Dorothea Puente – The Killer Landlady


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When people think of serial killers, we tend to think of men who violently and compulsively kill victims often arising out of sexual or compulsive behaviour in living out their dark nature and evil gratifying desires.  

No one would have suspected an elderly 59 year old white haired landlady named Dorothea Puente, who passed herself out as a sweet charitable and caring landlady of such crimes but in the late 80’s her boarding house at 1426 F Street in Sacramento home for the elderly vulnerable and destitute uncovered bodies of 9 people and it’s estimated she killed many more (a total of between 9-15) victims.

She was a financial opportunist killer, killing her victims for their social security cheques, money and any items of worth. Her case became known as the Killer Landlady or Shadow Keeper.

When she was tried her defence tried to argue that she had defrauded welfare cheques and had indeed buried bodies of her victim who they claimed died merely of natural cause and older age, and without forensic evidence she could have avoided a charge of actual murder.  However her past convictions of drugging elderly patients when she had been a nurse and the evidence of copious amounts of medication drugs and a book called ‘Drugs and their effects’ found in the living room pointed to her modus operandi of killing her victims.

One of the bodies found in her front garden in front of a garden statue of Our Lady had it’s head and hands removed (obviously to hinder any identification should it be ever found) but most were wrapped up in sleeping bags, bedding and plastic. She’d asked the local residents of a nearby half-way house to dig the holes in the garden previously before disposing of the remains of her residents between 1982-1986.  

On August 26th 1993 the jury after 43 days announced their verdict of 3 murder charges out of the nine she was charged with. She was sentenced to 2 life terms without parole and a further 25 to life for a further murder count.

Following the case, changes were made to the system of social security payments in the California state.

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