Sacramento’s Death House

This Halloween, we’re addressing the scary and spooky behind the scenes about senior living and care.  Care homes and facilities can be a concerning prospect, especially if you don’t know what to look for.  Our team understands the differences between room and boards, board and cares, assisted living and memory care communities.  We guide our clients and their families through the transition process with an informed, compassionate approach.  But what if there is no informed advocate for you?

Dorthea Puente is one of the most infamous Sacramento serial killers.  Between 1982 and 1988, Dorthea Puente killed at least 9 (some say up to 25) of her boarding house tenants and proceeded to collect their social security and pension checks.  Dorthea was seen as a sweet little old lady who’s boarding house was a great place for social workers to send some of their most challenging and vulnerable clients—the elderly, addicted, mentally ill, and other complex cases.  At the time, the very social workers trained to spot abuse and neglect were snookered by Dorthea’s unassuming presence.  In 1988 Dorthea was arrested when a sister of a missing boarder filed a missing person’s report.  Upon visiting Dorthea, the police unearthed 9 bodies buried in the backyard of her house, located at 1426 F. Street.  Neighbors had continually complained of a sweet and rotting smell from her yard, but no one knew it was bodies.  Dorthea was later convicted of 3 counts of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. 

While it’s been over 30 years since Dorthea Puente’s sinister reign, improper placement is still the largest gateway to senior human trafficking, medical and financial abuse, and improper or neglectful care.  The “Death House Landlady” is an extreme case of what can go wrong when seeking unregulated housing for seniors, like Dorthea’s home.  Our team vets care homes with in-person visits, accounts from our clients, and state licensing records.  So how can you be proactive in making an informed decision for you or your loved one?

Along with consulting a reputable placement agency [link to our blog about vetting], you can help protect yourself or your loved one by:

  • Check the Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services website.  Here, citations of all levels are tracked for reference.  You can search here.
  • Know when to ask for help from a senior living professional.
  • Tour the care community with a senior living professional.  Visit with residents, and speak to any family members.
  • Think long-term about senior care so you are not forced to make rushed, uninformed decisions.  This can lead to potentially very dangerous situations.
  • Ask as many questions as you can about care, daily activities, staff education and continual training.

If you need direction for where to start in your senior care search, give us a call at 916-990-1317.  Our team of experts is here to provide you and your family with the corrected information to make an educated decision.  To read more of the Dorthea Puente story, see this Sactown Mag article.