Sacramento, CA

The Evil grandma serial killer that almost got away.

Rooted Expeditions
Left: Puente’s police booking photo from Nov. 17, 1988 (Courtesy of The Sacramento Archives)Right: The shovel that she lent to law officers.Sactown

Today we are going to dive into the history of this home and the woman that helped so many people and everyone in the community came to love. But, the secrets that lie behind the doors of this home will make you never judge a book by its cover. What investigators discovered at this location will make your stomach turn. Hi, I'm Zach, and welcome to Rooted Expeditions, hit that thumbs up and let's dive right into today's story.
In 1988, police found seven bodies buried in the backyard of Dorothea Puente house.KCRA 3

Here in Sacramento, California lies this historical house that a woman by the name of Dorothea Puente lived. She would invite elderly and mentally ill people who didn't have family or really didn’t have people to take care of them. So, She would Bring these people in and give them a place to stay and feel welcomed. Dorothea would donate money to the city and donate a large amount of clothes to charity. She would quickly gain favor and popularity with the city and government officials. She was seen and known by many people as this sweet old Christian lady. She would tell many people to call her "grandma". Everything seemed like it was going good and well for Dorothea and the people who stayed with her. Well, that’s what everyone thought.

(More pictures toward the end of the article)

Before we dive into this home and the secrets it holds. To better understand the story. Let's back up and learn a little more about Dorothea.

Dorothea was born in 1929 in Redlands, California. She would not have the best childhood growing up as both of her parents were alcoholics. Her father would on many occasions threaten to commit suicide in front of her and her siblings, and her mother would abuse them. Her father would die from a disease when she was only 8, and then 1 year later her mother would die in a motorcycle accident.

So after both of her parents were gone there was no choice but to put her and her siblings in an orphanage. There she would be assaulted and abused on many different occasions . And her, and her siblings would end up all being split apart and go their separate ways.

Then to fast forward to 1945, at the age of 16 Dorothea, would become a prostitute, but was short lived when she married a soldier name Fred McFaul, who just returned from war.

Which World War 2 just ended. But that marriage wouldn't last long. In fact, it only lasted 3 years. During that short time, they would have 2 children but she would send one child off to a relative and put the other child up for adoption.

After the marriage, Dorothea would head down a dark and terrible road. She would revert to a life of crime. She would be caught and sent to jail for 4 months for forging checks.

Once out of jail, she would skip out on her probation, leave the city and would change her name. Then in 1959, she would later marry a man by the name of Alex Johansson. But yet again that marriage would end in disaster. Dorothea began to have a drinking and gambling problem. This would lead to many more problems down the road.

When her Husband Alex was away on business trips, she would run a brothel out of their home. Along with gambling away all of Alex's money.

Then it was said that one night while Alex was away, she had attempted to sleep with an undercover cop in their home which led to the arrest of Dorothea. They would send her to a mental institution. Where she was deemed unsafe and mentally unfit for society. Then in 1966 Dorothea and Alex would divorce.

She would marry two more times, but those didn’t last long, in fact the next marriage would only last 16 months and then the next one after that would only last a week.

Things seem to be so hard, and getting on the right track was just a challenge for Dorothea. That's until she tried to get her life together and in order when she moved to Sacramento, California in the 1970's.

There she would move into a new home and open up her home as a bordering home for elderly and mentally ill people that didn’t have anyone in their life to help them. She would hold AA meetings at her home as well. Which AA, if you didn’t know, is Alcoholics Anonymous. It's an international mutual aid fellowship or meeting dedicated to help people recover from alcoholism through a 12 step program.

But, Dorothea would all of a sudden would be arrested and lose her first boarding home. She would be convicted of theft as she was signing her own name on her tenants benefit checks. She ended up spending 3 years in jail for this.

Once Dorothea was released, she became classified as Schizophrenic with no remorse or regret and should be a person to be closely monitored. But, that unfortunately didn’t happen.

Then Dorothea would end up opening up another boarding home. And would fall back into her old ways, with the same tricks.
Dorothea Puente house that she used as a boarding home, taking in the elderly and mentally ill people and take advantage.HITC

She would bring in elderly and mentally ill people that had no relatives or really anyone to take care of them. Or even call to check in on them.

Dorothea would be admired by Social workers in the city, in fact she gained a pretty good reputation for taking in people in her home and helping them. But no one would be prepared for what was going on behind the scenes.

Her parole officer would come to visit. Having a boarding home would violate her parole. So when the parole officer would ask why all these people are in her home. She would say, "these people are my friends and guests. There is no reason to worry. They are just staying a couple nights." So the Parole officer really wouldn’t ask much after that.

Then some of her guests seem to start disappearing, as it looked like they just left. And the weird thing about that was that, no one even seemed to notice.
Bird eye view of Dorothea Puente's house.HITC

In 1982, a 61 year old woman by the name of Ruth Monroe moved into Dorothea Puente's house. But not long after moving into the house, Ruth would die from an overdose. The cause was from high doses of codeine and other drugs that were found in her system.

When police arrived, Dorothea would tell them that Ruth was depressed from her husband's terminal illness... and that possibly she might have killed herself. Police would quickly right off Ruth's death as a suicide, and life seemed to carry on as it did.
Ruth Monroe, one of Dorothea victims.IMDB

Then 3 years later in 1985, Dorothea would hire a handyman named Ismael Florez, to install some wood paneling in her home. And when Ismael finished the job she would request one more thing before he left.

She requested that a 6 foot long wooden box be made so that she could fill the inside of the box with books and other items and put it in storage. And along that also asked if He wouldn’t mind helping her take it to the storage. Ismael agreed and built her the wooden box.

After building the box, Dorothea would fill it and then her and Ismael would load the big heavy box into the truck and make their way to the storage building.

On the way to the storage building. As they came up near a river, Dorothea made Ismael stop the truck and had him pull over near the river bed. She would make up some reason why she didn’t want to take the big box to storage anymore and ask Ismael to help her off load the box and toss it next to the river bed. So they offloaded the box and left.

Many people would pass through Dorothea house, and many would disappear as fast as they came in.

But there would be one person who would stay in her house that would change everything. A man who was named Montoya. He was a mentally ill man who had a hard life and didn’t have his family around to take care of him. Really he didn’t have anyone to take care of him. He would go from facility to facility being moved around and was not given the help that he needed.
Alvaro 'Bert' Montoya was one of Dorothea's victims, and the man that would lead to a investigation at Dorothea's house.Tyla

Then Judy Moise who was his counselor, grew to care for this man and wanted to seek help and find him a good place to stay. A place that he could be taken care of and actually get the help that he needed.
Judy Moise who was Montoya's counselor.IMDB

Judy searched around to find a good place for Montoya to stay. As she searched, A few people would recommend her and say that there was a house that would take in people just like Montoya and it was such a wonderful place. It was run by this sweet old Christian lady and everyone called her grandma. She was also recognized by the city and so many people had good things to say about this home and the old lady that lived there.

The home and old lady they were talking about was Dorothea Puente. So Judy looked into it and was impressed by what she saw.

Montoya would move in and stay with Dorothea, and Judy would check up on Montoya and Montoya said that he liked the place. Dorothea would reassure Judy that he was in good hands and there was nothing to worry about.

Then one day Judy called to check up on Montoya to see how he was doing. And Dorothea said hey Montoya is fine. In fact he actually left for vacation to Mexico to go see his brother. But he should be back soon.

Judy hung up the phone and thought to herself, this is strange and way out of character for Montoya. So a couple days later Judy would call again to see where Montoya was and again Dorothea would say that he wasn’t there and not to worry.

But Judy was persistent and did not give up on Montoya. Judy felt that something was just not right and that something was wrong. So Judy would keep calling and getting the same response. Until Judy told Dorothea that if she didn’t hear from Montoya she was going to file for a missing person. The very next day, Judy got a call from a man claiming to be Montoya's brother, and the man would say that Montoya is good, that there is nothing to worry about, that Montoya was having a great time and everything was fine.

Judy had a gut feeling that something didn’t feel right. So she called the police. And filed for a missing person.

Police would head over to Dorothea house to investigate and they interviewed everyone in the house that was living there at the time. Still Dorothea would tell the same story that she told Judy that Montoya left for vacation and to go see his brother in Mexico... and the other people in the house would say the exact same thing, that Montoya left for vacation.

As the investigators and police were about to leave the house, a man by the name of John Sharp, would pass them a note that would read "she's making me lie for her."

The police would read the message and were shocked. They would relay the message to Judy and Judy would be outraged that they didn’t find the answers she was looking for. She would tell them, "I know that Dorothea is lying." Judy would go on and say that they needed to do something about this. They told Judy that they were going to go back over there to find out more.

Judy at this point had a strong feeling that Montoya might be dead and possibly even be buried in her yard. Judy wanted them to check, to see if this was true.

The police and investigators with their suspicion would head back over to Dorothea's house and ask if they could search her house. She said sure I have nothing to hide. They searched the house and didn’t find anything.
Inside Dorothea Puente's house.Travel Channel

After they searched the house and wrapped things up and about to head out. One of the investigators would ask Dorothea, "Is it ok if we dig a hole your yard?" and then followed up by saying, "This would help conclude our investigation here and so that we can say that we checked everywhere and check that off the list and we can close the case." Dorothea looked confused, but would say, "sure why not go help yourself, I have nothing to hide."So they would take a shovel they had and they saw what looked like a good place to start digging and they would start digging a small hole in the garden.

As they were digging they would see what looked like cloth and so the man digging would put the cloth aside and then he would come across what looked like beef jerky or leather type material. So he would set that aside along with all the cloth he was finding. He would look up and see Dorothea staring down at him from the 2nd floor while they dug.

Dorothea then would come up to the man and say, "is there a problem am I in trouble?" The officer would say, "no," and she said, "well is it ok if I went to go buy some coffee? It's right next door to my house." The officer said, "sure," then he would follow her and watch her go into the coffee shop. Then they went back to work. As they continued to dig they would find more cloth and what seemed like beef jerky or this leather material.
Investigators first discovered what would soon be known as several bodies.Murderpedia

Then as they were digging, they found a body that belongs to a 78 year old man named Leono Carpenter. They immediately stopped what they were doing and ran over to the coffee shop to find Dorothea but she was nowhere to be found. She ended up fleeing the scene.
After finding the bodies they would bring in equipment to see how many more bodies were buried.Daily Mail

They would keep digging and they would keep unearthing more bodies from Dorothea yard. They would end up digging up a total of 7 bodies. And the last body that they dug up was that of the newly decomposing body of Montoya. All the bodies were found decomposing, wrapped up in sheets.
Investigators brought out body after body as they kept digging.Your Home Security Watch

It took almost a week to hunt down and find Dorothea. She had fled to Los Angeles. A man had recognized her from the news. Police would arrive and arrest her. She would play the innocent old grandma that didn’t know how the bodies ended up in her yard. She was really good at lying and keeping to her story. She didn’t even flinch in the interrogation room.
The 59-year-old looked like an ordinary grandmother when she was arrested after a five day hunt across California.Daily Mail

Hold up !

Let's back up just a bit.

Later, before the bodies were found at the house of Dorothea, a body was discovered in a 6 foot box wrapped in a sheet and decomposing near the river. Right where Dorothea had dropped off that box she was supposed to take to the storage. After investigators dug up the bodies in the yard and found information in the house, that body would trace back to a man that was living with her at her house at that time.

After finding the dead bodies in the yard they would comb the entire house. They found a calendar that Dorothea had in the house that had several notes written down on different days and on one of those days it would say that Montoya left on this certain day for vacation. As this showed that Dorothea wanted police to find that side note on her calendar.

That’s how far she would go to lie and cover up her tracks so that she could live that lie. It was also said that after all the searching and analyzing how she killed her victims. She would drug them over a period of time with mixing high doses of different drugs in their drinks and would make them drink them. She was also convicted of stealing and cashing over $100,000 in Social security checks from her victims. Putting the checks in her name. So she would house these people and take their money, drug them with high doses until it killed them and buried them in her yard.
Investigators digging up the garden to find more bodies.FOX 40

On top of all that the clothes that she was donating to charity were the clothes of the victims.

The lady that was perceived as an old sweet Christian lady who helped people, deceived the whole city.

Dorothea was sentenced to life in prison and died on March 27th of 2011 at the age of 82.

Ok guys that does it for today's video, Hit that thumbs up! Peace, I love, and as always God bless.
Dorothea Puente in court.ATI

Primary Sources:

1. Rooted Expeditions Video

2. Morbid Tourism

3. Wikipedia


5. All Thats Interesting

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