In Netflix’s crime drama series ‘Griselda,’ Griselda Blanco kills her drug trafficking partner German Panesso when the latter teams up with Rafa Salazar, the former’s rival. As a retaliation against his betrayal, Griselda sends her men to kill Panesso. The men locate him in a liquor store, only to kill the Colombian drug trafficker and his bodyguard. Panesso’s murder becomes a display of Griselda’s power and courage. The drug trafficker is based on a real kingpin who operated in the 1970s. Panesso and his bodyguard’s murders eventually started to be known as the “Dadeland Mall Massacre,” an important part of the Miami drug wars!
The Mystery Behind the Dadeland Mall Massacre
German Jimenez Panesso was reportedly a part of one of the five Colombian narcotics rings that operated in Miami in the 1970s. According to a feature published by the Sun Sentinel, he was a “drug baron” whose operations were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. On July 11, 1979, Panesso, along with his bodyguard Juan Carlos Hernandez, was at a Miami shopping center to buy liquor. A group of hitmen entered the mall’s Crown Liquors store and killed both of them. Several years after, Fernando Villega-Hernandez, a convicted drug smuggler, was accused of being one of the hitmen.
According to a Miami Herald report published in 1984, a government prosecutor told a U.S. District that fingerprints and testimony could positively prove that Villega-Hernandez was one of the killers. Villega-Hernandez and his brother Carlos Arturo Villegas-Hernandez were commanded by Miguel “Paco” Sepulveda, the brother of Griselda Blanco’s third husband Darío Sepúlveda, as per Steve Georges, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent of the time. Paco, according to several reports, served Griselda as her top hitman. In the show, Griselda kills Panesso for teaming up with Rafa Salazar against her. In reality, that might not have been the case.
According to Guy Gugliotta and Jeff Leen’s ‘Kings of Cocaine: Inside the Medellín Cartel – An Astonishing True Story of Murder, Money and International Corruption,’ Panesso’s murder was possibly the result of a series of events, which started with Jaime Suescun, an alleged kingpin, reportedly stealing forty kilos of drugs from one of the stash houses of Panesso. The speculations further state that Suescun then killed Panesso’s maid, who witnessed him stealing the drugs. Eventually, Suescun’s dead body was found in an Audi car registered to Panesso. Suescun worked for Carlos Panello Ramirez, who was one of the customers of Panesso along with Griselda.
“The theory went that Panello feared Jimenez’s wrath after his man Suescun killed Jimenez’s maid during the forty-kilo rip-off. So Panello decided to go after Jimenez before Jimenez came after him. But Panello feared Jimenez and needed an ally. He found such a person in another Jimenez customer, Griselda Blanco de Trujillo,” reads ‘Kings of Cocaine.’ According to the legend, Griselda owed Panesso money and she chose to kill him to settle the debt without losing anything. “Blanco owed Jimenez a lot of money for cocaine, and she had a habit of paying her debts with bullets,” the book further reads.
Gugliotta and Leen’s book also mentions Paco’s alleged involvement in the murders. “Blanco’s chief hitman was Miguel ‘Paco’ Sepulveda. And it turned out that Paco was upset because Jimenez was sleeping with his girlfriend. An afternoon of violence that would terrorize Miami for years to come was born out of the theft of forty kilos of cocaine and a sexual indiscretion,” they wrote. Nelson Andreu, who investigated several drug-related crimes at the time, believes that Griselda was the mastermind behind the massacre. However, she was never prosecuted for Panesso’s murder.
Even though the police couldn’t successfully close Panesso’s murder case, the massacre was a much-needed wake-up call for the authorities. “What was learned from the Dadeland shooting is that it’s real. These guys will go out there and if they want to hit or kill someone, doesn’t matter where it happens, who else is around, or the time of day that it happens, they’re gonna get their target and everyone else better be careful and be aware of their surroundings,” Andreu told NBC 6 South Florida on the 40th anniversary of the massacre.