Dorothea Puente, Killing for Profit
A handwriting expert confirmed that Puente had signed the names of seven dead tenants on 60 federal and state checks that were sent to 1426 F Street in 1987 and 1988, Sacramento Bee reported. She was making $5,000 a month from the forgeries.
(The prosecution decided not to charge Puente with forgery, saying they thought the additional charge would make the case too complex for jurors.)
Her defense attorney Kevin Clymo conceded that "Puente had a touch of larceny in her heart," but insisted that, "it doesn't make her a killer; it doesn't make her an evil, serial killer."
The prosecution brought forth witnesses to refute this argument, including the handyman Puente hired to build Everson Gillmouth's coffin. He told the court that he'd helped her dump Gillmouth's body by the Sacramento River. Authorities were not able to file charges against him because the statute of limitations on the crime had expired, but his testimony gave jurors a glimpse into Puente's frigid heart.
Former residents also came forward.
Homer Myers, who lived at Puente's place for two years after she found him in a bar, said he unwittingly dug some of the tenants' graves, according to the Los Angeles Times. Puente told him to dig a four-foot hole for a small apricot tree, and he wondered why she'd wanted it so deep.
Things got rough when he refused to sign documents empowering the mistress of the house to cash his social security checks.
"I just never signed them," he told the paper. "I just passed it off."
His refusal may have saved his life.