City Beat

Tours, documentary focus on Sacramento house of murderer Dorothea Puente

A stream of people tour Dorothea Puente’s former home  on Sept. 15, 2013.  Bodies were found buried in what is now the yard at left.
A stream of people tour Dorothea Puente’s former home on Sept. 15, 2013. Bodies were found buried in what is now the yard at left. Sacramento Bee file

Infamous serial murderer Dorothea Puente preyed on those in need, killing homeless residents staying at her downtown Sacramento boardinghouse and burying their bodies in the backyard. Now a documentary filmmaker and the home’s current occupants are trying to turn that evil into something good.

Puente’s former boardinghouse at 1426 F St. will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 12, with ticket proceeds benefiting the Francis House Center, a homeless services organization.

The tours coincide with the showing of a documentary at the Sacramento Film and Music Festival later that day about the lighthearted couple now living in the home.

“The House Is Innocent” by Los Angeles filmmaker Nicholas Coles premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and won the grand prize for best short documentary at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. It is scheduled to be shown at the Sacramento festival at 3 p.m. on Sept. 12.

The film focuses on Tom Williams and Barbara Holmes, who have lived at 1426 F St. for five years. They decorated the outside of the house with humorous signs, and their fun-loving attitude was featured in a 2012 Sacramento Bee article that inspired Coles’ film.

“With this film, the community is given an inside look at what it’s like to live at a notorious address and how Tom and Barbara use humor to cleanse the home of its macabre past,” Coles said. “It’s a fitting conclusion to a very dark moment in Sacramento history. The story of Dorothea Puente has come full circle: Now her house is being used for good, not evil.”

Puente ran a boardinghouse in the Mansion Flats Victorian in the 1980s. In 1988, police questioned her about the disappearance of a homeless man she had taken in. Investigators later discovered the remains of seven bodies in her backyard, and Puente was convicted of three counts of murder.

She died in prison in 2011.

“Terrible things happened at 1426 F St.; evil touched innocent lives,” Williams said. “Since then, the house has been regarded with darkness. In the face of that darkness, Nick’s film illuminates what Barbara and I knew immediately: the house was innocent. We hope the tour will enhance that feeling.”

Tickets for the tours are available at

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