The first death at the boarding house occurred in 1982. Ruth Monroe expired due to an overdose of codeine and acetaminophen. Of course, police questioned Puente, but they had no reason not to believe her when she said that Monroe was depressed about her husband's terminal illness.
Monroe's death was ruled a suicide. She would not receive justice for six years.
Although murder seemed farfetched for the old woman, authorities did not find theft to be unreasonable. When 74-year-old Malcolm McKenzie accused Puente of drugging him and stealing his mail and belongings, the offender was jailed for three years.
In prison, she met Everson Gillmouth, a 77-year-old man who would become her next victim. After drugging and murdering Gillmouth upon her release, she hired Ismael Florez to build a "storage box" conveniently large enough to store a person. She asked him to drive her to a storage facility to store the box of "junk," but made him stop along the way to toss the box into a Sutter County River.
Florez may have never realized what was actually in the box, but a passerby sure did. He called the police when he saw the two dump the box into the river because it reminded him of a coffin. Sure enough, Gillmouth's decomposing remains were inside. Puente did not cease to collect his pension, and even wrote letters to his family to tell them he was ill.
Still, no one suspected Dorothea. Due to her money crimes, she was no longer allowed to be near the elderly, but parole officers never noted these violations when visiting her boarding house.
So, she was allowed to continue intercepting her tenants' mail before it reached them, only giving them small percentages and stealing the rest for what she claimed as "monthly expenses."
Theft is the bare minimum that Puente's tenants would experience. In several cases over the next few years, she drugged elderly and mentally disabled tenants until they overdosed with pharmaceuticals that she had swindled from local doctors.
She then wrapped their bodies in tarps and buried them in the garden under strangely-placed sheds and concrete slabs, all so she could cash their social security checks.