Griselda Blanco, the drug kingpin known for her blood-soaked style of street vengeance during Miami’s “cocaine cowboys” era of the ’70s and ’80s, was shot to death in Medellin by a motorcycle-riding assassin Monday.
Blanco, 69, spent nearly two decades behind bars in the United States for drug trafficking and three murders, including the 1982 slaying of a 2-year-old boy in Miami.
Called the “Godmother of Cocaine,” she was deported in 2004 to Colombia, where she maintained a low profile.
Colombia’s national police confirmed her slaying late Monday. According to Colombian press reports, two gunmen on motorcycles pulled up to Blanco as she walked out of a butcher shop in Medellin, her hometown. One man pumped two bullets into her head, according to El Colombiano newspaper. It was the sort of death many had predicted for her: Blanco has been credited with inventing the idea of the “motorcycle assassin” who rode by victims and sprayed them with bullets.
“It’s surprising to all of us that she had not been killed sooner because she made a lot of enemies,” former Miami homicide detective Nelson Andreu, who investigated her, said late Monday. “When you kill so many and hurt so many people like she did, it’s only a matter of time before they find you and try to even the score.”
The former kingpin was with a pregnant daughter-in-law, who was uninjured. According to El Colombiano, the woman told police that Blanco was no longer involved in organized crime and that she was hoping to live off the sales of several properties she owned.
Blanco came to epitomize the “cocaine cowboy” bloodshed of the 1980s, when rival drug dealers brazenly ambushed rivals in public.
Raised in the slums of Medellin, she began her criminal career as a pickpocket, eventually commanding an empire that reportedly shipped 3,400 pounds of cocaine per month, by boat and plane. She was considered a Colombian pioneer in drug smuggling to the United States, a precursor to the larger cartels that dominated in the 1980s. She even had a Medellin lingerie shop custom design bras and girdles with special pockets to hold cocaine, a tool used by her drug mules flying to Miami.
She ran the organization with her three of her four sons, two of whom were later assassinated in Colombia.
Blanco was known for her flamboyant lifestyle — one of her sons was named Michael Corleone, an homage to The Godfather movies. Three of her husbands also died in drug-related violence.
But it was her nasty temper and penchant for unyielding violence that drew the attention of law enforcement and the public.
Investigators linked her to the daytime 1979 submachine gun attack at Dadeland Mall that shocked Miami. Detectives conservatively estimated that she was behind about 40 homicides.
She was only convicted of three murders.
Two of them: Blanco arranged the slayings drug dealers Alfredo and Grizel Lorenzo in their South Miami house, as their three children watched television in another room. They had failed to pay $250,000 for five kilos of cocaine that Blanco had allegedly delivered to them.
She was also convicted of ordering a shooting that resulted in the death of 2-year-old Johnny Castro, shot twice in the head as he drove in a car with his father, Jesus “Chucho” Castro. Blanco was targeting Jesus Castro, a former enforcer for Blanco’s organization.
Detectives learned the intimate details of the hit from Jorge Ayala, the charismatic hitman who later testified against Blanco. He told police that Blanco wanted Castro killed because he kicked her son in the buttocks.
“At first she was real mad ’cause we missed the father,” Ayala told police. “But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even.”
She had been arrested in 1985 in a cocaine trafficking case in New York. Ultimately, she served 13 years in federal custody before she was handed over to Florida authorities.
Blanco seemed destined for Florida’s Death Row — but the prosecution’s murders case was dealt a severe blow.
The reason: Ayala — the case’s chief witness — engaged in phone sex with secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. After an investigation, three secretaries were fired and a veteran prosecutor resigned.
Special prosecutors from Orlando took over the case, and Blanco cut a plea deal in 1998.
Blanco was sentenced to three concurrent 20-year sentences, of which she had to serve only about one-third because of guidelines in effect at the time of the murders. Even on her return to Colombia, she was believed to have held onto immense wealth.
In recent years, younger Miamians were introduced to Blanco via two “Cocaine Cowboys” documentaries made by filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman.
“This is classic live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword,” Corben said Monday. “Or in this case, live-by-the-motorcycle-assassin, die-by-the-motorcycle assassin.”