Dorthea Helen Puente ran a boarding house on a pleasant neighborhood street in Sacramento, California in the 1980’s. She masterminded a plan in which she stole and cashed the Social Security checks belonging to her elderly and mentally disabled borders. Nobody dared complain in fear they would be killed and become a part of the lovely manicured lawns surrounding the home.
The silver-haired granny maintained the life of a criminal most of her adult history. In the late 1940’s Dorthea forged checks and spent six months in jail. In the 1960’s she was arrested for operating a brothel and was in jail another 3 months. Her criminal career started becoming more and more severe as time passed. She was able to find work as a nurse’s aide, and cared for elderly and disabled people in private homes. Soon, she was managing boarding houses in the downtown Sacramento area.
She rented space in an upstairs apartment in a stylish area of Sacramento. Nine murders were associated with this pale blue Victorian, and she was convicted of three of the deaths. Dorthea collected the rent from her tenants as well as their welfare and disability checks. Her room and boarding houses supported forty tenants in various places. Some of them ended up in the flower beds of the lush grounds. The yard was lovingly tended with her own hands and with the help of a gardener.
Suspicions began to arise when neighbors began to complain of the stench which hovered over the block like a putrid fog. Dorthea claimed the sewer had backed up, and dumped bags of bleach and lime over the dirt covering the rotting corpses. Finally the police stepped in and upon inspection they found several fresh graves in the yard. One body was even wearing a watch that was still ticking.
Even though Dorthea claimed her tenants died of natural causes, she was arrested on Veterans’ Day—November 11, 1988. She was accused of murdering the boarders by drugging them, and not dispensing their medication correctly.
This writer had the chance to view the Puente House while visiting friends in Sacramento area. It was very unsettling to view the site of the terrible crimes from the sidewalk. At the time, the house was vacant and the gates surrounding the home were secure. At dusk, the two-story Victorian turned from looking serene into a menacing sneer as darkness blanketed the empty house. Some neighbors believe the Puente House is visited by its murdered souls. Others say the house has been cleansed and new owners reside in the quaint Victorian mansion.
Address of Puente House (Please respect current owner’s property)
1426 F Street