doesn't mean a thing to me, John. It doesn't mean a thing. I lived it.
CARLO: John, he wasn't the toughest guy on the block. He was the most dangerous animal in the jungle.
B. KUKLINSKI: Exactly. And another thing, he would be in the process of breaking up the house and hurting me and his phone would ring and everything would stop and he'd be on the phone and he'd be laughing and talking and hang up the phone and continue where he left off. Rage, if you have uncontrollable rage, it's uncontrollable rage.
ROBERTS: Chris, did you ever wonder why your mom didn't take you and flee the situation?
C. KUKLINSKI: Oh, many times.
C. KUKLINSKI: I begged her to please let's get out of here. Let's leave. Let's go someplace. There wasn't anywhere to go. We tried to make an anonymous phone call to a mental health facility and there was no guarantee that they would keep him.
B. KUKLINSKI: Yes.
CARLO: John, I should tell you something that Barbara told me. They planned to poison him, Barbara and Chris. Merrick was not part of their plan but they actually were planning to kill him but they realized that if they tried to do that and it didn't work that he would kill them.
But, Barbara was -- did have intentions to try to do him in. Barbara knew no matter -- if he went -- if they went to China he'd find them and he would do them in. ROBERTS: We've got to go to a break. We want to find out more about Richard Kuklinski in our next segment. Stay with us. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE, John Roberts in for Larry tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: Because I'm the furthest thing from a nice guy. I am what you call a person's nightmare. Because of the way I project myself people think they can get by and then all of a sudden when they wake up it's too late. They already hit the stop sign and that's a dead stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: When you come to answer a door if there's light in the background the person on the outside can look through the peephole and see the guy coming to the door. So, he came to the door. I asked who it was and he looked through the peephole and he never saw what hit him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Richard Kuklinski, the Ice Man, describing one of the some 200 murders that he claims.
Now, let's meet the man who put him away, Pat Kane, retired New Jersey State Police lieutenant. How did you get involved in this case Pat?
LT. PAT KANE, N.J. STATE POLICE (RETIRED): It all started for me in March of 1981. I investigated 40 house burglaries, 20 stolen cars covering three counties in northern Jersey.
After gathering my information and collecting the evidence, I made a direct presentation to the Passaic County grand jury and they returned a 153-count indictment against five people.
Three of those people were arrested and two of them were on the run. Those two individuals were Danny Debner (ph) and Gary Smith. I had warrants for them but before I could get them didn't Richard kill them. So, to say that that sparked my interest that's an understatement.
ROBERTS: You have with you a couple of items that we want you to describe. One is a mug shot. Tell us about the mug shot.
KANE: This is the mug shot that I carried with me every day.
CARLO: For six years.
KANE: For about, well from 1983 on.
ROBERTS: That's a picture of Richard Kuklinski.
KANE: Yes, this is a picture of Richard Kuklinski, a mug shot. I kept it in my briefcase. Every day I opened it up, gave me the motivation to continue.
ROBERTS: What were his preferred methods of killing? We heard all the people that have killed -- I mean we heard that he killed people by letting rats eat them. What were some of his other preferred methods of killing?
KANE: He used cyanide.
CARLO: Rats, guns, pipes, knives, hung people, plastic bags, bows and arrows, crossbow, you name it he did it. That's one of the reasons why nobody believed Pat that he was doing what Pat was saying because there was not one method of killing. He was killing in many different ways and that's one of the reasons why he stayed off the radar for so long when he was a young man. He was basically a full blown serial killer when he was 18 years old.
ROBERTS: But because he was using all these different methods nobody tied them all together.
CARLO: The New York cops -- the New York cops, he was killing people under the West Side Highway and he killed about 40 people there and he killed them in all different ways and he was just venting his anger and the New York cops never thought it was one man because he killed people in so many different ways.
One guy he picked up a brick and hit him in the head. I have to emphasize Richard was super human. He had super human strength. He picked up a table, a dining, a marble dining table in the Kuklinski home that took four men to bring into the house and he threw it out (AUDIO GAP).
KANE: He was given that name because one of our victims, Lou Mascay (ph), was, his body was frozen for two years.
ROBERTS: He was trying to throw people off the trail, trying to confuse (INAUDIBLE).
KANE: Yes and then he dumped a body in Orange County, New York. You know another thing that Big Richie did he used venue. He used jurisdiction to his advantage.
ROBERTS: You were in New Jersey. A lot of his killing was in New York.
KANE: Right. I was stationed in northwest New Jersey. One of his victims, George Mallaban (ph), was from Huntington, Pennsylvania. Another victim, Lou Mascay, was from Forty-Four, Pennsylvania. Another businessman, another victim was Paul Hoffman was Cliffside Park, New Jersey. And then Danny Smith in -- I mean Danny Depner and Gary Smith were from Sussex County, New Jersey.
ROBERTS: One of his most notorious killings was that of Peter Calabro, one of the ones he claims. Peter Calabro who is a crooked New York City cop with the Genovese crime family and thought was going to turn state's evidence on them.
ROBERTS: He says that he killed him at the behest of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. What were the circumstances of the killing?
CARLO: He told me about this murder actually and there's a long story. Gravano was doing business with his cop. The cop got himself in some trouble. Gravano wanted to kill him. People told him "Don't do it. You can't have an Italian, you can't have a mob guy do it, you'll bring down a lot of heat on all of us." He spoke to a guy named as Anthony Casso, known as Gaspipe, the head of the Lucchese family, who I recently interviewed. And he told me something which I'll tell you in a moment.
But so he said, well, I'll get a non-Italian to do it. He hired a Polish guy to do it. Richard didn't know he was a cop. He gave him the job, gave him the shotgun to do it. Richard laid for him 1:00 in the morning on a quiet country road. As he was slowly driving by, Richard hit him ...
ROBERTS: Middle of a snowstorm too.
CARLO: Right. February 17th, actually. He hit him with both barrels of a 10 gauge shotgun, blew his head off. And only the next morning Richard found out it was a cop, and he was a little angry that Gravano didn't tell him.
ROBERTS: But he did seem to enjoy the killing. Listen to what he said from prison about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: I would see the blankness come over them. I'd watch them die. I just didn't shoot them and walk away. I saw the surprise, the shock, the blank. They're gone. All I saw was my reflection. But that's it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Pat Kane, one of the people that he killed was Gary Smith, whose daughter happened to go to the same fourth grade class as your daughter, and after he was arrested and put in jail she wrote you a note. Do you want to read it for us?
KANE: Yes, she did. On the outside of the envelope, it says "To Mr. Kane, thanks a lot." There's a little smile face. He strangled him too. And it's written like a 9-year-old girl would write. The writing's all crooked. It says, "To Mr. Kane. Thank you for finding this man. I hate him. He killed my father, Gary Smith, a couple of years ago.
From Melissa Smith. P.S., I watched the news. Kill him please, I beg you." ROBERTS: The fourth grade daughter of Gary Smith.
KANE: That's correct, yes.
ROBERTS: How'd you feel when you got that?
KANE: Another piece of motivation to continue on. You know, post-arrest.
ROBERTS: We'll be back with more on Richard Kuklinski, the Ice Man, right after this. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: It's not less than 200 people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You killed more than 200 people?
R. KUKLINSKI: Sure. Yes. I killed basically 100 people when I was a young man, before I even knew anybody. Too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: See, chainsaws are messy. All you get is little -- all over me, I'd have these little pieces of meat. Now, that's a pain in the neck if I use chainsaws.
Now, would I want to ruin a good shirt with a chainsaw? That would be downright stupid. And I definitely have the wrong -- I don't think I could walk around with bits of meat hanging off me, or bits and pieces of somebody's body hanging off me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Richard Kuklinski in an obviously graphic way talking about how he used to dispose of some of the bodies, cutting them up into a chainsaw, so that they'd fit into a 50-gallon drum.
Barbara Kuklinski is with us, as well as Merrick Kuklinski, Christen Kuklinski, his former wife and two daughters, as well as Philip Carlo, the author of the new book "The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer." And we're also joined by Pat Kane, retired New Jersey state police lieutenant, the man responsible for putting Kuklinski behind bars.
Barbara, you were saying that you're still afraid of him.
B. KUKLINSKI: He's dead.
ROBERTS: I know.
B. KUKLINSKI: So I'm not now. But as long as he lived, yes. He would call. He would write letters and threaten me and threaten my children. Told me more than once to make funeral arrangements for my son if I said something he didn't like or did something he didn't like. So it was 25 years. There's no way it's ever going to completely go away. Better. Much better.
ROBERTS: But when you see him on the screen like that, you say he still scares you.
B. KUKLINSKI: He does scare me. Because...
ROBERTS: Even though he's still -- even though he's dead?
B. KUKLINSKI: ... he'll clench his jaw -- yes. Because I saw that face in front of me so many times. And it scared me to death then, and it's still frightening.
ROBERTS: Merrick, he has changed your life forever?
M. KUKLINSKI: Right. Because unlike my mother, I never knew another way of life except the terror. And to play my role, to try to keep him happy so even though there was a good dad, bad dad, good dad was always overshadowed that bad dad could be there at any second.
ROBERTS: But you're saying you still take precautions, even now?
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes. Because I don't know anything else.
ROBERTS: What precautions do you take?
M. KUKLINSKI: I don't know. I have a bag packed for me and my children, which is -- you know, I can get it anytime, with, you know, water and a flashlight and things like that.
ROBERTS: And you say you never go anywhere without having a way out?
M. KUKLINSKI: Without knowing how to get out, right. And I'm not confrontational. I won't ever start an argument. I want everyone just to be happy. I can't not have everyone happy around me.
ROBERTS: What about you, Chris? Are you forever changed by this?
C. KUKLINSKI: It's the only way we know. We were born into this, and this was normal life for us. This is what home life was all about. We didn't know that our friends didn't live like this.
ROBERTS: Can you have a normal relationship now?
M. KUKLINSKI: Yes, I think...
C. KUKLINSKI: I think now, maybe.
ROBERTS: Phil said in his book, he said that you love life and you're quick to laugh. People would wonder how you could ever love life or be quick to laugh after that. B. KUKLINSKI: We're here, John. We're here. And we were strong together.
CARLO: They are wonderful. I so enjoyed meeting them, getting to know them and I feel privileged...
M. KUKLINSKI: Life didn't have anything to do with -- life in general didn't have anything to do with what my father did to us or didn't do to us. We had to at some point realize that there is a life out there, and we did need to go on. And my dad -- we had to go on when my dad was around because he -- we had to be the perfect family, smiling and...
C. KUKLINSKI: That's the difference. When he was around, we had to smile. We had no choice. He wanted us happy. We were happy.
ROBERTS: Barbara, how much of a relief was it in March of this year when he passed away?
B. KUKLINSKI: I didn't care one way or the other. The relief was when he was put in prison for the rest of his life.
ROBERTS: But you said he still scared you from prison.
B. KUKLINSKI: He scared me. But that fear will always be with me. That part of it, you know, if I have a nightmare, my children have nightmares. Still, we'll talk about it, and I'll wake up and I'm so afraid, and it's like he's there. But he's not there. And it took years of healing, years of getting to the point where no one's looking at me. And I could go there and I could wear what I want, and my children and I could laugh, or my daughters can call my son you dumb bunny, and it would be OK, because that was not allowed. We were perfect.
CARLO: If I may, John, recently, just recently, a couple of days ago, Pat Kane and the family were together for the first time in many, many years, and Pat went over to the family and he said, I'm sorry I destroyed your family. And I heard Barbara say, quote, "You didn't destroy my family. You saved us from years and years of terror." And she hugged and kissed him.
ROBERTS: We're going to try to get into the mind of a mass murderer. Coming up, inside the mind of Richard Kuklinski when LARRY KING LIVE continues. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: Took a .357 and just stood there. Now, apparently, her eyesight must have not been too good because I don't think I'd walk up on a guy with a .357 standing by his side. But these fellows did. Foolish mistake. They all died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: When I was a young man, I found out that if you hurt somebody, they'll leave you alone. When I tried to leave everybody alone and just do my own thing, everybody just wanted to hurt me. Until one day I just decided, well, I've had enough of this picking. And there were like six young men still figuring they were going to mess with my head. And we went to war. To their surprise, I was no longer taking the beating, I was giving it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Richard Kuklinski, the Ice Man, talking about the power he felt the first time that he turned the tables on people, power that eventually became realized with mass murder. As many as 200 murders he committed.
Let's get a little bit more inside the mind of a killer right now. I want to welcome to the program Dr. Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist, author of "Till Death Do Us Part: Love, Marriage, and the Mind of a Killer Spouse."
What's the pathology of Richard Kuklinski? Was he a psychopath? A sociopath? A combination of a lot of different things?
ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, I think he was a sociopath in that he was really avoidant of feeling vulnerable. And so when he was abusing and killing people, he could feel superior.
So he was really stuck, and I'm sure you could talk to this, in this childhood trauma. And I believe really proving to his parents, you see, I'm not the victim I you thought I was. I'm not going to allow myself to be abused anymore.
ROBERTS: But this again is a classic case of the abused becomes the abuser?
LUDWIG: See, here's the thing. You don't want to make excuses. I mean, in this particular case, his childhood, his genetics, his vulnerabilities produced a serial killer. But if you look at anybody, if you look at anybody's past, you can say oh, this is why they turned into a killer. Anybody has that in their background.
ROBERTS: Now, Phil, he started off at a very young age, at the age of 10, using animals?
CARLO: John, let me set the record straight. Richard was a sociopath when he was 10-years-old. He was a raging psychopath. And he just managed to seem like he was living a normal life by associating himself with a normal family. But he was feeding human beings to rats. This guy was a raging psychopath.
ROBERTS: He was -- he didn't feel any emotion when killing. He said his father told him to be dispassionate when killing somebody. Is that unusual for somebody who displays these personality traits?
LUDWIG: When somebody is abused, they do desensitize themselves and sometimes they have an almost out of body experience. But I also wonder too if he never really bonded with anybody. And so if you don't bond with anybody, then you're not able to really empathize with them. And that's also probably what happened in his case.
ROBERTS: All right, hang onto that thought. We're going to come back to that. Right now, we want to check in with Anderson Cooper to see what's coming up at the top of the hour on "360." Anderson is in New Orleans. Good evening to you. What have you got going today?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. Tonight keeping them honest in New Orleans. The mayor here, Mayor Ray Nagin, says he has a 100-day plan to rebuild New Orleans. But a lot of people here complain the city is basically in a holding pattern. What has been accomplished to get the city back? We'll look at that tonight.
Also, Warren Buffett's major gift. Most of his $44 billion fortune will now go to the charity headed by Bill and Melinda Gates. All of that money buys an awful lot. We'll show you how much tonight on "360," John.
ROBERTS: All right, Anderson Cooper with "A.C. 360" coming up tonight at the top of the hour. We'll be back with more inside the mind of a killer: Richard Kuklinski, the ice man, in just a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: Over the years I got to dislike my mother a great deal. But now that I had more time to think about it, she was just a victim of her own life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a kid how did you see her?
R. KUKLINSKI: Hateful. Disliked her a great deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: I believe that's probably why my daughter dislikes me a great deal. Probably because she lived through a lot. You know, she lived through it all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heard it, saw it.
R. KUKLINSKI: Saw it, everything. Psychologically I probably hurt them in some way because they have that in their mind, as I have things in my mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Richard Kuklinski acknowledging that he put his family through some version of hell during his career, during his marriage to Barbara. And saying that he has regrets about what he did to hurt them. But Phil, you said that he expressed some other regrets with you. What were those regrets?
CARLO: The regrets that he expressed to me was the fact that he didn't kill his father. Toward the end of my interviews with him I asked him, do you have any regrets, Richard? And he said, yes, I regret not killing my father. He hated his father. He did try to kill him twice. He had a loaded gun with him and he went looking for him in bars that Stanley hung out and he wasn't there. Had he been there Richard would have taken him outside and shot him in the head.
ROBERTS: And as we heard earlier, Barbara and Merrick considered poisoning Richard. Dr. Robi, is it unusual for people who suffer this sort of terror and abuse that they did, to stay in that relationship?
LUDWIG: It really isn't uncommon. And when I hear the stories, I almost think they might have been safer staying with him because if they would have left, I really do believe that they could have ended up dead. And somehow they found a strategy to survive. And Richard in his odd way, as dangerous as he was, I really do believe that he did love his family because he didn't kill them. And I think that's the hallmark of loving somebody for him.
ROBERTS: Well, if that's love.
LUDWIG: But he's a disturbed mind, John.
ROBERTS: What do you think about that?
LUDWIG: Do you think I'm right?
B. KUKLINSKI: I do. I do think you're right. And together we were strong. We had each other. You know, I was allowed out as long as I was with one of my children. And we did do things. We went to all the plays in the city. And we, you know, went pumpkin hunting. And we did all the normal stuff without him.
ROBERTS: But let's hear what Richard said about his relationship with you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: Almost a hate-love, hate-love relationship. I really liked, loved the girl. But when I got mad, I forgot all that and wound up hurting the person I love. So where did I really love her? I still hurt her.
B. KUKLINSKI: I didn't have that confusion. I hated him all the time.
ROBERTS: You hated him all the time. So you didn't have that confusion.
B. KUKLINSKI: Absolutely.
ROBERTS: But you still said you did normal things together. Do you find that people judge you, to say why didn't you leave?
B. KUKLINSKI: Exactly. I do find that. And you know, I lived with it, and it's OK and it doesn't bother me because I have no doubt who I am. But I think about there must be thousands of women in that situation. And there is no getting out. Whether it's because their husband would kill them or because they have four children and there's no money or whatever the reason may be. Our reasoning was terror and drastic.
LUDWIG: And learned helplessness, I would imagine.
B. KUKLINSKI: Right.
ROBERTS: What about the effect, the lingering effect on the three of you, actually the four of you if you include the younger boy, Dwayne? You said, Barbara, that you will forever be known as Richard Kuklinski's family. What's that going to do to you, Merrick, and Christen for the rest of your life?
C. KUKLINSKI: We're both divorced.
M. KUKLINSKI: Right, but I don't think that had anything to do with this. I don't think that's going to, or has any impact on our lives anymore. We are the people that we are. You know, this is our father. This is unfortunately what he did. And we're sorry.
ROBERTS: Twenty years later you're still reliving it. Is this a stigma you think that will remain attached to you for as long as you live?
B. KUKLINSKI: I have great children.
LUDWIG: I think it's important to say too, that you can come through somebody and not be anything like them constitutionally. And that's something ...
M. KUKLINSKI: We have to check ourselves regularly. How could we not have some part of this?
ROBERTS: Folks, we've got to take a break. We'll be right back with more on Richard Kuklinski, the Ice Man, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. KUKLINSKI: I put the rope around his neck, twisted it, and threw him over my shoulder and held him there. So actually I was the tree hanging him. And he eventually just stopped kicking. And I let it loose at one end. He slid down to the ground. I put him over by the garbage and left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) R. KUKLINSKI: I used to have a thing where I would take somebody into a cavern or a cave, whatever you want to call it. I would tie them up or tape them, their hand and their feet together, and then I would leave them there. And I'd leave a camera on. And rats used to eat them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Richard Kuklinski talking about the way that he disposed of some of his bodies. And Pat Kane, some people have said it's not possible for Richard Kuklinski to have done everything he did, that they think he was bragging in jail to be the big man on campus, protect himself in prison. What do you say to those critics?
KANE: Nothing surprises me with this guy. Absolutely nothing. And I've had critics, unbelievers and doubters attached to my hip from day one in this case. And they'll always be there. Some of the recent articles I've read about people saying he only killed five people, they're not critics, unbelievers, and doubters anymore. They're idiots, knuckle heads, and jackasses.
ROBERTS: Barbara, do you think he could have killed 200 people?
B. KUKLINSKI: I think he was capable of anything.
ROBERTS: Merrick and Christen, have you read Phil's book?
C. KUKLINSKI: I have.
M. KUKLINSKI: No, I couldn't. I tried. I was unable to emotionally. I opened a page, when I finally got to even open the page, all I saw was my dad standing right there, angry and disappointed. So I was unable to. But I lived it. So I'm sure that ...
ROBERTS: And watching him on video tonight, what's that doing to you?
M. KUKLINSKI: It's very difficult.
CARLO: She still very much lovers her father, to this day. She didn't want to poison him you said earlier. It was Barbara and Christen.
ROBERT: I'm sorry. You readily admit it.
C. KUKLINSKI: No problem.
ROBERTS: Twenty years later, Phil, why did you write this book? What did you want people to know about the Ice Man?
CARLO: How an abused child can become a monster, it's really that simple. I've been trying to do that for years now. I was looking for those links in the night stalker case. And when he started talking about his childhood, I was like bells and whistles are going off in my head because that's exactly what happened. You abuse and beat any child, puppy, and the puppy will start biting as soon as it can. Yes, a lot of people go through abuse and they get through it OK, but there's always something lurking inside, and this was a classic case of a severely, severely abused child growing into a virtual actual monster.
ROBERTS: Barbara, last word to you. You relive this every few years. This is the first time you've been on television together with your daughters. What do you want people to know about your family?
B. KUKLINSKI: That they're wonderful. I have wonderful children. That's my girls kept me alive, literally. We're totally non-confrontational. I don't know how to raise my hand. So no matter what he did to me, it didn't teach me to want to hurt anyone.
ROBERTS: Thank you all, it really has been an incredible hour. Richard Kuklinski, confessions of a Mafia contract killer, the Ice Man.
That's going to do it for LARRY KING LIVE tonight, John Roberts in. Now let's go to New Orleans, Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."
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