House of Horrors
1426 F Street in Sacramento looks like a typical house in a neat Californian suburban street, but in this case looks are very deceptive. In fact this is a house of horrors in which 9 people were suspected of being murdered, with 7 of their bodies buried in the yard.
During the 1980’s this dwelling was operated as a boarding house by Dorothea Helen Puente, a mild looking grandmotherly figure who presented as a gentle and trustworthy “little old lady”.
Puente was born in 1929, and during much of the time she operated her boarding house, she was in her mid to late 50’s.
The boarders she took in were mainly elderly, mentally disabled, or both, and she seemed to offer comfortable and safe lodgings for these people. However nothing could be further than the truth. She was in fact a highly manipulative predator who would go down as one of the worst female serial killers in the US.
Far from being interested in the welfare of her boarders, Dorothea, was interested only in their Social Security cheques, and was prepared to kill to get them.
Her modus operandi, uncovered late in the 1980’s, was to drug her victims with Dalmane sleeping pills, and then ply them with alcohol, with the combination often proving fatal.
She accessed their Social Security money, and had built up monthly payments of around $5000, all for her personal use.
It was suspected that she killed 9 people in this way, with 7 of the bodies buried in the yard of 1426 F Street.
Her world unravelled in 1988, when investigators digging in the yard on a missing persons case came across the bodies and were horrified with the dawning realisation that they were looking for a serial killer.
Dorothea was eventually tried and found guilty of three of the murders in 1993, and was sentenced to life without parole, continuously denying that she had murdered her boarders – or anyone else for that matter.
She died in gaol in 2011, aged 82, taking her secrets with her.
By: R. Whitaker
Image Source: Dorothea Puente at trial, http://www.crimelibrary.com, housed on Wikipedia Commons.