Dorothea Puente, dubbed the “Death House Landlady,” was a known and horrifying serial killer who pretended to be a placid and compassionate elderly woman.
Puente managed a boarding house for the elderly and disabled. She lured them in with promises of food, shelter, and care, only to cage them in her own house of death, robbing them of their social security checks and sifting through their correspondence.
Do you want to know who Puente’s victims were and how she died as a serial killer? We’ve got you taken care of.
Who Were the victims of Dorothea Puente?
Dorothea Puente’s reign of terror began in 1982, when her acquaintance Ruth Monroe was discovered dead in a boarding house managed by Puente at the time.
Ruth was not just Puente’s friend, but also her business partner, and she had only moved in with her three weeks prior to the murder.
Ruth was discovered in her room by the police, and an examination revealed that she died of a Codeine and Acetaminophen overdose.
Police suspected foul play at first, but Puente convinced them that Ruth was sad and had killed herself.
Puente was arrested shortly after Ruth’s death on unrelated accusations of drugging the elderly and robbing them of their money and benefits checks.
Who were the victims and suspected victims of Dorothea Puente?
Despite the fact that Puente was not found guilty in the killing of Ruth Monroe, the 61-year-old lady is thought to be Puente’s first victim.
She was Puente’s business partner who died just three weeks after moving in with him in 1982. According to the Los Angeles Times, a coroner determined she died of a heroin overdose but could not establish if it was a suicide or homicide.
Puente was jailed for, of all things, drugging elderly folks and stealing their benefits checks not long after Monroe’s strange death.
Monroe was not one of her victims, according to her. Puente was imprisoned for three years.
Another possible victim of Puente’s is 77-year-old Everson Gillmouth. During her three years in prison, she was his pen companion.
He was born in Oregon but came to California to marry Puente after her release in 1985, according to The Los Angeles Times.
They never married, though, and he was discovered dead soon after. On New Year’s Day 1986, his body was discovered in a makeshift casket near the Sacramento River.
Dorothy Miller, a 64-year-old lady, was last seen alive in October 1987, according to The Los Angeles Times. When she vanished, she was a renter of Puente’s.
Miller was an Army veteran, and Puente obtained medical treatment using Miller’s veteran identification card. For Miller’s death, Puente was found guilty of first-degree murder.
Benjamin Fink, 55, went missing while staying at Puente’s house in April 1988. According to The Los Angeles Times, he was last seen after Puente informed another tenant that she was going to “take Ben upstairs and make him feel better.”
He was labelled as an alcoholic by the media. Puente was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Fink.
Puente was found guilty of murdering Leona Carpenter, 78, in 1987 by a jury. Carpenter was characterised as an ill widow who died at Puente’s as a result of a narcotics overdose.
Witnesses, on the other hand, claimed that she was so sick that there was no way she could have walked across the room on her own to take the pills that killed her. For Miller’s death, Puente was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Bert Montoya was an intellectually disabled individual. He was placed at Puente’s boarding house by a social worker. She would drop by Puente’s house to see how Montoya was doing, but he disappeared in 1988.
According to a 1993 Los Angeles Times article, Puente offered several justifications for his disappearance, including claiming he travelled to Mexico. Montoya’s body was discovered later when police dug up the boarding house yard.
Betty Palmer, a tenant at the boarding house, was 78 years old. According to true crime author Peter Vronsky’s 2007 book “Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters,” she was discovered buried in the garden without her head, hands, or feet.
James Gallop, a 62-year-old Puente’s tenant, was killed. According to “Female Serial Killers,” he had survived a heart attack and a brain tumour operation before moving into her boarding house.
Vera Faye Martin
Vera Faye Martin, a resident of Puente’s boarding home, was 64 years old. According to Vronsky, investigators suspect she was buried alive.
Patterns in the earth around her body suggested she was attempting to claw her way out of the backyard’s tiny grave. When she was discovered, her wristwatch was still ticking.
How Did ‘Dorothea Puente’ Die?
When Puente realised the cops were near to apprehending her, she asked if she might go for a coffee break. The authorities obliged because Puente was not a suspect at the time, and she fled to Los Angeles.
Puente met an elderly man in a pub in Los Angeles and became acquainted with him. This lady, too, was a retiree, and Puente may have wanted to return to her old routines.
However, as chance would have it, the old man recognised Puente from national television news. He was able to notify officials, who came over and detained her right away.
Puente’s trial began in Monterey County, California, in October 1992. Puente maintained her innocence and pled not guilty throughout the trial, saying that all of her victims died of natural causes.
Puente’s defence called multiple witnesses to testify on her behalf, telling the court that she was compassionate and frequently assisted the elderly, disabled, and poor.
The trial lasted a year, and Puente was found guilty of first-degree murder in the instances of Dorothy Miller and Benjamin Fink, as well as second-degree murder in the case of Leona Carpenter.
Because the jury could not reach a unanimous conclusion, she was never convicted of the other murders.
The jury was deadlocked at 7-5 in favour of a life sentence during the sentencing hearing. The judge declared a mistrial and sentenced Puente to life in jail without the possibility of release, according to state law.
She spent the rest of her life in Chowchilla, Madera County, California, at the Central California Women’s Facility.
Puente was profiled in Shane Bugbee’s book “Cooking With A Serial Killer” in 2004, which was based on Shane’s lengthy interviews with her. The book included both cooking instructions and artwork delivered to Shane from prison.
Dorothea Puente (then 82 years old) died of natural causes on March 27, 2011. She was imprisoned for the rest of her life and maintained her innocence until her death.