MEDELLIN, Colombia -- Griselda Blanco’s story was often told in numbers: she turned tricks at 14, and moved 300 kilos of cocaine a month in her 40s.
Known as the “Godmother” of the cocaine racket, she had up to 20 aliases, and unsubstantiated lore said she ordered some 250 murders. Police put it closer to 40. She died Monday at 69 at the Cardiso butcher shop on 29th Street in a Medellín neighborhood, where the former madrina was gunned down after a life of drugs and murder. Her last act on earth was buying $150 worth of meat.
The cocaine trade pioneer, who made her mark by bloodying Miami’s streets, died the same way she was arrested in 1985: with a Bible on her chest. It was a predictable end to a life marred by violence, prison, and impunity — a legacy nearly forgotten until filmmakers made her notorious. At least three feature films and an HBO series featuring Blanco were in the works at the time of her death.
“She found religion in later years,” said her former lover Charles Cosby, who expects to start shooting a film early next year called Hustle about his relationship with Blanco. “At the same time, you can’t bring a Bible to a gunfight.”
On Monday afternoon, a middle-age man climbed off the back of a motorbike outside a butcher shop in a quiet Medellín suburb, entered, pulled out a gun and shot Blanco twice in the head before calmly walking back to his bike and disappearing into the city.
As the woman lay dying on the ground, her pregnant daughter-in-law, who had been waiting in the car, lay a Bible on her chest.
No one who witnessed the attack knew until later that the victim was one of the most violent and powerful drug traffickers in Miami’s history. According to a witness interviewed by The Miami Herald, the killer was a man in his 40s or 50s who was calm and composed throughout the attack.
“He was a professional,” the witness said. “It was vengeance from the past.”
A police spokesman said it was known Blanco was in Medellín for the last eight years since serving 19 years in U.S. prisons and being deported, but there were no open investigations into her activities and there was no evidence that she was still involved in drug trafficking.
“If this was a homicide case in America, the list of suspects would be infinite,” said filmmaker Alfred Spellman, whose Cocaine Cowboy documentaries helped revive Blanco’s legend. “It would be the toughest case to solve: so many people wanted her dead.”
Blanco came up in crime by picking pockets. She eventually moved to New York, where she started trafficking in marijuana. But pot is bulky, and Blanco saw a growing lucrative market in cocaine, which was easier to tuck into girdles and other undergarments she had specially made, said Bob Palombo, the former DEA agent who helped bring her down.
“She mesmerized people,” Palombo said. “She could woo you with her acumen and make you a loyal follower. There was also fear: Anybody working for her also knew she wouldn’t ask anyone to do what she wouldn’t do herself.”
Her role in history as a ruthless female drug lord who killed at will was chronicled in a 1990 biography. Spellman later featured her in two documentaries and is now executive producing an HBO dramatic series based on the movies.