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
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
Hot-dog stand, site of the
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.