Bodies were Unearthed at Sacramento Board and Care Home (November 11, 1988)

Nov 7, 2016



By Michael Thomas Barry


This week (November 7-13) in crime history – David Hendricks murdered his family in Bloomington, Illinois (November 7, 1983); Carol DaRonch escaped abduction by Ted Bundy (November 8, 1974); John List murdered his family then disappeared for 18 years (November 9, 1971); Louise Woodward’s murder conviction was reduced to second degree (November 10, 1997); Bodies are unearthed at Sacramento board and care home (November 11, 1988); Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son (November 12, 2004); FBI agents find bomb making equipment at the home of John Graham (November 13, 1955) 


Highlighted Crime Story of the Week - 


On November 11, 1988, authorities unearth a corpse buried in the yard of 59-year-old Dorothea Puente’s home in Sacramento, California. Puente operated a residential board and care home for elderly people, and an investigation led to the discovery of six more bodies buried on her property.


Puente was a diagnosed schizophrenic who had already been in trouble with the law. She had previously served prison time for check forgery, as well as drugging and robbing people she met in bars. After her release, she opened a boarding house for elderly people. Beginning in 1986, social worker Peggy Nickerson sent nineteen clients to Puente’s home. When some of the residents mysteriously disappeared, Nickerson grew suspicious. Puente’s neighbors, who reported the smell of rotting flesh emanating from her vicinity, validated Nickerson’s concern. 


Although all the buried bodies were found to contain traces of the sedative Dalmane, the coroner was never able to identify an exact cause of death. Still, during a trial that lasted five months and included thousands of exhibits, prosecutors were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Puente had murdered her boarders, most likely to collect their Social Security checks. Though she was formally charged with nine counts of murder and convicted on three, authorities suspected that Puente might have been responsible for as many as two dozen deaths. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole and died in 2011 of natural causes at the Chowchilla Central Women’s Prison facility.  


Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.” 


Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of seven nonfiction books that includes In the Company of Evil Thirty Years of California Crime, 1950-1980. Visit his website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


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