A mannequin dressed like the murderous Dorothea Puente was stolen over the weekend from the boardinghouse where she did her evil deeds.
The mannequin was dismembered and discarded, much like some of Puente’s victims. The clothed dummy was recovered Sunday but the thief made off with a replica of Puente’s trademark red coat. The mannequin was stolen from an upstairs porch.
“My opinion is that he wanted the coat, couldn’t get the coat off, so he dragged the mannequin out of there,” said Tom Williams, who owns the house with his wife, Barbara Holmes.
The grandmotherly Puente, who ran a boardinghouse in the rented two-story Victorian at 1426 F St., Sacramento, was convicted of killing her frail and elderly tenants, burying them in her yard and cashing their government assistance checks.
She was convicted of murdering three of her tenants, and sentenced to life in prison. A jury deadlocked on six other counts. She died in prison in 2011.
On a rainy day in November 1988, homicide Detectives John Cabrera and Terry Brown showed up at the house with Puente’s federal parole agent, Jim Wilson, and some shovels. They began digging in the backyard and Cabrera unearthed what he thought was a tree root. It turned out to be a human leg bone.
But on the second day of digging, as police were discovering a second body, Puente strolled away from the home wearing a red coat. She headed to Los Angeles as police launched a nationwide search.
She was eventually caught.
Current owners Holmes and Williams have extensively remodeled the home. The couple have kept a mannequin, dressed in the manner of Puente the day she disappeared, on their property since 2011.
The theft was captured on security camera. The thief first tried to wrestle the coat off the mannequin. A red coat had been stolen from the Puente mannequin before so Williams had attached this one with screws.
Eventually, the thief carted the mannequin down stairs, coat and all. The mannequin was found down the street near a trash can, minus the coat, a hand and some handcuffs.
“It looked like she had been murdered,” Williams said. “It was karma.”
Williams said his nephew believes the only appropriate next step would be to bury the mannequin in the front yard. But a makeover and some repair for a damaged nose are in the offing.
“My wife wants her put back up there,” Williams said. “So I have ordered a new coat and new hair.”
Detective Cabrera said Thursday that when he brought Puente back from Los Angeles, she was still wearing the red coat. It was booked along with her other personal property, including about $2,500.
“I believe the coat would have been released to someone of her choice after she went to prison,” Cabrera said. “The state gave her a new coat. However, I don’t think it was red.”
Cabrera theorized that the thief who took the replica coat might have believed it was the real deal.
“I would hope the police would step up patrol after the crime report was received,” Cabrera said. “This house is not only historical in Sacramento’s early history but is one of America’s most ‘infamous’ homes that is currently being lived in. Tom and Barbara have a right to feel secure on their property.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.