Dorothea Puente’s Lawn


Dorothea Puente was a little, older, single lady who ran a boarding house at 1421 F Street in Sacramento, California. She often took in older drug addicts or homeless people down on their luck. Social workers appreciated her, she would always take in the worst tenants. She always made sure the rent got paid by filtering all mail that came into the house and cashing checks for her tenants and giving them whatever was left over. From outward appearances she was helping the community. She even established herself as a respected member in Sacramento’s Hispanic community, funding charities and scholarships.

The truth was far from that. Dorothea was not Hispanic, she was not helping, and she was not what she appeared to be. Dorothea was a lifelong criminal and a serial killer. She had been arrested numerous times over her life for check fraud, running a brothel, criminal impersonation, and grand larcenies, including stealing from her tenants. On November 11, 1988 her true nature came to light.

Police came to 1421 F Street to investigate a missing persons case. Alvaro “Bert” Montoya, was a developmentally disabled man with schizophrenia, who had been reported missing by his social worker. The cops noticed some recently disturbed soil on the property and obtained a search warrant to search the area. They did not find Alvaro, they found body of tenant Leona Carpenter, 78. They did not initially suspect the diminutive old lady who ran the boarding house. Puente was allowed to leave and took full advantage of the opportunity. She took off for Los Angeles. Police were now realizing what they had on their hands. Seven bodies were buried on the property and they discovered Puente’s past history. A tip led them to LA and they arrested Puente.

She was eventually charged with nine homicides and convicted of three of them. There were almost certainly more. She was sentenced to life in prison. For the rest of her life, she maintained her innocence, insisting that all of her boarders had died of “natural causes”. She couldn’t explain how the victims government checks kept finding their way into her accounts after they had died.

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