Dorothea Helen Puente was a convicted American serial killer. In the 1980s, Puente ran a boarding house in Sacramento, California, and cashed the Social Security checks of her elderly and mentally disabled boarders. Those who complained were killed and buried in her yard. Newspapers dubbed her death house landlady.
On November 11, 1988, police inquired after the disappearance of tenant Alvaro Montoya, a developmentally disabled schizophrenic whose social worker had reported him missing. After noticing disturbed soil on the property, they uncovered the body of tenant Leona Carpenter, 78. Seven bodies were eventually found, and Puente was charged with a total of nine murders, convicted of three and sentenced to two life sentences.
O’Mara called over 130 witnesses. He argued to the jury she had used sleeping pills to put her tenants to sleep, then suffocated them, and hired convicts to dig the holes in her yard.
After several days of deliberations, the jury was deadlocked 7–5 for life. The judge, Michael J. Virga, declared a mistrial when the jury said further deliberations would not change their minds. Under the law, Puente received life without the possibility of parole. She was incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, Madera County, California. For the rest of her life, she maintained her innocence, insisting that all her tenants had died of “natural causes”.
She died on March 27, 2011 in prison in Chowchilla, California at the age of 82 from natural causes.