The brazen robbery of drug kingpin German Jimenez Panesso’s Miami home in the spring of 1978 set off a chain of events eventually resulting in the infamous Dadeland Mall Massacre in nearby Kendall, Florida over a year later. Panesso, 37, and his bodyguard Juan Carlos Hernandez, 22, were gunned down at Dadeland Mall’s Crown Liquors 40 years ago this week on July 11, 1979.

The slayings shocked the public conscience and proved a tipping point in South Florida drug culture, leading to what has been called the Cocaine Cowboys Era of the 1980s known for neon-lit nightlife, excessive partying and even more bloodshed. The decision of local drug world heavy Jaime Suescun to burglarize Panesso’s residence in April 1978 put the whole bloody mess into motion.

Suescun was partners with Miami drug don Carlos Panello Ramirez. Panesso and Ramirez were both being supplied their cocaine by Colombia’s Medellin cartel and its female crew boss Griselda (The Godmother) Blanco, a top lieutenant of narco-terrorist and global villain Pablo Escobar.

On April 17, 1978, Suescun and his crew ripped off Panesso’s pad for $500,000 and 40 kilos of cocaine. They kidnapped, stabbed and strangled his 50-year old maid, Ester Rios, to death in the course of a home invasion. An incensed Panesso vowed swift vengeance.

Six days later, on April 23, 1978, Suescun was lured to a Miami Beach townhouse under the pretense of selling the 10 keys of blow he lifted from Panesso’s place. In reality, it was a setup and Suescun was marked for execution. Panesso and his men beat and tortured Suescun to death. They hogtied his body in a way where he ended up strangling himself to an agonizingly painful passing.

While dumping the body that night, Panesso’s men got into a shootout with Suescun’s soldiers, who had followed their boss to the sham coke deal. When police arrived, they found Suescun’s body in the trunk of an abandoned black-colored Audi and four of Panesso’s men (Ruben Echeverria, Julio Gaona, Jorge Luiis de Campo and Osear Penagos Rios) scattered dead in the same parking lot.

Even after Suescun’s murder, Panesso’s thirst for revenge wasn’t quenched. He wanted Suescun’s partner Carlos Panello Ramirez to pay for the break-in as well. Ramirez went to Griselda Blanco for help. Blanco owed Panesso over a million bucks and saw Suescun’s beef with Ramirez as a way of sliding out of her debt. She ordered a squad of her most reliable assassins to murder Panesso as a favor to Ramirez.

Blanco’s brother-in-law Miguel (Paco) Sepulveda and her most trusted hit man Jorge (Rivi) Ayala blasted Panesso and Panesso’s muscle, Juan Carlos Hernandez, away with uzi sub machine guns in broad daylight at the swanky Dadeland Mall on the afternoon of July 11, 1979. Paco Sepulveda had been feuding with Jimenez in the months prior regarding Jimenez’s romantic dalliance with one of Sepulveda’s girlfriends.

Panesso and Hernandez were at the front counter of Crown Liquors buying bottles of Chivas Regal when they were slain. The cashier and a stockboy were also wounded in the attack.

Blanco was indicted on federal narcotics and racketeering charges in 1985 out of New York, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was indicted again in the early 1990s while behind bars after Rivi Ayala flipped and tied her to more than 20 gangland slayings in New York and Florida. The pair were the focus of the cult classic 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys helmed by Billy Corben.

Deported to Colombia upon finishing her prison time in America in 2004, Blanco was killed in a drive-by shooting in front of a Medellin butcher shop in the fall of 2012. Escobar died a fugitive of the law in a hail of gunfire in 1993 as he shot it out with Colombian military and DEA agents refusing to be taken alive on the roof of a Medellin safe house.

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