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The “Death House Landlady”: Dorothea Puente



If you think serial killers are suave, handsome, manipulative young men, think again because you’re about to meet, Dorothea Puente, the “Death House Landlady.”

Looking at Puente you wouldn’t think of her as a calculating murderer, but that is exactly what she was, taking the elderly and infirm into her boarding house where she would kill them, bury them in the yard, and steal their pensions and welfare checks.

The “Death House Landlady”


Puente was born in the small community of Redlands California in 1929. Before she was 10 her parents passed away and she was sent to an orphanage. At 16 she married a military man and had two children; one she sent to live in Sacramento, the other was put up for adoption.

The marriage failed after Puente had a miscarriage.

Dorothea Puente’s criminal activities started early in her twenties after she was caught forging checks, a crime that landed her a six-month jail sentence.

She went from fraud to prostitution. In 1960 she was arrested for running a brothel and spent another 90 days behind bars.

Her last name comes from her second marriage to a much-younger Roberto Puente in 1966.

Perhaps on a path to do better, Puente began caring for the elderly as a nurse’s assistant. From there she started managing boarding houses.

Three failed marriages later and Puente was finally in charge of her own facility, a two-story, 16 room Victorian-style home located on F Street, just a stone’s throw away from Sacramento.

Boarding only the most difficult cases–men and women with mental health problems or drug addictions–Puente’s house had a reputation among social workers for accepting their hardest cases.

Tenants ranged in ages from 52 to 80 and often needed to have their social security checks cashed for them; a task Puente was happy to do. Little did they know what the old lady was really up to.

Puente was getting potent tranquilizer prescriptions from a psychotherapist which she would secretly administer to her tenants before killing them. She continued to cash their checks post-mortem.

A corpse found in Dorthea Puente's yard.

A corpse found in Dorthea Puente’s yard.

Her victims didn’t have close friends or family so their disappearances went unnoticed. One of her victims remained unidentified for three years.

The killing spree ended in 1988 after a social worker approached Puente about one of her boarders, Alberto Montoya, who had mysteriously gone missing. In her investigation, the social worker discovered that the boarding house was unlicensed and reported the missing Montoya to the police.

In an effort to cover her tracks, Puente told the police that Montoya had taken a vacation, but in their inquiry, the officers noticed something strange; some of the earth around the property looked peculiar.

The “Death House Landlady”

The “Death House Landlady”

At the behest of Puente, and since she wasn’t a suspect, officers let her leave the house and go buy a cup of coffee. But she ended up escaping to Los Angeles instead.

When all was said and done there were seven corpses found buried in the yard including that of 78-year-old Leona Carpenter.


(Courtesy of The Sacramento Archives)

Back in Los Angeles, a man recognized Puente from news reports and called the police department. She was flown back to Sacramento to stand trial.

“I used to be a very good person at one time,” she told law enforcement at the time.

The court case wouldn’t get underway for another five years for various legal reasons.

During her trial, Puente’s lawyers deemed the 64-year-old woman as a sweet grandmother type. They said she might be a thief but not a calculating murderess.

Over 300 witnesses disagreed. Prosecutors asserted that this sweet woman drugged her tenants and suffocated them. Not able to bury them herself, she hired ex-convicts to do it for her.

The drug Dalmane, a sedative-hypnotic agent used for insomnia, was found in “all seven of the exhumed bodies,” according to the website All That’s Interesting.

After three days of deliberation, Dorothea Puente was charged with three counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Puente wasn’t an altruistic caregiver at all,  but one of the most “cold and calculating female killers the country had ever seen.”

Dorothea Puente died a prisoner much like she kept her innocent victims. Only her death was in a real prison where she eventually died of natural causes, unlike the defenseless people she robbed. She was 82.

Up until her death, Puente maintained she was innocent.

Puente’s former house will be featured on the reality series “Murder House Flip.”

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Netflix Doc ‘Devil on Trial’ Explores The Paranormal Claims of ‘Conjuring 3’



What is it about Lorraine Warren and her constant row with the devil? We may find out in the new Netflix documentary called The Devil on Trial which will premiere on October 17, or at least we will see why she chose to take on this case.

Back in 2021, everyone was holed up in their homes, and anyone with an HBO Max subscription could stream “Conjuring 3” day and date. It got mixed reviews, maybe because this wasn’t an ordinary haunted house tale that the Conjuring universe is known for. It was more of a crime procedural than a paranormal investigative one.

As with all of the Warren-based Conjuring movies, The Devil Made Me Do It was based on “a true story,” and Netflix is taking that claim to task with The Devil on Trial. The Netflix e-zine Tudum explains the backstory:

“Often referred to as the ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ case, the trial of 19-year-old Arne Cheyenne Johnson quickly became the subject of lore and fascination after it made national news in 1981. Johnson claimed that he murdered his 40-year-old landlord, Alan Bono, while under the influence of demonic forces. The brutal killing in Connecticut drew the attention of self-professed demonologists and paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, known for their probe into the infamous haunting in Amityville, Long Island, several years prior. The Devil on Trial recounts the troubling events leading up to Bono’s murder, the trial, and the aftermath, using firsthand accounts of the people closest to the case, including Johnson.”

Then there’s the logline: The Devil on Trial explores the first — and only — time “demonic possession” has officially been used as a defense in a US murder trial. Including firsthand accounts of alleged devil possession and shocking murder, this extraordinary story forces reflection on our fear of the unknown.

If anything, this companion to the original film might shed some light on just how accurate these “true story” Conjuring films are and how much is just a writer’s imagination.

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True Crime

After Nearly A Decade, A Suspect Has Been Arrested For The Long Island ‘Gilgo Beach’ Murders



Back in 2010, the missing person case of Shannan Gilbert ended up leading officials to a horrific discovery. 11 bodies were found. The suspect Rex Heuermann, 59, was officially arrested Thursday and was charged with the 3 murders of 3 women named Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Megan Waterman, 22, and Melissa Barthelemy, 24.

He has also been named the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to the 3 charges of 1st-degree murder and 3 charges of 2nd-degree murder against him. The judge ordered him to be held without bail.

Suspect Mugshot taken at Suffolk County Police Department

A chaotic, chilling 911 call ultimately led to the discovery of these victims. Shannon Gilbert, 24, called frantically stating “Something is going to happen to me … there’s somebody after me… please”. The search for her ended 8 months later but while looking for her body they found the remains of other victims who were women over the next couple of days.

Law enforcement search on Oak Beach back in 2011 provided by Andrew Gombert

“Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks amongst us, a predator that ruined families” is what was said by Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison on Friday. He stated that “Even with this arrest, we’re not done. There is more work to do in this investigation regarding the other victims of the Gilgo Beach bodies that were discovered” Some of the remains were found as far back as 1996.

According to court documents, they stated that the suspect would search for updates in the investigation. He would search for images of the victims and their families. He also searched “Why hasn’t the long island serial killer been caught” and updates on the investigation.

Suspect selfies provided by Suffolk District Attorney

One of the pieces of evidence used to connect him to the murders includes burner phones that were used to contact the sex workers and then discarded after they were killed. An email that was used with these burner phones was linked to thousands of searches that were related to sex workers, sadistic torture-related pornography, and child pornography. The burner phones were tracked to Massapequa Park, which is where the suspect lives.

Some more evidence being used to link him to these murders was strands of hair. A hair was found in a burlap bound on one of the victims and was tested to be a DNA match to the suspect. It was found to be a match based on a DNA sample retrieved from a crust in a pizza box that was discarded. Another strand of hair found on 3 of the victims was tested and belonged to suspect’s wife. It has been stated that they believe that it fell off the suspect’s clothing. According to the court filing, she was out of the state at the time these 3 murders took place.

Pizza crust evidence discovered in trash provided by Suffolk District Attorney

Another piece of evidence was provided by a witness that stated that they had seen a Chevrolet Avalanche being driven by a man with one of the victims inside. It was later discovered that a Chevrolet Avalanche was registered to the suspect.

Images of the 4 victims suspect is convicted of murdering provided by Suffolk County Police Department

The 11 victims include 10 adult females and one female toddler. Some of the other victims were named Jessica Taylor, Valerie Mack, and Shannan Gilbert. They were all females in their 20s. Of the four victims that been connected to the suspect, they were similar as they were all sex workers and petite. It was also stated that the crime scenes had similarities as the victims were found bound at the head, and that their midsection and legs were covered with a camouflage burlap.

All the victim’s remains were found near Gilgo Beach. More specifically near Ocean Park across a stretch of highway between Nassau and Suffolk county. Six of the victims were found less than a mile apart from each other. Some remains that were partly found on Fire Island, are still unknown. Not all the names of the victims have been released as of this moment.

Image of where victims were found provided by New York Post

Some neighbors said they were shocked to find out that Rex Heuermann was the suspect in this case. He is married and has 2 children. They were described as loners, but everyone was friendly. He had been an architect for Manhattan since 1987.

One neighbor Devilliers told the news station “We’ve been here for about 30 years, and the guy’s been quiet, never really bothers anybody. We were kind of shocked, to tell you the truth.” He later stated, “Like I said, we’re shocked. Because this is a very, very quiet neighborhood. Everybody knows each other, all of our neighbors, we’re all friendly. It’s never been a problem at all”.

Image of neighbors and townspeople provided by AP

Other neighbors weren’t so optimistic. Neighbor Libardi says, “This house sticks out like a sore thumb. There were overgrown shrubs, there was always wood in front of the house. It was very creepy. I wouldn’t send my child there.” Neighbor Auslander stated “It was weird. He looked like a businessman. But his house is a dump.”

If convicted on the current charges, the suspect would serve several life sentences. The case is currently still ongoing. We give our condolences to the families of the victims through this difficult time. What are your thoughts on this case? Let us know in the comments below. You can also check out news reports on this case below.

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Forget ‘Christine,’ The Black Volga is the Real Demon Car



In 1983 Stephen King released his possessed American automobile horror novel Christine but years before that the Black Volga was terrorizing the streets of Poland and some think it’s not a construct of horror fiction. But to understand why, we need to do a small history lesson. Don’t worry it’s a painless micro-learning moment.

In the 1930s central Europe was, let’s just say, in crisis. Poland was hit pretty hard by the Nazis and the Soviet Union, each taking up two different territories. The Nazis wanted all Poles killed while the Soviets wanted them deported (and subsequently killed). It was a very tumultuous time.

Once the war was over (the Polish resistance helping defeat the Germans), a new age was born; the Communist era. Forgoing a long explanation of political hijinx, there were organizations called the “secret police” that helped keep autocrats, or politicians with supreme power in office. One of these forces was called the NKVD. Their job? Political repression.

Between 1952 and 1989 Poland was ruled by a communist government. What does this have to do with a demonic car you ask? Well, the Soviet-led NKVD would oversee the manufacturing of the Black Volga (black paint was cheap to use) and utilize them in their patrols, terrifying citizens.

But some believe the Devil himself got a hold of one of these cars in the ’60s and ’70s and cruised the ghettos for children and unsuspecting adults. The urban legend says that the Devil himself would pull up alongside someone and ask for the time or something conversational, then kill them where they stood.

‘Black Lightening” 2009

The Black Volga would also have a license plate with the number “666,” some also say it had curtains in the windows too. The only way to escape the demonic driver was to say “It is God’s Time,” and the vehicle would simply vanish. Some stories claim that the driver wouldn’t kill you on the spot, but tell you that you would die at the same time the next day.

Another, perhaps more realistic yet conspiratory version of the tale says the cars would do as above, but it wasn’t the devil in the driver’s seat, but KGB agents who would abduct children and steal their blood and organs for the Western black market.

A 1973 movie was made of this version of the story called, appropriately, Black Volga. Upon the movie’s release in Poland, it was quickly banned.

During filming, the director, Patryk Symanski, wanted to use a real black Volga, but he couldn’t because frightened townsfolk, upon seeing the car, refused to leave which made shooting on location an impossibility. In the end, Symanski never made another film, blaming Black Volga for being cursed. Did they cover that fact in the Shudder doc?

Another, more superhero-type movie that has nothing to with the legend, but features the Volga is called “Black Lightening” from 2009. Think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang meets Transformers meets Green Lantern.

This legend has withstood the test of time and it is known as far away as Mongolia. In yet another version of the tale, cultists would use the car to scour the streets for children to use in blood sacrifices.

As with most urban legends and creepy tales, The Black Volga is probably something made up as a metaphor for the bleak times in Eastern European history. But the fact that so many people are still frightened of its presence makes you wonder which version of this urban legend scared them the most.

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