Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dorothea Puente, Killing for Profit


Dorothea Puente's rose garden
Dorothea Puente's rose garden

Six years after the bodies were discovered in Puente's yard, six jurors traveled to Sacramento to visit the crime scenes they'd only known from pictures or verbal descriptions during the trial, the Sacramento Bee reported.

They sat in the dive bars where she trolled for victims, toured the narrow rooms of the Victorian home where several boarders were given sleeping pill cocktails before they slowly slipped from unconsciousness to death, and walked over the garden where Puente had planted flowers over their corpses.

Dusk was spreading gloomily over the backyard when juror Joe Martin rushed back into the house, visibly shaken.

Benjamin Fink
Benjamin Fink

"You can't see much back there," he told the paper. "But you feel a lot. It's weird."

After a year of weighing the testimony, the jury found Puente guilty of murdering Dorothy Miller, Benjamin Fink and Leona Carpenter.

But the jury couldn't reach a verdict on the six other murder charges, and Superior Court Judge Michael Virga declared a mistrial on those counts, according to the Los Angeles Times. There was no explanation why the jury found Puente guilty on the three counts but could not reach an agreement on the other charges, which were similar.

Dorothea Puente hears verdict
Dorothea Puente hears verdict

Puente showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

On December 10, 1993, Virga sentenced Puente to prison for life without the possibility of parole. Puente was 64 when she was sent to Central California Women's Facility near Chowchilla, the largest women's prison in the country.


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