Episode 18: The Godmother: Griselda Blanco

At the end of the 1970s, body after dead body began appearing on the streets and sidewalks and parking lots of Miami. Many of those bodies were linked to the Colombian cocaine trade, which was in turn linked to one incredibly powerful woman with a love of gangster movies and a penchant for drive-by shootings. Meet Griselda Blanco: the Black Widow, La Madrina, the Godmother of Cocaine.

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“The Godmother” by Richard Smitten, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 19 Feb 1989

“Michael Corleone Blanco Lives in the Shadow of his Cocaine-Queen Mother,” Miami New Times, 13 Oct 2011

“The Hunt For The ‘Cocaine Godmother,’” CBS Miami, 27 Sept 2012

United States of America, Appellee, v. Griselda Blanco, Defendant-appellant, 861 F.2d 773 (2d Cir. 1988)

“Secretaries Suspended Over Phone Sex,” AP News, 24 Feb 1998

“After 25 years in prison, Cocaine Cowboys hitman wants reduced sentence,” Miami Herald, 29 April 2013

“Griselda Blanco: Escaping The Electric Chair,” CBS4 Miami, 20 No 2012

“Asesinada de dos balazos en Colombia ‘La reina de la coca’, una leyenda del crimen,” El País, 4 Sept 2012

“Colombia’s ‘cocaine queen’ living in obscurity when she was shot dead,” El País, 13 Sept 2012

“’Godmother’ gunned down,” Leader-Telegram, 5 Sept 2012

“Pérez-Reverte's ‘La Reina del Sur’ or Female Aggression in ‘Narcocultura,’” Aldona Bialowas Pobutsky, Hispanic Journal Vol. 30 No. ½

“Female Drug Smugglers on the U-S.-Mexico Border: Gender, Crime, and Empowerment,” Howard Campbell, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 81 No. 1

“Immigration Officials to Deport ‘Godmother,’” The Tampa Tribune, 7 June 2004

Cocaine Cowboys (documentary), 2006

Cocaine Cowboys 2 (documentary), 2008


“Guilty” by Richard A. Whiting, Harry Akst, and Gus Kahn, sung by Anna Telfer.

“Hijack the Magik ft. Nitty Scott,” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License and used with permission.

Tori Telfer
Episode 17: Crime-Fighting Broad 001: Lois Gibson, Forensic Artist

At eight years old, Lois Gibson begged God to give her a job where she could draw faces. As a young woman, a man with an evil face burst through her door, leaving her broken, despairing, and consumed with the desire for justice.

At thirty-nine, she became a full-time forensic artist. At sixty-six, she made the Guinness Book of World Records. This is the story of Lois Gibson, the world’s most successful forensic artist.


Faces of Evil: Kidnappers, Murderers, Rapists, and the Forensic Artist Who Puts Them Behind Bars, by Lois Gibson and Deanie Francis Mills

Interview with Lois Gibson, 1/9/2019

“Most criminals positively identified due to the composites of one artist,” guinnessworldrecords.com

“Forensic artist: N.C. man in famous kissing photo,” Rocky Mount Telegram, 5 Aug 2007

“Stormy Daniels sketch artist Lois Gibson holds world record for most successful identifications,” NY Daily News, 17 April 2018


“Guilty” by Richard A. Whiting, Harry Akst, and Gus Kahn, sung by Anna Telfer.

“Lynx - Picture (The Polish Ambassador Remix),” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License and used with permission. 


Criminal Broads MERCH + Criminal Broads PATREON!

Tori Telfer
Episode 16: The Redheaded Hellcat Who Wasn’t: Rhonda Belle Martin

Beneath the soft green grass of the Last Supper cemetery, most regular, God-fearing residents of Mobile, Alabama had one family member resting. Maybe two. Rhonda Belle Martin had eight.

This is the story of a woman who the tabloids labeled a “redheaded hellcat,” whose urge to kill swept over her one day when her little daughter asked for a drink of water, and who was never able to explain why she gave her poisoned milk, instead.


All coverage of Rhonda Belle Martin’s case (sometimes spelled “Rhonda Bell Martin”) from The Montgomery Adviser, March 1956-Oct 1957

“Check on ‘Other Husbands’ of Suspected Ala. Murderer,” The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), 11 Mar 1956

“Open Graves For Clue To Six Deaths,” Nevada State Journal, 13 Mar 1956

“Redheaded Hellcat Admits Killing Six Kin With Arsenic,” Daily News, 14 Mar 1956

“Kin Claim Poisoner Kept Young Husband ‘Prisoner in Drink,’” Alabama Journal, 15 Mar 1956

“Poison Guard Urged on MDs,” Alabama Journal, 21 Apr 1956

“Early Trial Set for Mrs. Martin,” Alabama Journal, 19 May 1956

“Verdict of Death Rendered by Jury For Mrs. Martin,” Alabama Journal, 5 Jun 1956

“Mrs. Martin Sentenced To Die July 13 For Poison Murder,” Alabama Journal, 6 Jun 1956

Executed Women of 20th and 21st Centuries, by L. Kay Gillespie


“Guilty,” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Gymnopédue no. 3” by Erik Satie, via musopen.org. (Musopen requires all users who upload music to the site to represent that the uploaded musical composition and/or the sound recording is in the public domain.)

Tori Telfer
Episode 15: Teenager in Love: Falicia Blakely
falicia (1).jpg

Falicia Blakely was only 16 when she met the man who would change the course of her life. At first, Mike Berry was the perfect boyfriend—bringing her flowers, treating her little boy as his own son. But then came the brainwashing, the manipulation, and the fire. Before long, Falicia would find herself holding a phone and a pistol, with Mike on the other end of the call, urging her to shoot.


Interview with Falicia Blakely (11/26/18)

“Learning to Hit a Lick” parts 1 and 11, by Mara Shaloup, Creative Loafing, March 2004

A Treacherous Hustle: Hitting a Lick for the Love of a Pimp, by Sereniti Hall

The Falicia Blakely Letters From Her Pimp by Sereniti Hall

“Videotaped statement admissible in slayings,” The Atlanta Constitution, 13 Sept 2003

“Death penalty sought in sex scam slayings,” The Atlanta Constitution, 18 Jan 2003

“Prostitute admits to 3 slayings, blames pimp,” The Atlanta Constitution, 17 Jan 2004

“Prostitute admits role in slayings,” The Atlanta Constitution, 10 June 2004


“Guilty,” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Haunted House of the Rising Sun” by Kathleen Martin, licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tori Telfer
Episode 14: Jim Jones’ Right-Hand Woman: Carolyn Layton (feat. Laura Elizabeth Woollett)

While many remember the 1978 Jonestown massacre as a dark monument to the power of a single man’s paranoia and fanaticism, the tale of Jim Jones’ lover, Carolyn Layton, reveals a more complicated narrative—and a more frightening truth. Carolyn was a bubbly young woman who believed in pacifism and political engagement, but when she met Jim Jones, she became an unsmiling woman would do anything for Jones’ cause—including death. Was this a personality change, or had Carolyn been a secret fanatic all along? Author Laura Elizabeth Woollett comes on the podcast to tell us Carolyn’s long-forgotten story, which she covers in her latest novel, Beautiful Revolutionary.


Interview with Laura Elizabeth Woollett, author of Beautiful Revolutionary (Scribe Publications, 2018)

“The Jonestown Massacre,” from the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

“Drinking the Kool-Aid: A Survivor Remembers Jim Jones,” The Atlantic, 18 Nov 2011

“Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple,” sponsored by the Special Collections of Library and Information Access at San Diego State University 


“Guilty,” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Gnossiennes no. 1” by Erik Satie, via musopen.org

“Reverend (Jim Jones)” by Church of Misery, used with permission

Final clip of Carolyn Layton talking was released by the FBI via the Freedom of Information Act. You can hear the full audio here.

Tori Telfer
Episode 13: Bloodsucking Broads! A Very Gory Halloween Special, Feat. Elizabeth Bathory, Mercy Brown, and Female Vampires Galore!
Christine Domaniecki (1).jpg

Do female vampires exist? Are they bloodier than their male counterparts? And if the answer to those first two questions is yes: should we race to the grocery store RIGHT NOW to stock up on garlic?! Join me as we travel through the long, dark, decomposition-ridden history of female vampires, from ancient Assyrian myths to New England vampire panics to Hungarian countesses with bad reputations. We’ll talk about lady vamps in legend, in pop culture, and—eek!—in real life. Happy Halloween!


“The Blood Countess: Erzsébet Báthory,” from Lady Killers by Tori Telfer
Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania, by Raymond T. McNally
Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England’s Vampires by Michael Bell
“The Great New England Vampire Panic,” Smithsonian, October 2012
“Grave of Mercy Brown,” Atlas Obscura
“Not All Fangs Are Phallic: Female Film Vampires,” by James Craig Holte, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Vol. 10, No. 2
Vampire ASMR Roleplay: Meeting the Countess” by Stephanie Swan Quills
“2 Guilty in ‘Lesbian Vampire Trial,’” The Ottowa Citizen, 16 Feb 1991
“Woman wondered if lover was a vampire, court told,” The Age, 7 Feb 1991
“Blood-drinking devil worshipers face life for ritual Satanic killing,” The Guardian, 1 Feb 2002
“German killing shines light on Satanism,” Calgary Herald, 20 Jan 2002
“Flirting with Hitler,” The Guardian, 16 Nov 2002
“2 middle school girls waited in a bathroom and planned to cut up their classmates, police say,” CNN, 26 Oct 2018


“Guilty,” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org
“Ghost Surf Rock,” by Loyalty Freak Music via freemusicarchive.org

Tori Telfer
Episode 12: Vice Queens of Sydney: Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh
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If you were looking for vice, Sydney in the 1920s-1940s was the place to be. Duck into the back alleys of Surry Hills and Woolloomooloo and you’d find all the cocaine, “sly grog” (booze!), brawling, and brothels your dark little heart desired, all of it presided over by not one but two larger-than-life crime queens: Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh. The women’s’ rivalry was bloody, colorful, absurd, and stretched on for decades. They raged at each other in the press and in the streets; they insulted each other’s dogs (GASP!); they tried to outdo each other with glamorous photoshoots. Polish your diamonds and hike up your garters, listeners, because we’re diving into their story.


Razor by Larry Writer

Lillian Armfield: How Australia’s First Female Detective Took on Tilly Devine and the Razor Gangs and Changed the Face of the Force, by Leigh Straw

“Bad Beef,” Western Mail, 4 April 1929

“Gang War,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Dec 1929

“Notorious Underworld Figure Does Not Fear for Life,” Truth, 13 April 1930

“Says Tilly to Kate,” Truth, 29 Jun 1930

“K-K-Katey…You’re the Only ‘Girl’ That I Abhor!” Truth, 7 Feb 1932

“Underworld Queen Is an Interesting Contrast,” Arrow, 7 Oct 1932

“Two Bragging Crooks Live on Fat of the Land,” Truth, 27 Aug 1933

“Tilly Devine in Brawl,” The Newcastle Sun, 20 Sept 1943

“Practical Jokes On Tilly Devine,” Morning Bulletin, 16 Jun 1945

“Wedded Bliss—Or a Razor,” The Sun, 22 Jan 1950

“Study in Scarlet: An Uncrowned Queen of Slumland Drips with Diamonds and Charity,” People (Sydney), 15 March 1950

 “Tilly Devine’s Birthday Party,” The Sun, 10 Sept 1950

“The Bloom Has Gone Off Sly Grog, Says Kate,” Truth, 8 Aug 1954

Tilly Devine, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8 (1981)

Kate Leigh, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10 (1986)


“Guilty,” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Shake It and Break It,” by Lanin's Southern Serenaders, via freemusicarchive.org

“K-K-K-Katy (Stammering Song),” sung in 1918 by Billy Murray

Tori Telfer
Episode 11: Rebel of the Ravines: Phoolan Devi

How much abuse can a woman endure before she breaks? That seemed to be the unconscious and horrible goal driving the wealthy men who abused Phoolan Devi time and again, and sent her to prison, and tried to deny her water, and tried to shame her into submission. It was as though they were mad scientists, experimenting on the human spirit. But their experiment failed when Phoolan, still a teenager, got swept up into the wild world of Northern Indian bandits, called dacoits, where she learned the fine and vicious art of vengeance. Come along for a surreal story of abuse and revenge, one that starts in poverty and ends in power.


I, Phoolan Devi, by Phoolan Devi

India’s Bandit Queen, by Mala Sen

“India’s Bandit Queen,” November 1996 issue of The Atlantic

“The Great Indian Rape-Trick,” Arundhati Roy

“Phoolan Devi Shot Dead,” The Times of India, July 25, 2001

“Killer of Phoolan Devi, India's 'Bandit Queen', given life sentence,” The Guardian, August 14, 2014

Phoolan’s obituary, The Telegraph, July 26, 2001

Post-prison interview with Poolan (excerpted at end of episode)


 “Guilty” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Raag” by Vinod Prasanna × Okey Szoke × Pompey (the flute player, Vinod Prasanna, is from Phoolan’s home state!), via freemusicarchive.org

Choti Si Umar (title song from Bandit Queen), sung by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Tori Telfer
Episode 10: Lizzie Borden, LLC

We all know the story: Lizzie Borden may or may not have taken an ax (okay, a hatchet) and given her mother (okay, stepmother) forty whacks (okay, nineteen). We know for sure that there were two deaths, and a lot of blood. But something sprung to life the day of those brutal double murders: the Lizzie Borden industry.

For the very special tenth episode of Criminal Broads, let’s dive into the wild and endlessly enduring legend of alleged ax murderess Lizzie Borden, tackling her not as a killer, but as a cultural touchstone. We’ll cover the crimes themselves, but also the myths, misinformation, and weird products that have sprung up around the Lizzie Borden biz. Today, you can buy a pair of Lizzie Borden earrings, watch a Lizzie Borden rock opera, see a couple of Lizzie Borden-themed horror movies, go to a Lizzie Borden ballet, buy a Lizzie Borden Candle, drink a Lizzie Borden Cocktail, and stay at the Lizzie Borden B&B—but the one thing you can never, ever do is know exactly what Lizzie Borden was thinking on August 4, 1892.


“Guilty” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Gnossiennes no. 1” by Erik Satie, via musopen.org

“Lizzie Borden” by Michael Brown

Tori Telfer
Episode 9: Queen of Pirates: Cheng I Sao

As the 19th century loomed, China experienced a huge boom in piracy—and the largest, most terrifyingly organized fleet that menaced the South China Sea was led by…a woman. Madame Cheng (remembered as Cheng I Sao or Ching Shih) had a meteoric rise from impoverished sex worker to climb to arguably the most successful and influential pirate of all time. Should we cheer her on—or remember her as a criminal?


Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810, by Dian Murray

“One Woman's Rise to Power: Cheng I's Wife and the Pirates,” by Dian Murray, published in Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 8, No. 3

Piracy in Early Modern China,” by Robert Antony, International Institute for Asian Studies newsletter #35

Asian Piracy,” by Sebastian R. Prange, Oxford Research Encyclopedia

The History of Piracy, by Philip Gosse


“Guilty” by Ruth Etting, via archive.org

“Gnossiennes no. 1” by Erik Satie, via musopen.org

Tori Telfer