Photo: via Crime Feed
Mother’s day is fast approaching, and if you don’t appreciate the lady who squirted you out of her loins, this article will make you. Not all moms are about baking cookies and putting Band-Aids on skinned knees. Some mommies instead prefer to spend their time breaking the law. Here’s a lineup of ten seriously bad mothers.
The 10 Most Insane Criminal Moms
Sandra Avila Beltran
Everybody knows that the drug cartels are tearing Mexico apart from the inside, but it’s not just a boys club. One of the most famous cartel leaders was Sandra Avila Beltran, known as the “Queen of the Pacific.” Her family had been in the narcotics game for generations, so Beltran built relationships with other gang leaders, learning about their business and swooping in when cops or bullets took them out of the picture. It wasn’t long before she became one of the most powerful smugglers in Guadalajara. She only came into the public eye when her son was kidnapped and held for $5 million ransom in 2002. In 2007, police arrested her in Mexico City and she was convicted of laundering billions of dollars in drug money.
If you talk about moms who really ramped up the brutality, Aileen Wuornos is one of the first names that comes to mind. As a young girl, Wuornos was abused and beaten by her grandfather, which twisted her psyche into a murderous knot. After fleeing the house to live in the woods and work as a prostitute, Wuornos eventually relocated to Florida, where she would get into trouble with the law multiple times over violent bar brawls. She started killing in 1989 by taking the life of a convicted rapist, and would continue to murder six other men over the course of a year. When she was arrested, her defense was that all seven killings were done in self-defense, but she was convicted and put to death by lethal injection in 2002.
Miami in the 1970s and 1980s was a literal Vice City, with drug kingpins ruling the streets with an iron fist. One of the most feared was Griselda Blanco, the Cocaine Godmother. Growing up in Columbia, she was involved in kidnapping and murder before she even hit puberty. In the mid-70s, her and her husband emigrated to Queens and started to lay the groundwork for what would become a criminal empire. After moving to Miami, she ran a distribution network that brought in an estimated $80 million in cash every month, and her iron fist made her a frequent target of assassination attempts. 1984 saw her moving to California to take the heat off, but the DEA popped her a year later. Like a true badass, she continued to run her business from behind bars until she was murdered in 2012.
The Italian Mafia is typically a boy’s club, but every once in a while a woman takes over the family business. When the Camorra in Naples fell to vicious infighting in the 1990s, Maria Licciardi had to stop out from the kitchen and take over the Licciardi clan after her husband and brothers were arrested. She consolidated power with an iron fist, expanding the drug trade and cementing the Camorra’s hold on the city. She also eliminated the clan’s long-standing ban on prostitution, buying girls from Albanian gangsters and forcing them into a miserable life of sex for money. In the late 1990s, her control started to fade, kicking off a brutal gang war that saw more than a hundred people die in the streets. She went into hiding, but police caught up with her in 2001.
The streets of Sydney in the 1920s were a wild time, and one of the most brutal forces was Kate Leigh. One of eight children, she started out breaking the law by selling alcohol past last call, and that proved to be an entry into the world of criminality. Throughout her 20s and 30s, she was often called into court to provide alibis for a host of undesirables, but by the time Leigh was 40 she was running her own operation, supplying cocaine to most of the city. Her main rival was another criminal woman named Tilly Devine, and the pair brawled in the streets on numerous occasions. For a time, she was one of the richest women in the country and would go to court appearances with a diamond ring on each of her fingers, but the Australian tax service eventually reduced her to poverty.
The crack trade in Los Angeles threatened to burn the City of Angels down in the 1980s, with multiple gang factions battling it out for corners. One of the most powerful people during that time was a young mother named Jemeker Thompson. After her partner Anthony Mosley was shot down in a drive-by while he washed his car, Thompson decided to run the business solo. It wasn’t long before she expanded her business, pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. The police eventually started investigating her, so she fled Los Angeles for five years. Unfortunately for Thompson, her mothering instincts brought her back to attend her son’s 6th grade graduation, and the cops were waiting. She served a dozen years in prison and has since reformed and wrote a book.
Australian woman Karen Knight is rightly known as one of the most brutal female serial killers ever. In her teens, she started working at a slaughterhouse, which trained her how to efficiently work with meat. The men in her life were the targets of her rage. On her wedding night, she attempted to strangle her husband to death because he fell asleep before she was sexually satisfied. She then later cracked him with a frying pan so hard she fractured his skull. After they divorced, Knight started dating, and her boyfriends fared no better – she cut the throat of David Saunders’ dingo puppy and later stabbed him in the stomach with a pair of scissors. Her final crime came at the expense of a man named John Price. Knight stabbed him at least 37 times, decapitated him and cooked some of his organs to feed his children. She was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
Prostitution has long been the domain of the fairer sex, but typically the top of the ladder is occupied by a male pimp. Anna Gristina, known as the “Manhattan Madam,” defied that stereotype. The suburban mother of four ran a massive prostitution ring in New York City that counted dozens of high-profile athletes and entertainers among its client list. She was busted in 2011 after setting up a date between two of her girls and an undercover police officer, but plead guilty and got just six months in prison. Since then, she’s been threatening to release her client list and bring down careers on a regular basis.
You have to be pretty sick to prey on society’s weakest people, but Dorothea Puente took sick to a whole new level. The Sacramento, California socialite ran a boarding house for the elderly and disabled, but instead of taking care of her charges, she seized their Social Security checks and abused them. The ones who complained were murdered and buried in Puente’s back yard. When police came by to investigate the disappearance of a schizophrenic tenant, they spotted freshly-disturbed soil. Digging it up revealed the corpse of a 78 year old woman. Puente was charged with nine murders in total, and given double life sentences at the age of 64.
Let’s close this out with one of the most famous criminal mothers in history. Arizona Barker was the matriarch of a criminal family that ran riot over the American Midwest. Her story starts in 1892, when she married a tenant farmer named George. The pair would have four layabout sons, and instead of encouraging them to take up the family business, Ma Barker let them slide into a life of crime, using her shack as a hideout. During the 1930s, her sons would steal over a million dollars in bank robberies, shooting their way out in a hail of bullets. When the FBI came to take her and son Fred in, the duo responded with a barrage of machine gun fire. After the smoke cleared, both Barkers were found dead inside, with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover proclaiming her “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.”