In September 1988, Alvaro Montoya [al-vah-roh mon-toy-ah] went missing and it would be a lie to say that many people gave a damn. Such was the general attitude toward mentally ill vagrants in California in the 1980s. Then, just as now, they were treated as a dime a dozen. Especially someone like Montoya. Male, middle-aged, hearing voices, devoid of family, and yet another impoverished addition to the state’s burgeoning and neglected Hispanic population. Perhaps if he were young, blonde, and female, someone would have raised the alarm sooner. But a hobo is a hobo. You see them, you ignore them, and when they disappear without a trace, you assume they have probably moved on. That is, if you spared them a single thought in the first place. Or, at least, that might be the thinking of a killer.
In the 1980s, California’s state capital of Sacramento was still, by the standards of Los Angeles and San Francisco, a relatively small city. It was a government town located 95 miles or 152 kilometres inland, smack dab in the middle of a valley composed of dry grassland, occasional deserts, and (thanks to the gold rush) infrequent forests, before rising into the forbidding landscape of the California mountains. Sacramento had none of the appeal of the oceanside metropolises or the glamour of Hollywood. So, for years it had evaded the waves of migration that lured every artist, actor, entrepreneur, conman, drug addict, and feckless idiot to the sun-kissed and laid-back Pacific Coast.
But more recently Sacramento had been swiftly growing. Between just 1980 and 1988, the population had increased from 275,000 to 350,000 people, an increase of 27% in only 8 years. And with this massive explosion of the population came the same epidemic of homelessness that had already consumed Los Angeles and San Francisco a few decades prior. For the first time in the city’s history, shanty towns were being erected. The homicide rate spiked. In just eight years, sleeping bags in alleyways, discarded drug paraphernalia, and unkempt and mentally disturbed people muttering to themselves became an uncomfortably common sight. When the homeless wandered too far into a well-to-do residential neighbourhood or began disturbing a local business, they were removed by the police. Otherwise, they were ignored, and left to sleep rough, outside, in the city’s temperate climate. And if they were mentally competent enough to fill out the paperwork, they could subsist off of a small welfare benefits program. Thus, there arose in Sacramento in the 1980s “two solitudes” of rich and poor that rarely interacted.
Alvaro Montoya was 52 years old, had been homeless for years due to a mental illness that went undiagnosed and untreated, and spent his days floating in and out of alleyways and shelters. His was not a difficult case. Montoya’s mental illness likely would have been eased with basic medication and he could have gotten a job and a normal life if anyone had deigned to help him during his many decades on the streets. Alvaro Montoya was mistakenly dubbed “Alberto” by the local gringos, and subsequently nicknamed “Bert” by the people who knew him. He was a big lovable teddy bear of a man, and irrespective of his mental issues he was always gentle and friendly.
One day Bert came to the attention of Judy Moise [moyz], a street counselor with the Volunteers of America. She took an unusual amount of interest in him. Judy’s job was to locate homeless people who were mentally ill and not capable of seeking welfare benefits for themselves. She checked up on Bert regularly, and on February 3rd 1988, Judy managed to find Bert a place to stay at a boarding house run by a kindly old lady in her 70s at 1426 F-Street. Bert would be able to pay his rent with part of his welfare cheque, now that Judy had signed him up for the benefits program.
Slowly but surely, Bert got his life together. Within a few months, he had purchased clean clothes, was washing and grooming regularly, and had come to grips with his mental illness. By all metrics, Burt was on the mend, and this was a success story of volunteerism and compassionate charity work. Judy was delighted to see this, since she had become fond of his effortlessly cheerful and childlike demeanor. Here was a man down on his luck by no fault of his own. He was a genuinely good person. In August of 1988, Bert communicated to Judy that he would like to move on from the boarding house.
Then in September, Alvaro “Bert” Montoya disappeared without a trace.
The Lunatics Running the Asylum
In October, while doing her regular check-ins, Judy got wind of the fact that Bert was no longer staying at 1426 F-Street and that nobody could confirm where he was. He had not been seen for a month. He was not back on the streets. He was not seen back at the shelters. He was nowhere to be found. Judy was then told that he was visiting a doctor in Mexico to detox and was due to return in a few days. Weeks passed. No word from Bert. Judy got more anxious. Something didn’t feel right.
Another month passed, and in November Judy got a call from a man who said, “My name is Don Anthony, uh, I mean, Michel Obergon [michelle ober-gone]. I’m Bert’s uncle. We are here in Shrevport [shreeve- port], Utah. Bert told me to call you to let you know he’s alright.” Bert had apparently returned from Mexico on November 6th, come back to 1426 F-Street, packed up his stuff, and was transported away by a group of people claiming to be his relatives. But Judy wasn’t buying any of this bullsh*t. Bert had previously informed Judy that he had no family to speak of whatsoever.
On November 7th 1988, Judy Moise filed a missing person’s report with the police. She suspected foul play. She did not know why anyone would target a happy-go-lucky mentally imbalanced former vagrant. To the credit of the Sacramento police, they did not brush off the report of a former homeless man going AWOL, or even assign it a low priority. Sure, Bert could have moved on without a trace like a lot of other transients with mental illnesses. But that didn’t explain the dodgy phone call from the obviously fake relative. A beat cop dutifully paid a visit to 1426 F-Street that same day.
The boarding house on F-Street had a very specific kind of clientele. Tough cases. Alcoholics, drug addicts, people just out of prison, the mentally ill, violent people, former thieves, you name it. People had come and gone out of the boarding house all the time. It was not unusual for this crowd to disappear without leaving a forwarding address. And a lot of them slid back into their old ways. So on the surface, it was possible that Bert could have just done the same thing. Alternately, the house on F-Street was chock full of potential suspects who might have done something to Bert.
The landlady greeted the beat cop when he arrived. She was concerned about Bert and endeavoured to be helpful. She introduced him to the boarding house’s eight remaining residents, a group of ne’er-do- wells composed of men and women. Some the residents were drunks, some were drug addicts, and some were mentally unstable. The police officer asked them a few questions, and amid a number of disjointed and distressing life biographies that were all tragic in their turn, the residents all affirmed that Bert Montoya had left with relatives the day before.
As the officer was leaving, one of the tenants, John Sharp, approached him and slipped him a note. It instructed the officer to meet him at a separate location. At their separate meeting place around the corner, Sharp told the policeman the most astounding story.
Sharp claimed that the residents had been intimidated into lying to him. Bert had not returned on November 6th and been ferried away by relatives to Utah. Bert had not been seen since September. Furthermore, Sharp expressed concerns about strange occurrences at the boarding house. People were disappearing without explanation. Sharp said foul smells were emanating from one of the rooms. He was hearing thumps and bumps in the night. Sharp also suspected that Bert had been murdered and buried in the back garden. Unfortunately, Sharp had no concrete evidence to corroborate these allegations. Sharp neither drank nor did drugs, so it was not clear why he would fabricate such claims.
On November 11th 1988, a team of three policemen led by Sgt. John Cabrera [cab-rare-ah], of the homicide and missing persons division, arrived at 1426 F-Street. The landlady greeted the policemen and let them in. They asked permission to do a sweep of the house. At this point in the investigation, they did not have a warrant, but the landlady said they could search the house anyway. The sooner they did, the sooner they could get to the bottom of what was going on. During Cabrera’s sweep of the house, he looked in drawers, cabinets, closets, under beds, and even tapped the walls to detect a change in sound in case a body had been concealed within them. There were no illegal drugs stashed in the house. All that Cabrera found was a bottle of pills that belonged to the landlady, and a curious empty pill bottle on the floor for Flurazepam [flur-az-eh-pam] made out to one “Dorothy Miller.”
Upon inquiring with the landlady, Cabrera established that Dorothy Miller was a relative who had come to stay and probably left that pill bottle behind. A quick check on the names of the current tenants revealed that none of them went by the name of Dorothy Miller. Only one woman, a female in her 70s, and a recovering alcoholic, was staying at the boarding house at the time. Cabrera confirmed that the tenant did not take Flurazepam. The landlady was a former nurse in her late 70s who had served at the Battle of Bataan in 1942, where the Japanese had achieved a slow and bloody victory, so it was relatively easy for the experienced nurse to track her boarders’ various ailments and medications.
But something didn’t feel right. It felt like everybody in the house was keeping something from Cabrera.
Who was intimidating these people into telling falsehoods and half-truths?
Cabrera turned his attention to who might have harmed Bert Montoya. Not many of the current residents seemed to fit the profile of a murderer or kidnapper. Most were either too unwell or infirm to carry out a crime, or didn’t drive, or didn’t seem to have any known associates to pose as Montoya’s relatives. There was one possible suspect, Benjamin Fink, a binge-drinking alcoholic who blew his social security cheque the moment he got it and was always hard up for money, and who had departed from F-Street around the same time as Montoya. Or it could be one of the current boarders, John Mccauley, who had been there several years and was hired occasionally to do yardwork at the house.
John Sharp wasn’t considered a suspect at the time, since he was the one who reported the possibility of a crime in the first place. But then again, Sharp had departed the boarding house not long after he had given the incriminating information to the police.
Cabrera then asked for permission to dig around a little in the backyard, which the landlady gave despite the officers not having a warrant, to follow up on Sharp’s allegations that bodies were buried out there. The three policemen headed out to the backyard, but only had two shovels, so they borrowed a third shovel from the landlady.
The three men then set about digging three separate parts in various areas of the garden. After 40 minutes of work, one of the holes yielded strange scraps of fabric that appeared to belong to either a dress or a woman’s blouse, and also small round scraps of hardened undyed leather. The find was curious, but would have had nothing to do with Bert Montoya’s disappearance since the fabric was so decayed that it was clear it had been in the ground for much longer than the two months he had been missing. Also, of course, Bert was not in the habit of wearing women’s clothing.
Shortly after finding the fabric and the leather, the men’s excavation was briefly interrupted by an obstacle. When the men were about two feet deep into the same hole, they hit what the policemen quickly concluded was an old tree trunk. After smashing it with the end of a shovel once or twice, it still would not budge. Carera got into the hole, grabbed hold of the tree trunk and pulled, so the men could continue digging. Finally, it came loose. It was not a tree trunk. It was a human femur. Any flesh on it had already decomposed. There was nothing but bone. It had lain there much longer than Bert Montoya had been missing. Shortly thereafter they found a human foot still encased in a small woman’s shoe.
Carera called the landlady over to the hole and showed her the human remains. She gasped in surprise.
Meet Dorothea Puente
A few hours later, Sgt. Carera had brought the landlady of 1426 F-Street to the police station for questioning. Her name was Dorothea Puente. She sat there staring plaintively at Carera from behind her giant granny glasses. Her bulky handbag was propped up on the interrogation table next to the wall, and she was cradling a paper cup of water in her hands. She was dressed in a dark blue, polka-dotted dress, with white lace around the short sleeves, which looked like it was fashioned in the late 1940s. She had silver hair, cut into a bob several decades out of date, and wizened wrinkled skin that she made no attempt to hide with make-up. She was missing all of her teeth. Of a short, thin, and frail looking frame, Dorothea Puente resembled Estelle Getty’s character, Sofia, from the 1980s sitcom, The Golden Girls.
A background check had established that Puente was on parole for forgery, theft, and drugging people’s drinks with sedatives and painkillers. When she was arrested in May 1982 she was in possession of a ticket to flee to Mexico. Dorothea Puente had been given 5 years, for which she served 3 years before being released on good behaviour in 1985.
From there, Puente operated a boarding house on 1426 F-Street with rooms for 9 people. The landlady had gained a reputation for taking on needy cases with nowhere else to go, and also tough and violent cases. She was very patient with alcoholics and drug addicts. She did not tolerate any sort of substance abuse or criminal activity on the premises. She ran a tight, clean ship, but was also very gentle, caring, and empathetic toward her tenants. It was Puente’s reputation that motivated charity worker Judy Moise to find a spot for Bert Montoya at Puente’s boarding house a few months prior. It was only when Bert went missing and Puente seemed to be deliberately concealing where he had gone that Judy suspected that something was not right with the old woman. Meanwhile, so positive was Puente’s reputation in her local Hispanic neighbourhood that she gained the nickname of “La Doctora” relating to her time as a nurse during the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines in 1942.
The problem was that Dorothea Puente had never served as a nurse in the Philippines, and would have been just 13 at the time of the bloody Battle of Bataan. Despite her appearance and claims to the contrary, Dorothea Puente was just 59 years old.
Sgt. Cabrera commenced the interview by confirming Puente’s personal details, including her age. She claimed that she was Mexican-American, raised in a family of 18 children, and that Puente was her maiden name. Cabrera confirmed that Puente had lived at 1426 F-Street since 1978 until she was arrested in May 1982 for the aforementioned charges of forgery, theft, and drugging. She then returned to F-Street when she was released from prison in September 1985. Both before and after her prison term, she paid rent to her nephew Ricardo. And both before and after her prison term, she had maintained a boarding house for the disadvantaged.
When Cabrera pointed out that there were a few inconsistencies in Dorothea Puente’s statements to Judy Moise regarding Alvaro “Bert” Montoya’s disappearance, Puente threw up her hands and said that her memory wasn’t so good and she didn’t know at the time that she had to remember every detail. Montoya had told her he was visiting a doctor in Mexico, and when he returned on November 6th, he had vacated his room and left with a group of relatives for Utah. Puente then asked Cabrera if his family had been in contact with the police. Cabrera replied, no, and even if they had, he would need to physically see that Bert Montoya was alive and well in order to rule him out as a missing person.
Cabrera added that Judy had made it clear that Alvaro “Bert” Montoya did not have any family to speak of. He also pointed out John Sharp had testified to police that he had not seen Bert since September 1988, and that he did not return home on November 6th. Dorothea insisted that Bert had been at F-Street on November 6th and claimed that Sharp was lying. Sharp had evidently been behind on his rent payments, not paying for the month of October until November 3rd, having blown his welfare check on gambling and alcohol. According to Dorothea, Sharp was lying out of bitterness because she had recently evicted him. Indeed, all the other tenants affirmed that Bert had been at F-Street on the 6th.
At that point, Cabrera turned the conversation to Benjamin Fink, the 55 year old alcoholic who had departed from the boarding house in August 1988 after a stay of just two months. Dorothea claimed he was always out drinking, blowing his welfare cheque on booze, and getting extra money by selling his blood at the blood bank. Eventually his drinking got so bad that Dorothea evicted him. At which point, she claimed that Fink moved back to Marysville, California. Cabrera told her bluntly that given Fink was such a notorious drunk, always getting thrown out of bars and getting into mild scrapes with police in Sacramento, that someone would have picked Fink up in Marysville by now for being drunk and disorderly. Yet he had stayed completely off the radar and they could not find Fink’s new address.
At this point, Puente volunteered to let the police put a tap on her phone so they could monitor all of her conversations to establish that she was telling the truth if either Ben Fink or Alvaro Montoya called.
Cabrera then addressed the fact that a few hours earlier they had found the remains of a human being in Puente’s backyard. She began to say “But if that body was Alvaro…” but Cabrera interrupted her saying, “I don’t think it was Alvaro. I’m not sure that body was put there this decade. And I don’t think it was Ben Fink either, to be truthful.” Throughout the interrogation, Cabera used the bluff that the police had been getting reports of other disappearances and rumours that dead bodies were being buried in Dorothea’s backyard for over a year at this point. This was a lie. If the police had gotten such reports a year ago, they would have arrived to inspect the place long before the disappearance of Alvaro “Bert” Montoya. The fact was, at this point, that Cabrera had already realised that the body they had found in the backyard only a few hours before belonged to a woman. Neither Montoya nor Fink. But someone else entirely. But still Dorothea Puente did not budge.
Cabrera then asked about the thin one-inch layer of concrete that was poured over where the body was found. Puente was evasive about when it was poured, claiming after much humming and hawing that it must have been laid down around February or March 1988, shortly after Bert Montoya had arrived at the house. According to Cabrera, there had been digging and pouring of concrete all over the yard in various places, which Dorothea slowly and vaguely corroborated, not really supplying firm dates for when the work was done.
As for who had done the work, Puente mentioned tenant John Mccauley, who among a number of other men had done casual labour for her over the years. Indeed Puente was known around the neighbourhood for giving work to ex-convicts to do some periodic landscaping in her backyard. Dorothea was quick to underline she didn’t do any of the work herself because she had a bad heart.
Cabrera then asked Dorothea if she had ever used powdered lye in her backyard. At which point Dorothea began to mutter to herself about whether John Mccauley had ever used it anywhere. She then remembered that at some point, maybe a few years ago, they had put fertilizer and potting soil in the ground to soften it up for growing things. Cabrera pointed out that in the hole where he found the body, there had been traces of lye, which is often used to speed up decomposition of a corpse. Puente shook her head and said there would be no reason for lye to be in the soil only two feet below the surface.
At this point Cabrera asked Dorothea point blank if she had any awareness that there was a body in the hole he and his men had dug up. She said no. Cabrera asked whether John Mccauley or any of her other workers may have had some awareness that there was a body there. She said she didn’t think so.
Cabrera then started playing hardball. “I’ve got a man missing… and nothing fits, Dorothea… and there’s one or two things I can surmise, and that is that Mr. Montoya is dead…”
“No, he’s not,” Puente immediately shot back with a vigorous shake of her head.
Cabrera continued, “I’m just trying to surmise here, and then we’ll clear this up. He is dead, and either John Mccauley killed him or he met foul play by your hands. Those are my alternatives. And another alternative is he is out there lying in that backyard, perhaps with other people.”
“No,” Puente said simply with another shake of her head. At this point she volunteered to hire a contractor
who would go in and tear up her whole backyard up to prove that there were no bodies buried there.
“If any digging has to be done, we’re going to do the digging,” Cabrera replied.
Dorothea raised her hand in the air, as if taking a silent oath of honesty, “Sir, I have never killed anybody.” “What about Mr. Mccauley?” Cabrera shot back.
Puente asked, “What reason would he have to kill anybody?”
Cabrera pivoted to how they were going to look into where the money was going from her tenants’ welfare cheques, especially since two tenants hadn’t been seen in months. He pointed out that Puente had been arrested forging such cheques in the past and had gone to prison for it. Puente said that she confessed fully to it, in order to get the trial over and done with, and was trying to put that behind her. Cabrera pointed out that the similarities in the modus operandi were there. The only difference now is rather than thieving from living victims, she might simply be killing her targets instead.
And now, Cabrera said, you’ve got a man like Bert Montoya, someone with no previous fixed address, with mental issues, who, quote, “Might be in Costa Rica or Timbuktu, that really nobody cares about… If you disappear and you’re a transient, you’re a bum, or you’re an alcoholic, a lot of people think that nobody ever cares.”
At this point Puente said, seemingly agitated, “I cared for him. I bought clothes for him. I treated him very, very good.”
After briefly referring again to the disappearance of Ben Fink and asserting that they would have heard something from a drunk like him in Marysville, Cabrera returned to the nub of the issue: “Are there any other bodies in your backyard?”
“I didn’t even know that there was a body there.” Puente replied. “Did Mr. Mccauley put any bodies back there?” Cabrera pressed her. “You’d have to ask Mr. Mccauley.” Puente said flatly.
Cabrera asked whether Mccauley had been a resident at F-Street since March 1985, like Mccauley himself claimed. Puente denied this, saying he had only lived there two years. After a brief pause, during which both Cabrera and Puente took a sip from their cups, picking them up and setting them down simultaneously, Cabrera continued, “Dorothea, I know if we dig, we’re gonna find more. I know that.”
“Well, I didn’t put ‘em there. I couldn’t drag a body any place.” Puente replied.
Cabrera pointed at her excitedly and said, “I believe that. But I also believe that there’s somebody else involved here… Dorothea, I think somehow you’re involved in it. It may not be by your hand, but it is by somebody’s hand, and I think you are very very frightened right now.”
But Dorothea did not budge. She pointed the blame at people who might have lived in the house before she returned in 1985. She vaguely implied that Mccauley might have something to do with the body that police found. But she never dared to accuse Mccauley openly.
Dorothea was released without charge and went back to 1426 F-Street where she spent the night.
Black Coffee, Dark Thoughts, Darker Deeds
The coroner confirmed that the body found in Dorothea’s backyard had belonged to an unidentified elderly woman. The coroner also determined that the scraps of undyed leather found in the hole were actually strips of skin which had fallen off the body as it had decomposed, as if it were the peel off of a banana. The flesh had dried out and hardened slightly while it lay buried in the hard ground.
The next morning, on November 12th 1988, Dorothea was back at her house on F-Street, observing the unfolding scene from her window. In the backyard was a massive CSI team, complete with shovels, brushes, and a mechanical digger, getting ready for a long day’s work. In front of the house was a growing crowd of journalists and onlookers who had shown up to watch despite the rainy weather. A few minutes before the day’s digging began, Dorothea Puente walked up to Sgt. Cabrera.
She asked him anxiously, “Am I under arrest?”
Cabrera replied that she was not and inquired why she asked. Puente explained that the presence of all the police, the media, and the gawking bystanders had made her very nervous and upset. She asked Cabrera for permission to go with John Mccauley to the nearby Clarion Hotel, where they would meet her nephew, Ricardo, who owned 1426 F-Street, for a cup of coffee. Sgt. Cabrera asked his commanding officer, who said they did not have sufficient evidence to detain either Puente or Mccauley. Additionally, despite the inconsistencies in Puente’s story, she had been immensely cooperative with police investigations up to that point. She had voluntarily allowed police to search her home and to search her backyard. She had sat in interrogation without a lawyer. Cabrera came back and granted her request.
Being cautious, Cabrera walked with Puente and Mccauley toward the hotel. Puente was wearing a long red coat, due to the weather, and was bearing a large handbag. Cabrera watched for a while to make sure that Puente and Mccauley entered the hotel, then slowly went back to the digging site. 21 minutes later, the CSI team unearthed a second body. Police rushed to the hotel coffee shop to arrest Puente and Mccauley. They were nowhere to be found. A brief investigation found they had departed the area, roughly 15 minutes prior, in a taxi cab. From there, they went to a bar in Sacramento. Despite it still being morning, Dorothea downed a couple vodkas with orange juice, and Mccauley drank beer. From the bar, the two fugitives split up, with Mccauley hiding out in the squalor of the homeless community downtown, and with Puente catching another cab to Stockton, California, where she was dropped off at a bus station. It would later be determined that within her large bulging handbag, Puente was carrying upwards of $3000 cash in small bills to facilitate her escape.
When Cabrera heard that the prime suspect in a multiple murder and missing person’s case had slipped the net by playing the distressed old woman, and asking to go get a cup of coffee mere minutes before she knew that another body would be discovered, a sickening feeling settled in the pit of his stomach and, quote, “I felt like someone had ripped my insides out.”
Over the next few days, with Puente having completely disappeared, even more bodies were dragged out of shallow graves in the garden at 1426 F-Street, including that of Alvaro “Bert” Montoya. The 52-year- old was murdered just as he was finally getting a chance at a fresh start and a better life.
The Devil’s Golden Girl
Dorothea Helen Gray was born January 9th 1929 in San Bernadino County, California, to Trudy and Jesse James Gray. Her father worked as a cotton picker. Dorothea’s claim that Puente is her maiden name is a lie, and there is absolutely zero indication she is even remotely Hispanic. Dorothea is of predominantly English, Irish, and Scottish descent. Nevertheless, Dorothea also circulated the lie she was born in Mexico to a devoutly Catholic family of 18 children. She had 3 siblings, not 18. All of this seems to have been done to gain the confidence of people in the predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood in Sacramento where Dorothea Gray ran her boarding house, enjoyed a good reputation, and accrued the nickname of “La Doctora.”
Her British-slash-Celtic ancestry was amply demonstrated by the fact that both of her parents were alcoholics, a cultural trait that seems to have been accentuated by the stresses of the Great Depression, which began the year of Dorothea’s birth. Jesse James Gray also appears to have been a depressive, frequently threatening to kill himself in front of his wife and children. Dorothea was no older than 8 years old when she was subjected to this. The family existed in both poverty and squalor due to recurrent parental alcoholism, and very often Dorothea had to scavenge for food.
I know we often repeat on the Casual Criminalist how you should not ruin your kids. But I’d like to take a slightly different approach today and give a big “f*ck you” to the people who, statistically speaking, are currently in the process of ruining their kids, and providing us with the next generation of serial killers. Put down the bottle, stop abusing your kids, and hand them an iPad so they can become law-abiding, disaffected, entitled narcissists like the rest of us.
Jesse James contracted tuberculosis, a disease which was treatable by the 1930s, although not curable. It certainly did not need to be fatal. But due to his poverty, his lifestyle, and his suicidal ideation, Jesse James did his best Arthur Morgan impression and died in 1937, his tuberculosis entirely untreated. Trudy Gray was evidently such a rampant alcoholic that she lost custody of her four children in 1938 (highly unusual for an alcoholic mother in that time period, so she must have been in a very bad way or else lost them deliberately) before dying in a motorcycle accident that same year.
Meanwhile Dorothea and her siblings were briefly packed off to an orphanage before they were taken in by relatives in Fresno [frez-no]. During Dorothea’s time in the orphanage, she was sexually abused. Like with the upbringing of many serial killers, it was a case of “out of the frying pan and into another equally hot frying pan filled with dog sh*t.” Or into the fire, if you prefer. Let’s go with into the fire…
Dorothea’s upbringing in Fresno was not a happy time. Her relatives were not loving ones, but merely acting out of family duty. Dorothea was largely regarded as a burden, ignored, and not expected to amount to much. She had come from the gutters of society, and wasn’t expected to crawl much beyond them. This lack of affection cultivated a textbook and grandiose sense of self-importance in Dorothea so she could compensate for a deeply rooted self-loathing and a self-esteem so low that it was next to dinosaur bones. This inferiority complex also birthed Dorothea’s lifelong addiction to lying in order to make herself out to be more important and talented than she really was. And much to the detriment and frustration of my own research, Dorothea never broke with this chronic habit till the day she died.
In late 1945, when Dorothea Gray was only 16, she met a soldier, Fred McFaul, who was recently de- mobbed from the Japanese Theatre at the end of World War Two. After a very brief romance lasting only a few weeks, the teenage Dorothea married a thirsty G.I. who was eager to return to a quote-unquote “normal life” after witnessing the horrors of war. This is reminiscent of many boomer hook-ups in the postwar period (and the source of many of history’s first no-fault divorces). In 1946, Dorothea gave birth to a daughter. She had another daughter in 1948. Dorothea got pregnant again that same year, but suffered a miscarriage. Not long afterward, Fred McFaul left her. Some sources have attributed this to Dorothea’s miscarriage. This is not true. In reality, Fred abandoned her due to her drunken and promiscuous behaviour with no formalities and only years later sought a de-facto divorce. But in 1948, Dorothea lied that Fred had died of a heart attack shortly after their marriage. A tragic tale of true love masking the humiliation of a failed marriage that probably should not have happened in the first place.
Possibly following in her mother’s footsteps, immediately after the divorce Dorothea palmed one of her daughters off on some relatives who lived in Sacramento, and, not finding any takers for the second daughter, Dorothea dumped her in an orphanage. In order to keep up the lie that Fred had died shortly after their wedding, Dorothea did not recognise she was mother of either child until several decades afterward. When her second daughter visited Dorothea at 1426 F-Street in 1986, she described Dorothea as “a woman lacking a personality.”
In truth, Dorothea would rarely display any emotion or assertiveness in any of her social encounters. She was not prone to laugh, smile, frown, or cry. She stayed largely impassive in conversation, and very rarely volunteered any information about herself. Dorothea was too busy reading you so she could play you, to care about sharing personal information. A lot of people feel an emotional release or stress relief when venting and sharing with another person. Not so with Dorothea. She’d usually listen and react to whatever the other person was saying, and strategically venture a sharp phrase here and there to have maximum manipulative impact. As a result of this passivity, this apparent harmlessness, more prone to listen sympathetically than to talk, it is no wonder she managed to cultivate trust in many people. It is also no wonder many people thought she was “wise.” The only thing people were not expecting is how often she’d be able to plant a well-placed lie.
Masquerading as a widow in 1948, and without any children to support, Dorothea tried her hand at forging cheques in order to purchase things and pay her own bills. Dorothea’s reluctance to get an actual job would be a recurring theme throughout the rest of her life. She was quickly caught by the police because of her forgeries and sentenced to a year in prison. She was paroled after 6 months.
Dorothea rarely acknowledged the time she spent in prison, and spun a tale of her own. In 1948, according to her, she was shopping at a Department Store in San Francisco when she was spotted by a talent scout for the Radio City Rockettes, flown to New York for an audition, and was hired on the spot. Dorothea claims that she spent half her week in New York before flying back to San Francisco to work in the kitchens of a seafood restaurant. Dorothea Gray’s stage-name was allegedly “Sharon Neyaarda” which she would later transform into the alias “Taya Singoalla Neyaarda”, posing as a Muslim of Egyptian and Israeli descent. During her time dancing with the Rockettes, Dorothea claims she met John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie, and became best friends with actress Rita Hayworth. Allegedly, in 1957, Dorothea and another dancer fell into the orchestra pit, and Dorothea broke her leg while the other dancer became paralyzed. The broken leg tragically ended Dorothea’s dancing career. During the same period in the 1950s, Dorothea claims that she played regularly as a professional golfer in the LPGA.
Needless to say, this entire story is absolute bullsh*t. Most likely, the only thing true about it is after her release from prison in 1949, Dorothea violated the terms of her probation by fleeing to San Francisco where she worked in the kitchens of a seafood restaurant.
A few years later, still in San Francisco, Dorothea met a Swedish merchant seaman Axel Johannson. They married in 1952. They lived mostly in Sacramento for the next several years. Axel’s job took him to sea on a frequent basis and Dorothea would spend his wages on gambling, drinking, and she regularly had affairs with other men. Johannson and Dorothea would separate multiple times over the course of their marriage, but for years Dorothea evidently found a way to convince Axel to reconcile.
In 1960, while still married to Johannson, Dorothea was caught in a Sacramento whorehouse by an undercover policeman when she offered to give him a blowjob. She was given 90 days in the slammer for owning and operating a brothel. Shortly after her release, Johannson had Dorothea committed to the DeWitt State Hospital, where she was placed on antipsychotics. While there, psychologists diagnosed Dorothea as being a pathological liar with borderline personality disorder. Dorothea also maintains that she had major cancer surgery in this year where doctors removed her uterus and part of her intestines and stomach, but this is likely more lies from Dorothea. It is, however, possible that due to her work as a prostitute, Dorothea did have a hysterectomy at some point.
Dorothea and Axel’s marriage dragged on for a further 5 years until their divorce in 1966. Bizarrely, according to Dorothea, she and Axel maintained a friendship right up until her death. He even sent her Christmas cards in prison. Though we only have Dorothea’s word for this and Johannson has routinely declined to talk to journalists. Regardless, Dorothea retained Axel’s last name and operated under the alias “Sharon Johannson” for a few years afterward. It was during this time that Dorothea transitioned from being the bawdy housewife and cathouse madam to being a kind and caring Protestant Christian who engaged in works of charity. She funded this with her ex-husband’s alimony cheques. For a couple of years, Dorothea ran a shelter for impoverished women (which may have been a front for another brothel) and then ran a rehabilitation program for alcoholics. Naturally she had no qualifications or state license to run a rehab, and it is likely she was running some sort of welfare scam, getting the drunks to sign their support cheques over to her.
In 1968, 39 year old Dorothea married 23 year old Roberto Puente, a Mexican immigrant who reportedly used Dorothea for her money (what meagre ill-gotten gains she had accrued) and to land American citizenship. Their marriage was a violent one. Dorothea filed for divorce in 1969, after a marriage of just 16 months, citing domestic abuse. However, Puente never submitted to divorce proceedings and simply fled back to Mexico in order to avoid getting collared for alimony payments. The divorce would not be finalised until 1973. Meanwhile it is clear that Roberto Puente was something of a monster, having returned to the United States and being of such a violent disposition that Dorothea had to file a restraining order against Roberto in 1975.
Meanwhile, back in 1969, Dorothea matured her most recent scam and rented a 16-bedroom boardinghouse at 2100 F-Street, just down the road from the 1988 murder house.
A Harmless Old Woman
It was at this point in Dorothea’s career that she began donning the false signs of advanced age that became her calling card. She claimed to be 20 or 30 years older than she was. Dorothea began wearing granny glasses, and old lady clothing that better belonged in the 1930s or 1940s when Dorothea was still a child and a teenager. She didn’t bother dyeing her hair so it gradually turned a silvery colour. She avoided wearing makeup. She had the remainder of her teeth pulled (some of them had gone rotten in her previous years of hard living) and regularly went around without wearing dentures. The effect of having toothless gums contracted the skin around her mouth, sucking it inward, to give an extreme impression of senescence. It was almost like she was deliberately going for the look of the granny from Bugs Bunny. In addition, Dorothea began acting absent-minded, frail, and harmless. But the retired fraudster, drunk, prostitute, outpatient, and brothel owner was only 40 years old. It would be like if Simon in 5 or 6 years pulled out all his teeth, dyed his beard white, and started hobbling around, hunched over a cane, muttering about “damned whippersnappers.”
Dorothea began working hard to become a pillar of the community. She was a regular participant in fundraisers and charities. She hosted Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It is clear that these activities were an excellent way of recruiting needy cases to move into her boardinghouse. Dorothea also performed the service that social worker Judy Moise would do two decades later – she’d find particularly troubled individuals and help them sign up for social welfare payments. Nevertheless, nobody suspected any fraud at the time. During the 1970s, Dorothea gained her reputation as a saint in the community. In her capacity as a charity worker, Dorothea also claims to have met Ronald Regan, Spiro Agnew, and Clint Eastwood, all of which appears to be bullsh*t.
In 1976, Dorothea married her fourth husband, Pedro Montalvo, a violent alcoholic who evidently didn’t think Dorothea was much of a catch either, since he fled the marriage within a few months. Dorothea then conducted her romantic activities by frequenting bars, meeting elderly gentlemen, and trying to talk them out of their pensions and social security payments.
Meanwhile, the boardinghouse scam was working gangbusters. A regular turnover of tenants entered the 16-room boarding house at 2100 F-Street – drunks, drug addicts, and the mentally ill – and Dorothea managed to get them to hand over control of their welfare payments. Evidently, Dorothea was netting upwards of $5000 a month profit from this scam, which is about $20,000 to $25,000 today. Unfortunately for Dorothea in 1978, she was caught, given 5 years probation, and had to pay $4000 restitution. She was also banned from operating a boardinghouse.
Instead, Dorothea pivoted to drugging and robbery for a time. She is reported to have entered hospitals, disguised as a nurse, providing patients with drugged food and drink, before relieving them of any valuables they might have with them. She also entered the homes of three elderly women under the guise of friendship, drugged them, and stole any money and jewelry they had in their houses. Due to her posing as a harmless old woman, and due to the disorientation and vulnerability of her victims, she was able to move without detection for a time.
In early 1982, in violation of her probation, Dorothea rented a 9-bedroom place at 1426 F-Street to begin operating a boardinghouse again. She invited 61 year old Ruth Munroe, her partner in a small catering business, to live with her and act as the unwitting front-woman of the operation. It is fairly clear Munroe thought she was operating a charity and did not know that Dorothea was running a scam. Within a few weeks, Munroe became gravely ill, alarming her family. Nevertheless, Dorothea claimed that she was a nurse who served at the Battle of Bataan in 1942 and pledged that she’d take good care of her friend. Munroe died of an overdose of codeine and Tylenol. Dorothea claimed to authorities that Munroe had been depressed for a long time, and police ruled the death as a suicide. In reality, Dorothea had murdered Ruth Munroe and continued to run the boardinghouse herself. Meanwhile, Dorothea drained thousands of dollars belonging to Munroe from their joint account for the catering business.
In May 1982, Dorothea met 74 year old Malcolm Mackenzie at a bar, drugged him, brought him back to his house. He watched helplessly as she stole his cash, valuables, and even the diamond ring off his pinky finger. Mackenzie accused Dorothea of the crime, and she was promptly arrested. After a police investigation, Dorothea was linked to an additional four druggings and robberies. She was given 5 years and began her sentence in August of 1982.
When the family of Ruth Munroe heard about Dorothea’s conviction, they begged the police to reopen an investigation into Munroe’s death. This was ignored. Instead Munroe’s death would remain a suicide until Dorothea’s other victims were dragged out of the yard at 1426 F-Street in 1988.
During her time in prison for theft, drugging, and fraud, Dorothea began corresponding with a 77 year old man, Everson Gilmouth, who lived in Oregon. When Dorothea was released from prison on good behaviour in September 1985, Gilmouth fetched her from the prison gates in a red 1980 Ford pickup truck. Dorothea managed to convince Gilmouth to marry her, to set up a joint bank account, and resume renting out 1426 F-Street. Gilmouth also collected a regular retirement pension.
Within two months, Dorothea had murdered Gilmouth, continued collecting his pension cheques, and wrote letters to Gilmouth’s relatives saying that the reason why he had not been in contact was because he was dreadfully ill. In November 1985, Dorothea contracted handyman Ismael Florez to work on wood paneling at 1426 F-Street and also to build her a six-foot-long wooden box for “junk storage.” She then placed Gilmouth’s corpse in the box, nailed it shut, and instructed Florez to take the box to a storage locker. Joining him for the ride, Dorothea changed her mind and told Florez to simply dump the box on the bank of a river so she could save money. Florez was paid $800 for his work, along with a red 1980 Ford pickup truck which Dorothea said had once belonged to her boyfriend but that “he didn’t need it anymore.” Gilmouth’s body was discovered a year later, and remained unidentified for a further three years until early 1989, when bodies had been popping out of the ground at 1426 F-Street and investigators put two and two together.
From November 1985 to November 1988, Dorothea continued to operate a boardinghouse, despite it being a parole violation, and handling the welfare cheques of her desperate tenants, also a violation. When parole officers visited the house, she always managed to lie and convince them she was simply taking in tenants and had nothing to do with their financial affairs. When necessary, Dorothea coached the tenants themselves to lie to the authorities. Parole officers visited 1426 F-Street 15 times in those three years and never issued a single warning or citation, and never filed a negative report. The “harmless old woman act” was serving Dorothea well.
Dorothea took in roughly 40 tenants during the three year period at 1426 F-Street. Her modus operandi was to gain control of her victim’s finances, if possible, and keep collecting their welfare cheques long after she murdered them. Her preferred method of killing was with drug overdoses. She would move their bodies in the middle of the night when the other tenants were asleep, and store the bodies in an unoccupied bedroom, for few days to a couple of weeks. Bodily fluids leaked out of the corpses during decomposition, soaking through the bedroom’s carpet and into the wood floors. When police rolled the carpet back, the stains highly visible and the smell was almost overpowering. The rotting smell is what disturbed tenant and whistleblower John Sharp, and also disturbed Dorothea’s next-door neighbour, whom she told the smell was just from fertilizer she had laid down in her backyard. Dorothea hired a number of ex-convicts from a nearby halfway house to dig holes and pour concrete in her backyard, and also made use of the services of longtime tenant John Mccauley. When the graves were ready, Dorothea would move the corpses down the stairs in the dead of night, and out into the yard. The only telltale signs would be a thudding of the body on the stairs, heard by John Sharp.
Dorothea’s boardinghouse was a revolving door of welfare fraud. She took control of most of her tenant’s cash even if she didn’t murder them. However, killing the people she defrauded reduced the chances of someone kicking up a fuss and getting her caught, and also allowed Dorothea to collect far more than the measly individual payouts each welfare case received from the state government. With each new victim, Dorothea increased her annual income, which would continue to flow in long after her victims were dead and buried. She would keep collecting the money for a year to two years after she killed them. So long as Dorothea chose her victims carefully, and only murdered tenants who had no family or close contacts, and who were unlikely to be declared missing, the cheques would keep getting mailed to 1426 F-Street. Dorothea is estimated to have murdered between 9 and 15 people while running her boardinghouse. Seven bodies were uncovered in Dorothea’s yard in varying stages of decomposition. Additional victims, like Gilmouth’s, were disposed of elsewhere.
The 9 victims whom Dorothea was charged with killing were: The lonely pensioner boyfriend Gilmouth; her duped business partner Munroe; tenant Leona Carpenter, the 78 year old woman whose femur Sgt. Cabrera had initially mistaken for a tree trunk; Alvaro “Bert” Montoya whose disappearance kicked off the investigation; Dorothy Miller, an alcoholic whose medication bottle was found by Cabrera and whom Dorothea Puente had claimed she was a visiting relative; Benjamin Fink, the alcoholic whom Dorothea had claimed to have evicted; James Gallop, an impoverished man dying of brain cancer; and two other women, Vera Faye Martin and Betty Palrm, who had major health problems and no money, and who treated the boardinghouse as a low-rent hospice.
One of the bodies discovered in the backyard, buried next to a small statue of the Virgin Mary, lacked its head, hands, and feet, making identification difficult should the body happen to be discovered.
Never Trust a Gold-Digger
Dorothea fled Sacramento the morning of November 12th 1988, after stopping off at a bar for a few screwdrivers to bolster her courage. She caught a cab to Stockton, California, where she boarded a bus for Los Angeles. While in L.A., Dorothea checked into the Royal Viking Motel. She rarely left her room for the next three days, except to order food. She spent most of her time monitoring the news for information on the manhunt. Due to the sensational nature of the story, namely a bunch of dead bodies found in a quote-unquote “old lady’s” backyard, Dorothea was splashed all over the news. Police had extended a dragnet for Dorothea across California and all the way down into Mexico.
Meanwhile John Mccauley was busted in downtown Sacramento. He was later released without charge due to lack of evidence of his involvement in the murders. The other ex-convicts evidently had no idea that they were being paid cash to dig holes for bodies. One of the ex-convicts, however, was named “Don Anthony” the man whom Dorothea had paid to phone charity worker Judy Moise with the cock-and-bull story about Bert Montoya moving to Utah with relatives. He had stuffed up initially, giving his real name, before correcting himself and giving a supposedly more Hispanic sounding one. Though in my opinion the fake name he gave, Michel Obergon, obviously sounded more French. But you just can’t find good help these days. Especially not at the local halfway house.
On Dorothea’s fourth day in her motel room, she got a little stir crazy. She headed out to a nearby bar to do a little serious drinking. Dorothea eventually fell into conversation with a retired carpenter named Charles Willgues [willgz]. She introduced herself as “Donna Johannson.” The two drank a fair amount and talked into the late afternoon. During the conversation, Dorothea peppered Charles with questions about his pension, welfare payments, and even suggested that they should live together. The couple made a date to go shopping the next day, and they arranged for Charles to pick Dorothea up at the Royal Viking Motel. Charles went home with a strange feeling that this woman was a little bit creepy. That feeling was confirmed when Charles recognised Dorothea as he turned on the television and saw the face of an accused murderer and fugitive staring back at him. He called a local Los Angeles news network informing them of Dorothea’s location, and the news station in turn contacted the cops.
A few hours later, at 10.20pm, police descended on the Royal Viking Motel. Dorothea lied and said her name was “Donna Johannson”. The police demanded to see some identification. At that point, Dorothea gave up and simply said, “Alright. Fine. My name is Dorothea Puente.” She then surrendered herself to the police.
Dorothea was escorted by the cops back to Sacramento on a plane borrowed from a travelling news crew. During the flight, she told an interviewer, “I have not killed anyone. But I cashed the cheques. I used to be a very good person at one point in time.” It is clear Dorothea had devised her new strategy to reduce the amount of her jail time. It is only now that Dorothea began pointing the finger at John Mccauley as being directly responsible for the murders. At only age 59, a few more years’ jail time for welfare fraud was decidedly preferable to several life-sentences for first degree murder.
Forensics failed to establish a cause of death for any of the corpses found in Dorothea’s backyard. This is hardly surprising given all of the murders were done by drug overdoses, and the bodies themselves had been decomposing for several weeks to several years in the ground. Further frustrating the case was the fact that these tenants, either dying, mentally ill, addicts, or simply depressed, were already on a raft of medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and painkillers. Testing found only one drug that all the bodies had in common, “Dalmane”, used in sleeping pills. Investigations revealed that between 1985 and 1988, Dorothea had gained multiple prescriptions for 30 sleeping pills a pop from two different doctors, by feeding them a sob story about how she just wanted to help her troubled tenants get to sleep. But it was difficult to nail down this drug to the cause of death since each body had been in the ground for a different amount of time, and the drug had progressively leached out into the soil. Thus each victim had a different level of the drug still in their system. Furthermore, it was unclear whether Dorothea had acquired enough sleeping pills to administer a fatal dose in every circumstance. However, it was plausible that when she did not kill a victim outright with the pills, they could easily have rendered a victim inert so they could be easily suffocated without showing signs of resistance.
Although arrested in November of 1988, the identification of Gilmouth’s body, and additional police investigations delayed the beginning of the trial proceedings. Even then, court preliminaries delayed the trial for an additional three years. For instance, the defense put in a motion to have the case moved out of Sacramento to Monterey, since the intense media attention would have poisoned any Sacramento jury against Dorothea. Meanwhile, Dorothea was offered a plea deal where if she plead guilty to all nine murders, the prosecution would spare her the death penalty. Dorothea rejected this deal, and insisted upon her innocence. She said, “Not one person who worked for me saw me doing anything wrong. People were always coming and going. Alcoholics don’t stay in one place for long. How did I know where they were?” Never showing remorse for the victims, Dorothea was most concerned about her cat.
The trial itself commenced in February 1993. 156 witnesses gave testimony and over 3000 pieces of evidence were presented. The strategy of the defense was to admit that Dorothea had stolen the welfare money of her victims. They even went as far as to not deny that Dorothea had buried the bodies in her backyard. But they argued that the causes of death were by natural causes. All these people were either ailing, addicts, or terminally ill. When they died, the defense claimed, Dorothea merely took advantage of the situation, concealed their bodies, and continued cashing their cheques. Dorothea did not take the stand in her own defense (standard procedure) and she is reported to have sat there passively throughout the five month trial, with a slightly bored expression on her face, as if she was only half paying attention. In July 1993, the jury went into deliberations. 11 out of 12 jurors thought that Dorothea was guilty of murdering her tenants. Only one juror held out saying that burying the bodies when they had no clear cause of death did not prove murder. Deliberations dragged on for 43 days, the longest jury deliberation in California history, during which the hold-out juror was physically attacked by one of his frustrated peers. Eventually, the hold-out juror agreed to convicting Dorothea of two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder.
Dorothea Gray/McFaul/Johannson/Neyaarda/Puente/Montalvo was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole and was incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla [chow- chilla], California. She resided there for almost 20 years, becoming a “den mother”, cooking Mexican food using ingredients from the prison commissary for her fellow inmates, and winning the nicknames “Miss Dorothea” and “Mama Dorothea.” She died there on March 27th 2011 of natural causes. She was 82 years old. She finally attained the age she had faked being for the past 40 years.
Two years before her death, in 2009, a journalist asked Dorothea if she ever wished she had received the death penalty. Dorothea replied, “Maybe I would have been better off. It’s the same thing. I’m here until I die.” The journalist then asked how she’d like her death to happen. Dorothea said, “Peacefully in my sleep without becoming sick or a cripple. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone.”
With only one question left, the journalist asked, “What is it like being known as a murderer?”
At which point Dorothea fixed the reporter with a hard stare, and after a moment’s bitter silence, she spat, “I don’t give a sh*t what anyone else thinks.”
- The rebellious juror has never explained why he resisted the guilty verdict for so long, or why he agreed to the strange compromise of three counts of murder, two in the first degree, one in the second degree. I really can’t see how some of the bodies found in the backyard had more damning evidence attached to them than the others. And although Dorothea had used stooges before to dig holes and make fraudulent phone calls, it is highly unlikely that the juror was Dorothea’s stooge put in there to frustrate a guilty verdict. It is much more likely the man was just some kind of an idiot or an asshole.
- When searching 1426 F-Street, Sgt. Cabrera found a book entitled “Drugs and Their Effects” which pretty much amounted to what he called Dorothea’s “cookbook.” Since Dorothea had a reputation as a veteran poisoner, if I were those fellow prison inmates, I am not sure I would have trusted any of her cooking. It is, however, interesting that she cooked Mexican food, maintaining the “Puente” persona to win over the prison’s large number of Hispanic inmates.
- 1426 F-Street was also featured on television in 2015 in a particularly demented episode of Ghost Adventures with professional douchebag and pathological charlatan, Zak Bagans, where the fratboys-turned-ghost-hunters talked to the ghosts of several of the victims and to the ghost of Dorothea Puente herself. Simon, I’m sure you’d love Zak Bagans.
In the course of my research into Dorothea Puente, Pedro Lopez, and Israel Keyes, among others, I have taken to looking at Youtube and at podcasts to see what the “competition is doing.” I was troubled to find that when some people were not just reading me the Wikipedia page, or getting obvious stuff wrong, they were deadass making stuff up to pad the runtime. Some of the videos in question have millions of views, which makes me despair of the world. However, quite happily, I did stumble across a channel with only 856 subscribers at time of writing, run by “Viktoria-with- a-K Evans” which conducts tireless and detailed research over several weeks (or even months) and is True Crime par excellence. It is honestly the best work I’ve seen on the internet after the honorable Callum Howe. In a world where the internet dispenses misinformation as often as it does accurate facts, I thought we intrepid seekers-after-truth should stick together. So, I give a colleague’s nod of the head to Viktoria Evans, whose piece on Israel Keyes in particular is a masterwork of research and diligence.
- The rebellious juror has never explained why he resisted the guilty verdict for so long, or why he
agreed to the strange compromise of three counts of murder, two in the first degree, one in the
second degree. I really can’t see how some of the bodies found in the backyard had more damning
evidence attached to them than the others. And although Dorothea had used stooges before to
dig holes and make fraudulent phone calls, it is highly unlikely that the juror was Dorothea’s
stooge put in there to frustrate a guilty verdict. It is much more likely the man was just some kind
of an idiot or an asshole.
- When searching 1426 F-Street, Sgt. Cabrera found a book entitled “Drugs and Their Effects” which
pretty much amounted to what he called Dorothea’s “cookbook.” Since Dorothea had a
reputation as a veteran poisoner, if I were those fellow prison inmates, I am not sure I would have
trusted any of her cooking. It is, however, interesting that she cooked Mexican food, maintaining
the “Puente” persona to win over the prison’s large number of Hispanic inmates.
- 1426 F-Street was also featured on television in 2015 in a particularly demented episode of Ghost
Adventures with professional douchebag and pathological charlatan, Zak Bagans, where the
fratboys-turned-ghost-hunters talked to the ghosts of several of the victims and to the ghost of
Dorothea Puente herself. Simon, I’m sure you’d love Zak Bagans.
- In the course of my research into Dorothea Puente, Pedro Lopez, and Israel Keyes, among others,
I have taken to looking at Youtube and at podcasts to see what the “competition is doing.” I was
troubled to find that when some people were not just reading me the Wikipedia page, or getting
obvious stuff wrong, they were deadass making stuff up to pad the runtime. Some of the videos
in question have millions of views, which makes me despair of the world. However, quite happily,
I did stumble across a channel with only 856 subscribers at time of writing, run by “Viktoria-witha-K Evans” which conducts tireless and detailed research over several weeks (or even months)
and is True Crime par excellence. It is honestly the best work I’ve seen on the internet after the
honorable Callum Howe. In a world where the internet dispenses misinformation as often as it
does accurate facts, I thought we intrepid seekers-after-truth should stick together. So, I give a
colleague’s nod of the head to Viktoria Evans, whose piece on Israel Keyes in particular is a
masterwork of research and diligence.