Disturbing Discovery Made In Resident’s Lawn By Police – 11/11/1988

US History |


One thing I have noticed over the years is hearing how the training of police officers is supposed to better prepare them to do their job successfully. Others will see that no matter what level of training is provided; it cannot prepare you for everything. Although I am not a police officer and what I hear is a combo of statements made that are based on news, social media, movies and some actual police officers; I feel that life provides situations that are too unpredictable to know how to react when it happens. After all, how could an officer be trained to handle something grisly that deals with the elderly?

The scene is Sacramento, California and police are seen at the residential home of 59-year-old Dorothea Puente unearthing a corpse concealed in her lawn. This alone would be tragic to hear; however, an investigation of the home used to house elderly people would lead authorities to find six more individuals that were buried there. The grisly revelation would stay in the minds of investigators for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, as with many cases, Dorothea was no stranger to law enforcement. She had a prison record and served time for picking up individuals in different bars where she would drug and rob them as well as committing check forgery. Being diagnosed as a schizophrenic did not help her any and when it came time for her release, Puente decided to open a boarding house to assist elderly people. Social worker Peggy Nickerson started working with Puente in 1986 by sending over19 clients to stay at her home. However, Nickerson grew concerned when finding out that some of the people staying there strangely could not be found. Peggy’s suspicions were justified as the odor of decaying flesh was reported by Dorothea’s neighbors coming from her vicinity. Unfortunately, Nickerson must have assumed something terrible must have happened to the missing residents as well as feeling guilty since she was the one who had sent them to Dorothea’s house in the first place.

Considering Puente’s criminal background, this still would not be a simple open and shut case. While the unearthed bodies were tested and discovered to each have traces of a sedative called Dalmane, the primary cause of death was never determined by the coroner. 

Regardless, Dorothea Puente went on trial for murdering the missing elderly people. Finally, after lasting five months and presenting 3,100 pieces of evidence, the prosecution was successful in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Dorothea Puente was responsible for murdering her residents for the probable motive of using their Social Security Checks for her own use. What stands out is that she was formally charged for actually nine counts of murder but only got convicted for three of them. Truth be told, investigators believed that Dorothea could have been responsible for murdering as many as 25 people.

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