Palombo has a film project, too: both he and Blanco sold the rights to their story to First Born Films, which is finishing up a script. Mark Wahlberg made headlines early this year by announcing that Jennifer Lopez was chasing him down to play Blanco in a separate film he’s working on for Paramount.
The Bio Channel did a show on Blanco recently, as did National Geographic, Palombo said.
“There’s nothing wrong with competition, especially at the box office,” Cosby, a former crack dealer, said.
He explained that his affection for Blanco was not unlike the admiration a high school basketball player would have for Michael Jordan. Cosby was in the business, and admired the guru of his trade.
“Griselda got a bad rap,” he said. “We’ve all done things. Don’t judge her from what you hear in the media. I believe the number of murders she’s rumored to have ordered is accurate. At the same time, how many years ago was that? We all make mistakes.”
But Palombo said revenge runs deep.
“In that line of work, all debts are settled,’’ he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Schlessinger, who prosecuted Blanco, said he doesn’t dare venture to guess how many murders she ordered.
“It would certainly be dozens,” Schlessinger said. “We have no idea here how many murders she authorized in Colombia. She was a complete sociopath. She murdered people at the drop of a hat. She would kill anybody who displeased her, because of a debt, because they screwed up on a shipment, or she didn’t like the way they looked at her.”
She invented some of the techniques that became standard smuggling and murdering methods, and is alleged to have been responsible for the deaths of at least two of her ex-husbands. But Blanco was only criminally charged for three killings, in a case that fell apart when it was revealed that the star witness had phone sex with the secretaries at the Miami-Dade state attorneys office. Schlessinger recalls that Blanco got a good deal on her federal case as well, because defense attorney Roy Black made a plea bargain with the judge without the federal prosecutor’s knowledge.
“I was really surprised when I heard she was killed,” Schlessinger said. “We presumed her dead years ago.”
Schlessinger said he was at Blanco’s California home the day in 1985 that Palombo finally made his arrest after a decade of investigating.
“Palombo went up to her and gave her a big fat kiss,” Schlessinger said. “He said, ‘Griselda! I’m so glad to see you!’ That was the truth: he had been tracking her for 10 years.”
Palombo recalls how he interrupted her as she lay in bed reading the Bible.
“She was quite startled,” he said.
There was less surprise at the El Poblado high-rise where Colombian media say the queenpin lived in a valley of bamboo trees and luxury tower blocks cut into the Medellín mountainside.
“The people here have a lot of money and no one knows who they are or where it came from,” the security guard at one of the high-rises said. “It is very closed.”
Blanco was known to walk freely in the streets without bodyguards or ostentatious displays of wealth. She shopped at the corner Cardiso butcher shop often, and the workers were unaware of their customer’s brutal past.
“Her physical appearance had changed a lot — she looked quite fat,” the witness to her murder said.
He was surprised that her avengers let her live so long. Perhaps, he theorized, she outlived them.
“Because of her legal past — she spent a lot of time in prison — they let her live for a long time,” he said. “Out of these people, who is left? Very few. People don’t care about her anymore.”
The morning after the murder, the butcher shop was busy with customers and there was no sign of the execution of the day before. In Medellín, which still carries the scars of Pablo Escobar’s war against the Colombian state, life moves on quickly. The previous day, the police on the scene had not even taken statements from most of the witnesses to the murder, according to the witness.
“There was very little to tell,” he shrugged.