Mister Softee

Robert Prongay sold ice cream out of his truck to kids in North Bergen, even as he was dreaming up unique new ways to kill someone.  He was an army-trained demolitions expert who was highly versed in the art of destruction.  He teamed up with Kuklinski for several deals in the pornography trade, doing hits for Roy DeMeo when needed.  Kuklinski learned a lot from Mister Softee.

One thing that Prongay was good at was using various types of drugs and chemicals to take a life, though he preferred cyanide.  He taught Kuklinski how to put cyanide into a spray bottle, which could be used quickly and easily to take someone out.  Once the poison got into them through the nose, they were gone.  He even demonstrated the technique, and in less than fifteen seconds Kuklinski watched a man fall down dead in the street.  Somehow Prongay managed to get cyanide quite easily and Kuklinski never learned his source. 

The inside of a warehouse freezer
The inside of a warehouse freezer

Prongay also experimented with other things.  He wanted to know, for example, if a body kept frozen could foil the medical examiner's reading for time of death.  If so, then a killer did not have to worry about an alibi.

Louis Masgay became the guinea pig.  Masgay was to bring a rather large amount of cash to Kuklinski for a shipment of blank videotapes.  He'd already attempted this exchange several times before, and each time Kuklinski had stood him up.  Masgay didn't realize that this was part of Kuklinski's MO: get his targets all worked up over some nonexistent deal, increasing both the anticipation and the price each time.  On July 1, 1981, Masgay left his home in Pennsylvania with around $95,000, expecting a huge profit.  But he never returned.  The only sign that something had happened to him was his abandoned van, found on Route 17 in Bergen County.  The secret panel in which he'd kept the cash had been ripped out and the money was gone.

From different stories pieced together, it's apparent that Mister Softee helped Kuklinski hide the body.  One witness later claimed to have seen it hanging in a large industrial freezer in a warehouse rented by Kuklinski, but there was some reason to believe that the corpse had lain for at least part of the time in the freezer in Mr. Softee's ice cream truck----the one out of which he served ice cream.  No other freezer was found in the garages of either Kuklinski or Prongay large enough to store a body.

It was two years before Masgay's body was actually found, just over the Jersey border in Rockland County, New York.  He'd been shot and wrapped in plastic garbage bags.  Oddly, he had on the same clothing he'd worn the day he vanished, but the medical examiner thought the body looked fresh.  Yet during the autopsy, ice crystals inside the tissues gave away what had happened.  Had Kuklinski only waited until the corpse had thoroughly thawed, he'd have gotten away with his attempt to foil the reading of the postmortem interval.  When Masgay was identified through his fingerprints, Kuklinski became a chief suspect.  The cops started calling him the Iceman.

Yet that didn't stop Kuklinski.  He went on to kill a pharmacist, Paul Hoffman, 51, in the spring of 1982.  Hoffman had been pestering him endlessly to get a shipment of Tagamet, a prescription ulcer medication, for a cut-rate price.  Kuklinski had nothing for him but led him to believe a shipment was in.  Hoffman was to bring $25,000.  Hoffman put the cash together and went eagerly to see Kuklinski at his rented garage in North Bergen, New Jersey.  That was the last his family ever saw of him. 

Hot-dog stand, site of the barrel, police evidence
Hot-dog stand, site of the barrel

Kuklinski eventually admitted to shooting and beating him with a tire iron, and then cementing the pharmacist into another steel drum.  He left the drum outside a motel next to a hot dog stand in Little Ferry, New Jersey.  Occasionally he'd go have a hot dog and see if the barrel had been discovered.  Eventually, it was just gone.  Apparently someone had moved it and to this day Hoffman's body was never found.

Then in 1984, it was Mister Softee's turn to die.  He argued over something with Kuklinski and threatened his family.  That was sufficient for Kuklinski to get rid of him.  Robert Prongay was found shot to death in his Mister Softee truck in his garage in North Bergen…just across the street from Kuklinski's garage.

Unfortunately for him, he'd also cut off his source of cyanide, which would prove regretful in the near future.

1. Going To Florida

2. Hit Man

3. Mister Softee

4. Operation Iceman

5. The Trial

6. The Devil Himself

7. The Iceman's Persona

8. Bibliography

9. The Author

- Face to Face with the Iceman - Interview
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