WITH her little chiffon dresses, thick-rimmed glasses, grey hair and litter of kittens, Dorothea Puente looked like a sweet old lady – even insisting to some, “Call me Grandma”.
But looks can be extremely deceiving – and, in this case, the innocuous landlady was actually a terrifying serial killer who committed at least nine murders inside her boarding house in Sacramento, California throughout the 1980s.
Between 1982 and 1989, Puente would take in the vulnerable and homeless – poisoning and strangling some of her guests before burying them on her property and cashing their social security checks.
The disappearances of these so-called “shadow people” went unnoticed for years, until eventually a social worker Judy Moise – who speaks in new Netflix documentary Worst Roommate Ever – reported a tenant missing.
But the police could never have imagined they’d go on to find six bodies buried in the backyard of this 'little old lady'.
'She's been digging a lot of holes'
Suspicions first arose about Puente in 1988, after Judy, an outreach counsellor with Volunteers of America, noticed 52-year-old Alvaro Montoya – someone she’d placed at Puente’s house – had vanished.
Alvaro had struggled with his mental health and been homeless for years, and Judy didn’t buy Puente’s explanation that he’d left for a holiday in Mexico with his brother – especially as she knew he didn’t speak to his family.
Judy also questioned another of Puente’s tenants, John Sharp, who told her: “Something is wrong. She’s been digging a lot of holes.”
She alerted police, who went to the house, where they were met with the same answer that Alvaro was on holiday.
But John slipped them a message. “She’s making me lie for her.”
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