SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A new play puts a spotlight on the psyche and motivation behind one of Sacramento’s most infamous serial killers, Dorothea Puente.
Paper flowers divide the Wilkerson Theatre, separating the audience from the actors and the real-life people they play. Standing at center stage Friday will be Dorothea Puente.
The innocent-looking Sacramento woman operated a boarding house in the 1980s and enjoyed gardening in her backyard. But while Puente gave life to the flowers that beautified her Victorian home, inside she was also taking life away.
“Nothing is ever black and white,” said Megan Cooper, the director of “Dorothea Puente Tells All.”
A jury convicted Puente in the 1990s of killing some of her tenants. Their bodies were found buried around her home on F Street, which has since become a historical landmark in Sacramento.
“There’s so much to learn about this,” said Ray Tatar, an artistic director with California Stage. “We have to learn about the good things in history and the bad things.”
After her tenants disappeared, Puente continued to cash in their social security checks, often gifting the money away.
“This woman was killing in order to make money so that she could spend it on other people in order to gain the love that she was missing in her life,” Cooper told FOX40.
She painted herself as a giver and a caretaker and used deception and manipulation to mask her darkness.
“There are people that she did wonderful things for who loved her and who were shocked,” Tatar explained.
“The jury refused to give the death penalty to somebody who looked like their grandmother,” Cooper said. “So she could get away with it because she could play the innocent victim.”
Puente lived the rest of her years in prison, dying in 2011 of natural causes at 82.
But while she is gone, the mystery surrounding her crimes lives on and is explored in “Dorethea Puente Tells All.”
“Her personality is something that we need to study,” Tatar said. “If you are wise to it, we could have stopped her years earlier and those people would still be alive.”
The story offers some clues inside the criminal mind of an unlikely killer and the missed red flags that allowed her garden turned graveyard to grow.
“There are Dorotheas among us,” Tatar said.
The show takes center stage this Friday and runs for about a month. However, tickets are already sold out, which speaks to the amount of interest still surrounding this case all these years later.