Dorothea Puente, born Dorothea Helen Gray was born on January 9, 1929 in San Bernardino County, California. As most serial killers, Dorothea had a rough childhood. When she was eight her father died of tuberculosis. A year later her mother died in a motorcycle accident. After her mother passing Dorothea and her 18 siblings (Dorothea being the sixth) went into foster care in separate locations. Throughout her life, Dorothea Puente was known to be a compulsive liar, claiming to be the youngest of 18 children, when in reality, she was the sixth (Nichols, Background on Serial Killer Dorothea Puente).
Often she would pretend to be the sister of the ambassador of Sweden. She also told people that she and Rita Hayworth who was a top box office star and a sex symbol of the 1940s (Nichols, Background on Serial Killer Dorothea Puente). This is just some of the compulsive lies she would tell. Dorothea eventually landed in Olympia Washington and became a stripper and worked at an ice cream parlor at age sixteen. When Dorothea Puente was 22 she met Fred McFaul, and soon married him in Reno, NV. She eventually moved to Los Angeles, California and had two kids with him.
He soon left her. McFaul’s mother and adoptive parents raised there kids that McFaul and Puente had together. In 1952 she married Axel Johansson. The marriage lasted 14 rocky years. In 1968 now 39, Dorothea married her third husband, 21 year old Robert Jose Puente. In 1976 when she was managing a boarding house, she married again to one of the tenants, Pedro Angel Montalvo. Dorothea Puente was convicted of her first crime when she was 19 years old. She was convicted of forging a check to buy clothing and accessory items. For this crime she served 4 years.
When she was released from prison in 1952 she immediately broke from probation and left town (Nichols, Background on Serial Killer Dorothea Puente). In 1960 she was convicted of living in a whore house and was said that she served 90 days. She claimed not to be part of the brothel and said that she was just visiting a friend (Nichols, Background on Serial Killer Dorothea Puente). In 1978 while she was married to Robert Puente and managing the boarding house she was convicted of forging 34 checks. She was sentenced to five years of probation and forced to undergo psychiatric surgery.
She was then diagnosed with schizophrenia. Authorities believe that she committed her first murder in 1982 when she killed 61 year old Ruth Munroe. It was stated the she died of a drug overdose after two weeks of living with Puente. In her blood they found Tylenol and Codeine. After this incident, Dorothea was convicted of drugging four people and taking their valuables. Puente was sentenced to five years in California Institution for Women at Frontera. After five years, she was released. She was ordered to stay away from the elderly and to not handle government checks or anything in that manner (Scheeres, Deadly Fiance).
Her next murder came when she found out Everson Gillmouth had a pension and he had a pension and owned an airstream trailer. After being released from prison, Gillmouth picked her up and took her home at 1426 F Street. His body was found in a homemade coffin in the Sacramento River surrounded by mothballs (Scheeres, Black Widow). When Alvaro “Bert” Montoya went missing, Detective John Cabrera showed up to 1426 F Street where he was staying. They started digging around the backyard and they found a human bone. When they told Puente that they found what look like to be a human corpse, she acted like she was shocked (Scheeres, Bone Yard).
In all they found 7 bodies inside of Dorothea Puente’s backyard. They found 51 year old Alvaro Montoya an intellectually disabled and schizophrenic man under a newly planted apricot tree in the side yard. They found 64 year old Dorothy Miller with her arms tapped to her chest. They found 55 year old Benjamin Fink in Striped boxer shorts. Betty Palmer 78, whose head, hands, and lower legs still remain missing. She was found a few feet from the sidewalk at the front of the house. 78 year old Leona Carpenter was found buried near the back fence. They also found 62 year old James Gallop and 64 year old Vera Faye Martin. For all these murders she was sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 10, 1993 at Central California’s Women’s Facility. She died there on March 27, 2011 of natural causes.
Connell, Rich. “Dorothea Puente Dies at 82; Boarding House Operator Who Killed Tenants. ” Latimes. com. Los Angeles Times, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. . Nichols, Kristen. “Background of Serial Killer Dorothea Puente. ” Suite101. com. N. p. , 15 Jan. 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2012. . Scheeres, Julia. “Dorothea Puente. ” , Killing for Profit a€” “Sewer Problems” a€” Crime Library on TruTV. com. TruTv, n. d. Web. 02 Dec. 2012. .