Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dorothea Puente, Killing for Profit

Tight Ship

By all accounts, Puente ran a tight ship. Boarders paid $350 a month for a private room and two hot meals a day: breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and dinner at 3:30 p.m. Puente was an accomplished cook, preparing gut-busting breakfasts of pancakes, bacon and eggs. But if residents missed either meal, they went hungry. They weren't allowed to enter the kitchen at odd hours.

They also weren't allowed to touch the phone or the mail. Puente chewed residents out on more than one occasion for daring to touch the mail, Carla Norton writes in Disturbed Ground.

James Gallop
James Gallop

And while Puente kept a well-stocked bar for herself upstairs, drinking by residents was strictly forbidden.

In the evening, she made excursions to seedy liquor joints like Harry's Lounge, where she'd sidle up to solitary old men, ply them with drinks, and ask about their finances. If she thought enough of their income, she'd invite them to move into her boarding house.

"She asked me where I got my money from, where I was working," Harry's regular John Terry, 67, told the State Journal-Register. "About every time she would see me, she'd hit me up about it, wanting me to move in."

Terry refused, and lived to tell the tale.


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