A Nightmare on F Street

May 23, 2011 - by Mark Pulham

Dorothea Puente

Dorothea Puente (Photo LA Times)

Serial killer Dorothea Puente was charming and incorrigible. 

by Mark Pulham

Charles Willgues, a retired carpenter, had been out that Wednesday afternoon to a hardware store to buy a glass cutter. Now, he sat at the bar of the Monte Carlo Tavern, a short walk from his home where he lived alone, and nursed a beer. At around 2 p.m., the door opened, and a gray-haired woman walked in. Elegantly dressed in a red pleated skirt and red high heels, she walked to the bar, took a seat at the end and ordered a screwdriver from the bartender. Willgues called down to give her a friendly warning, “The heat from the refrigerator motor comes out right where you’re sitting.”

The woman thanked him, and moved to the seat next to him. She introduced herself as 55-year-old Donna Johansson and said she had just come down to Los Angeles from Sacramento. Her husband, she explained, had died just a month before, and to escape from her grief, she had decided to make a new life in Los Angeles. She hadn’t got off to a good start. She had taken a cab from the bus station to the Royal Viking Motel, and the cab had driven off with four of her suitcases and her overnight bag. To make matters worse, the heels of her shoes, the only ones she had, were worn down from the walking she’d done looking for a place to live.

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