Born: 9 January 1929
Died: Not yet, unless you count the close call in September 2010
Active: 1982 to 1988
Location: United States of America
Method of Disposal: Drugged and buried in the garden
Consequence: Life Imprisonment
- Ruth Monroe (friend, business partner and tenant)
- Everson Gillmouth (fiance)
- Alvaro Montoya (tenant)
- Leona Carpenter (tenant)
- Dorothy Miller (tenant)
- Benjamin Fink (tenant)
- Betty Mae Palmer (tenant)
- James Gallop (tenant)
- Vera Faye Martin (tenant)
- Malcolm McKenzie (tenant)
- John Terry (prospective tenant)
- Charles Willgues (prospective tenant)
- Homer Myers (tenant)
Dorothea Puente ran a good boarding home. Despite being in her 50s, she was still sprightly enough to care for the men and women who paid the $350 per month to enjoy her food and custom. The people for whom she cared were recovering from certain socially-awkward afflictions, and there didn’t seem to be anyone in her tenants’ immediate families available to look after them.
Occasionally a boarder would leave all of a sudden. They would get the urge to visit relatives in a faraway state, or simply drift away. This was most vexing, but propitiously there would always be one more unfortunate down-at-heel who needed a room on rather short notice. Dorothea thought it best not to mention anything when her tenants moved on, and faithfully collected their Government payments on their behalf so that a nice little nest egg would be available for them upon their eventual return.
Given how busy she had to have been, her neighbours would marvel at how she was able to find time to tend to her own needs. She was always well dressed, with her hair nicely styled. She also attended charity events, becoming quite the socialite in the process. It was hard to believe she even had the time!
While she ran the boarding house by herself, Dorothea had not always been single. She had once been engaged to a man called Everson Gillmouth. Unfortunately, the engagement would not come to fruition due to Everson leaving the house one day, never to return. Whatever could have happened to him? she would say. It must have been some comfort to her to now be surrounded by so many people. She would definitely never feel alone in such circumstances.
Eventually, some police came looking for one of her boarders, Alvaro Montoya, and asked to have a look around to see if there was any clues as to where he might have gone. Dorothea was only too pleased to allow them entry. There wasn’t anything inside the house that piqued their interest, so they decided to check the back garden. Maybe he had buried something in the garden to indicate where he had gone. At the very least, overturning the soil would make gardening easier for Dorothea to handle. The police went to get the shovels from their vehicle, which they kept in the boot for just such an occasion.
How shocking it was to Dorothea, then, when bones and items of clothing were discovered under a few centimetres of soil. She was quite rattled, and had a sudden need for coffee at her local hotel. The police saw no issue with her leaving on her own, as all their manpower was needed with the dig, and she made her way out of the house.
Eventually, 5 bodies were unearthed. By now 4 hours had elapsed since Dorothea had left the house, and that was a long time for a coffee. Someone clearly should have gone with the lady to see she came to no harm.
As it turned out, Dorothea had become a bit confused as she made her way to the hotel for her much needed skinny-caramel-mocchaccino. She had somehow managed to catch two taxis and a bus, before realising she’d ended up in Los Angeles, which is quite a distance from her Sacramento home. It was clear she’d had a lapse in mental processing, which does happen to people as they age.
Once her head was clear, Dorothea felt it best to stay where she was. After all, there were so many people in her home, she should really stay out of their way and let them do their job. Besides, she had gotten herself into something of a bother last time she tried to help. One of her previous tenants, Malcolm McKenzie, had once become ill to the point of catatonia. She had been simply trying to find some medication to help him, by rifling through his belongings, but he had thought she was stealing from him and she had been sent to jail for 5 years for her efforts. Dorothea knew it was all just a misunderstanding, and it appeared the parole board thought the same, because she was allowed to go home 2 years early.
No, it was best to stay away from the Sacramento area completely.
While waiting out the day at a bar in Los Angeles, Dorothea struck up a conversation with a man called Charles Willigues. She was feeling better after the haze of confusion that had led her to Los Angeles, although for some reason she accidentally told him her name was Donna Johansson. She wasn’t sure how long she would need to stay in this particular town, and was happy when Charles agreed to let her stay with him.
Charles indeed did like the lady, although she seemed oddly familiar. He didn’t know why until he got back to his house and turned on the TV. At once he understood, and called the TV station, who in turn called the police.
Dorothea found herself charged in the deaths of 9 people, most of whom were her tenants. She was aghast! “Ok, I cashed their cheques…but I’m a good person!”
Dorothea felt she had to defend herself. Of course most of her tenants had no close relatives to speak of; she tended to end up with those in society every one else had given up on. And she only cashed the cheques so that the money would be there for use when it was needed.
Really, it wasn’t as if everyone she came in contact with ended up under the rhododendron. Homer Myers had been one of the tenants who had decided not to take up Dorothea’s offer to take over his finances, and he was perfectly alive and well. John Terry, another gentleman to whom Dorothea had offered a room, had politely declined and he was also still above ground.
Despite Dorothea’s protestations, the prosecutors had a strong case. She had broken a previous parole condition, that she not associate with the elderly. When asked why she had continued to maintain a boarding house without notifying the relevant parties, she advised that the subject had never come up.
Dorothea had apparently been a note taker. Authorities had found a list that appeared to contain the first initials of all the victims, with a note of the amount each person was getting from their Government benefit. And when it was found that all the bodies contained varying amounts of drugs that had been prescribed to Dorothea herself, this served to seal her fate.
Dorothea was found guilty in the end of three of the murders and sentenced to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole. One would have thought the part about parole went without saying.