There are vulnerable people in society who the rest of us have a moral obligation to protect and defend from those who would take advantage of them or abuse them. Of course, we often fail. But when someone dedicates their life to helping these people who society has basically cast out, it is an honorable thing. This is a person we can all admire as selfless and kind. We may admire them so much that we overlook some ominous signs of exploitation.
Dorothea Puente ran a boarding home for disabled and elderly people who had nowhere else to go. Many of them were mentally ill and incapable of caring for themselves. She came across as maternal and selfless, cooking and cleaning for her boarders without complaint. But she had a temper. And, she had a criminal history.
The crimes in Dorothea’s boarding house were shocking and heinous, so much so that she would earn the moniker “Death House Landlady.” It would take time for anyone to notice that tenants were missing and to connect the horrible, sickly sweet odor of decomposition to their disappearances.
Today, we’re finding out how Dorothea Puente progressed from being a thief to a serial killer and how she got away with murdering the people who depended on her while cashing their checks and spending their social security benefits on clothing and booze. We’re calling this episode “Death House Landlady,” because we can, and because it neatly sums up this story.