Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dorothea Puente, Killing for Profit

Sins of Omission

When the owner moved out of 1426 F Street, Puente took over, subletting the first floor rooms for cheap and taking over the second story for herself. Soon, social workers came calling, seeking to place their homeless clients with her.

Puente never told them about her five felony convictions for drugging and robbing the elderly, and they never did their homework.

A former social worker told the Bee she put 19 seniors in Puente's care between 1987 and 1988, because "Dorothea was the "best the system had to offer."

Peggy Nickerson said Puente accepted the hardest clients to place — the drug and alcohol addicts, the people who were physically or verbally abusive. But Nickerson stopped sending clients her way when she overheard Puente cussing out one of them. She'd later learn that four of her clients ended up buried in Puente's yard.

The system that let these fragile members of society fall through the cracks was predictably fustigated in the wake of Puente's arrest.

An independent county agency published a reported titled "Sins of Omission," which criticized the Sacramento Police Department's handling of the case as well as another 10 public and private agencies that had dealings with the boarding house, the Bee reported.

It seemed inconceivable that federal parole agents, who visited Puente 15 times during the two years leading up to her arrest, never realized she was running a boarding house for the elderly — in direct violation of her parole.

 

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