Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dorothea Puente, Killing for Profit

Beef Jerky

Dorothea Puente's home
Dorothea Puente's home

The two-story, pale blue house stood on a quiet, tree-lined street of similar gingerbread Victorians. Although the neighborhood was once the ritzy section of the state capital — the former governor's mansion is two blocks away — it had fallen into disrepair and many of the once-stately homes were boarded up or used as flop houses.

On the morning of November 11, 1988, Detective John Cabrera and a couple of colleagues visited 1426 F Street looking for Alvaro "Bert" Montoya, a mentally-retarded tenant whose social worker had reported him missing, according to the Sacramento Bee.

As they approached the high black iron fence surrounding the house, they noted it was strung with Christmas tree lights, and that lace curtains hung in the windows. The men knocked on the front door and asked Puente if they could have a look around.

"Go ahead," she said.

Alvaro Bert Montoya
Alvaro "Bert" Montoya

The interior of the house was cluttered with old lady knick knacks — miniature vases and porcelain dolls and doilies, writes William Wood in The Bone Garden — but they didn't immediately notice anything out of the ordinary.

They did in the backyard, however. At the southeast corner of the property, the ground had been recently disturbed; the men returned to their cars to retrieve the shovels and spades they'd brought on a hunch.

They began digging, and quickly turned up what looked like shreds of cloth and beef jerky. When their efforts were hampered by what appeared to be a tree root, Cabrera whacked and jabbed it with his shovel. It didn't budge, so he decided to climb down into the hole and get his hands dirty.

"I wrapped my hand around it, braced my feet and started pulling," Cabrera later told the Sacramento Bee. "I pulled so hard that it broke loose, and when I pulled it up, I could see the joint. It was a bone... at that time, I was airborne and out of the hole."


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