Authors: Sylvia Perrini
Tags: #Biographies & Memoirs, #Serial Killers, #Politics & Social Sciences, #Social Sciences, #Violence in Society, #Murder & Mayhem, #Nonfiction, #Retail, #True Crime
FILES OF FIVE
Copyright © 2012
All rights reserved.
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This book is for informational and entertainment purposes. Neither the publisher nor the author will not be held responsible for the use of any information contained within this book.
In researching this book, I gathered material from a wide variety of resources, newspapers, academic papers and other material both on and offline. In many cases I have referenced actual quotes pertaining to the content throughout. To the best of my knowledge the material contained is correct. Neither the publisher nor the author will be held liable for incorrect or factual mistakes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Dorothea Helen Puente, nee Gray, was born in Redlands, California on January 9th, 1929. Her parents Jesse James Gray and Trudy Mae Yates were cotton pickers, and Dorothea was their sixth child. Her father became terminally ill shortly after her birth and was in and out of hospital. Trudy Yates turned to drink and prostitution.
For the children, it was a living nightmare. Her father would suffer from serious suicidal depression and would threaten to kill himself in front of the children. In 1937
, when Dorothea was eight years old, her father died of tuberculosis, and the mother’s drinking spiraled out of control. She would often disappear for days leaving the children to fend for themselves. Social Services finally intervened in February of 1938. Dorothea and two other siblings were sent to an orphanage, the Church of Christ Home in Ontario, California until relatives from Fresno, California, took her in. While at the orphanage, Dorothea was sexually abused. They lived at the orphanage until Dorothea’s eldest brother James and his wife Louise took them to live with them. In 1938, her mother died in a motorcycle accident.
When she was older, Dorothea lied about her childhood, saying that she was one of three children who were born and raised in Mexico. She lied rather than admit the truth of her appalling childhood
, and lying became second nature to her. She claimed at one point in her life that she had been an American prisoner of war during the Second World War, had survived the infamous Bataan Death March (at the age of 13), and had witnessed the Hiroshima bombing. She also had claimed to others that the Swedish ambassador was her brother and that Rita Hayworth, the Hollywood actress, was a close acquaintance. These were just a few of the many fabrications she made up about her life.
In 1945 when Dorothea was sixteen and a particularly attractive girl
, she married twenty-two-year-old Fred McFaul, a soldier who had just returned from the Philippines. The marriage produced two daughters. One daughter went to live with Fred’s mother, and the other she had adopted. In 1948, Dorothea had a miscarriage. Shortly after this, her husband, much to her humiliation, left her. Fred had become weary of Dorothea’s constant lies and fabrications and her expensive tastes in clothes and silk stockings. Rather than admit the truth, Dorothea lied to friends and family that he had died of a heart attack.
Dorothea, now single, attempted to forge checks to help fund her expensive taste in clothes and silk stockings
. This career move was not a success as she was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison. After six months, she was paroled, became pregnant by a man she hardly knew, and gave birth to a daughter whom she gave up for adoption. In 1952, Dorothea married Axel Johanson, a Swedish merchant seaman. This was the beginning of a turbulent 14-year marriage. Axel would be away at sea for long periods of time and on many occasions when he came home he would find other men residing with Dorothea. Axel and his wife would then fight, separate, and then make up in a pattern that lasted throughout their marriage.
In 1960, Dorothea was arrested for prostitution in a downtown
, seedy, Sacramento house of ill repute and was sentenced to 90 days in the Sacramento County Jail. Following her release, she was arrested for vagrancy and sentenced to another 90 days in jail. Following her release from her second 90 days Dorothea found work as a nurse's aide, caring for disabled and elderly people in private homes.
In 1966, Dorothea divorced Axel Johansen. On February 23, 1968 when Dorothea was thirty-nine, she married a man nineteen years her junior, Roberto Puente. The marriage barely lasted two years. Following the marriage, she began operating "The Samaritans,” a half-way house for alcoholics. Dorothea
was married for the fourth and last time in 1976, at the age of 47, to Pedro Angel Montalvo, one of her tenants. Pedro was a 51-year-old laborer from Puerto Rico. This marriage lasted only a few months. He soon became unhappy with Dorothea’s spending and incessant lying. They had married in Reno, Nevada; on the wedding certificate, she had written her father’s name down as
and her mother’s maiden name as
. Dorothea had told him that she was a Mexican doctor and that she owned property in Mexico. After a month, he walked out on her but like her earlier marriage to Axel Johanson, they would argue, separate, and make up, a pattern that continued even after the divorce. The halfway house closed down after she accrued a $10,000 debt on the business and was found to have forged thirty-four checks she had taken from her alcoholic tenants. Dorothea was sentenced to five years probation. The judge also ruled that she should receive counseling; one psychiatrist who examined Dorothea thought that she was schizophrenic and in his opinion a "highly disturbed woman." While on probation, she continued to commit the same fraud by spending time in local bars looking for older men who were receiving benefits. She would then forge their signatures and steal their money. On occasion, she would drug their drinks and fleece them for what she possibly could.
Dorothea took over a three-story, spacious
, 16-bedroom care home at 2100 F Street in Sacramento, California. The neighborhood had, at one time, been the fashionable area of the state capital. Just two blocks away stood the former governor's enormous mansion. Since then, the area had depreciated and many of the once-fine and luxurious homes were now flophouses or boarded up. Here, Dorothea took in elderly and mentally disabled boarders and stole their social security checks. Sometimes she had as many as 30 boarders. Dorothea projected to her neighbors’ an air of respectability and of a hard-working landlady. Her house was clean with well-polished floors and efficiently well run.
In late 1981, when Dorothy dressed to the nines and in her high heel shoes
, dropped into one of her regular watering-holes the “Round Corner” she befriended Harold Munroe and his wife Ruth. During the course of the ensuing conversation, Ruth told Dorothea that she was seeking employment. Dorothea inquired whether she might be interested in investing in a restaurant with her. Dorothea explained that the owner of the “Round Corner” wanted to rent out the restaurant part of his bar at lunchtimes. Dorothea had said she wanted to take it over but needed a partner who could drive, as she didn’t. Ruth was excited and at the age of sixty-one said she wanted a new challenge. After hours of discussion, they agreed to go into business. Dorothea would run the kitchen, and Ruth would take care of handling supplies and transportation. Ruth withdrew the funds for her share of the partnership and handed it over to Dorothea.
Dorothea worked hard in the restaurant every day at lunchtime but within a short amount of time told Ruth that more funding was needed. Ruth handed over thousands of dollars to Dorothea. Ruth was distracted from the business as her husband Harold had become seriously ill. Early in 1982, Harold was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was confined to a hospital. Dorothea generously offered to let Ruth come and stay in her boarding house for free rather than fret at home on her own. Ruth leapt at the offer and on April 11
, 1982, with the help of her son’s, moved into Dorothea’s house. Just two weeks later, Ruth Monroe became sick with a mysterious illness. Her children came to visit her and were aghast at her appearance. Dorothea reassured them that she would take excellent care of their mother, telling them that she used to be a nurse. Then Dorothea, on the morning of April the 28
, phoned them to tell them their mother had died. The coroner’s report put the cause of death as an overdose of codeine and acetaminophen and judged the death a suicide.
The children were upset and could not believe their mother would commit suicide. They became even more suspicious when they discovered that Ruth’s bank accounts had been emptied and that a large quantity of her jewelry was missing.
Meanwhile, Dorothea’s other illegal activities had caught up with her and, in 1982, she was convicted of three counts of theft and sentenced to five years in the California Institution for Women at Frontera. One elderly man related to the court how she had drugged him, then ransacked his home, stealing his valuables, as he observed so stupefied he was unable to move or speak.
When Ruth’s children read of Dorothea’s arrest, they contacted the police and requested that they investigate their mother’s death. The investigation went nowhere, and the file, much to the frustration of Ruth Munroe’s children, just gathered dust.
While in prison, Dorothea started a correspondence with Everson Gillmouth, a seventy-seven-year-old man from Oregon. After serving three years, she was released on parole in 1985. Part of her parole conditions were that she was forbidden to have contact with the elderly and prohibited from handling government payments of any description that were issued to others. On her release, Everson was sitting outside the prison in a red 1980 Ford pickup truck waiting for her. He had left Oregon, telling his sister that he was going to marry Dorothea, and he had even gone so far as to make Dorothea a signatory on his bank account.
Everson drove Dorothea to 1426 F Street
, a blue and white two-story house. This was a house owned by Ricardo Ordorica, who she had become friends with when she ran her large boarding house. Ricardo and his wife visited Dorothea in prison and offered her the top apartment in his house on her release.
Dorothea and Everson moved into the apartment. Before long, Ricardo and his wife and children moved out of the first story into larger accommodation
s. Dorothea then took over renting the entire house. She began to renovate the first story to rent out to boarders. In November of 1985, she hired an ex-felon, Ismael Florez, from a halfway house to install some wood paneling in the apartment. Dorothea paid him $800 and gave him a red 1980 Ford pickup which she said her ex-boyfriend from Los Angeles no longer needed. Dorothea also requested that Ismael make her a 6 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet box for storage. A week later, Dorothea called Ismael and asked him to help her deliver the heavy and nailed-shut box to a storage depot. Dorothea sat beside Ismael in the truck and issued directions. As they were driving along in Sutter County, by the side of the Sacramento River, Dorothea told Ismael to pull over and unload the box “of junk,” as she called it on the river bank in an unauthorized household dumping site. The box sat there on the riverbank until early1986, when it was eventually found by a fisherman. Upon opening the box, it was found to contain a rotting corpse which was subsequently removed to the nearest city morgue. The corpse remained unidentified for three long years.
Once Dorothea had the first story renovated, she set up her boarding business, in complete violation of her parole conditions. She networked and contacted social services to let them know she was willing to take in
“difficult boarders,” the ones no one else were willing to take, the ones who needed a room and care. Many boarding houses refused to take people with alcohol problems or the mentally ill and for overworked and underpaid social workers, this could be a nightmare trying to accommodate such people. Within a short period of time, Dorothea had social workers calling on her asking her to house their homeless clients. Dorothea neglected to inform the social workers about her five prior convictions for doping and stealing from the elderly, and the social workers failed to conduct any checks on her.
The social workers who called saw that Dorothea had a fresh, clean house and didn’t mind taking in the
“difficult ones.” She appeared to be a respectable woman in her late fifties, but who looked closer to seventy, with her white hair and print dresses and apron. The house seemed homely, and there were always delightful aromas of homemade smells emanating from the kitchen. The garden was neat and well-tended with a vegetable patch. The boarders, for a fee of $350 a month, lived downstairs in their own private rooms equipped with televisions and were provided with two hot meals a day: breakfast and dinner. They were only allowed to venture upstairs to Dorothea’s quarters for meals.
The fact that her apartment was separate from the boarders is probably why the parole officers that checked on Dorothea failed to realize what she was up to. When they called, she charmed them and made them cups of tea and homemade cakes
, and it looked as if she was living in a small two bed-roomed apartment by herself.
To her neighbors, she seemed like a harmless, hard-working widow and small-time socialite. She attended church regularly in smartly tailored clothes and helped out at various charitable events. She was a supporter of the Mexican-American youth association and the police officers’ association.
day, Dorothea would rise at five in the morning and at the first light, she would be watering and sweeping her garden. She would have a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes on the table for her boarders at six. If any of the boarders needed medication, she would ensure they took it. She would meticulously jot down her boarders’ appointments with doctors, dentists, and social workers and made sure they kept their appointments. For the social workers, she seemed like a godsend. Dorothea served dinner at 4.30 sharp. The other rules that Dorothea was extremely strict about was that no one was permitted to touch or use the phone or handle the mail except her; and woe betide anyone who did. It was then the tenants would see the other side of their kind landlady: one with a gruesome temper, and she would threaten to throw them out on the street. The other rule Dorothea was extremely strict about was drinking on the premises. While she had a well-stocked drink cabinet for herself in her apartment, drinking by the boarders on the premises was strictly prohibited.