What does a serial killer normally look like? Can we really even say? Some, like Richard Ramirez and Paul John Knowles, are handsome, with strong dark eyes that seem to peer into your soul and James Dean-like good looks that make you weak at the knees. Dennis Rader and Andrei Chikatilo had a look about them, one that surely should’ve been enough to make them seem suspect to those around them. Others, like Rose West and Robert Hansen, seemed more like the type of guy you’d expect to be living next door to, or sharing a pint with on a rainy Thursday night.
In truth, anyone you walk by on the street could be hiding a dark, dark secret.
But not that sweet old lady you used to see on the bus… surely not?
Here are seven of the most evil old ladies.
Sweet and innocent-looking, Dorothea Puente was 64 when she stood trial for murdering nine people, including a former lover. Puente, who has been dubbed the Death House Landlady, murdered elderly and mentally disabled lodgers that the police referred to as “shadow people”, those without friends and family that would notice they were missing. She gave her victims lethal doses of drugs and then cashed in their social security cheques.
Though she is thought to have started killing in 1982, it was on November 11th 1988 that her luck finally started to run out. Police called on Dorothea Puente to inquire about the disappearance of a tenant, Alberto Montoya, a developmentally disabled man with schizophrenia who had been reported missing by his social worker. Upon noticing disturbed soil on the property, the police began digging, eventually uncovering the body of Leona Carpenter (78).
Probably due to her age, Puente wasn’t considered a suspect during the initial investigation and was allowed to leave the property to buy a cup of coffee. She quickly fled to Los Angeles, where she made friends with an elderly resident. Soon, the pensioner recognised her from televised police reports and called the authorities, probably just in time to avoid becoming a victim as well.
Dorothea Puente was charged with a total of nine murders: that of her boyfriend, Everson Gillmouth (77), and eight tenants who at one point lived at her boarding house: Ruth Munroe (61), Leona Carpenter (78), Alvaro “Bert/Alberto” Gonzales Montoya (51), Dorothy Miller (64), Benjamin Fink (55), James Gallop (62), Vera Faye Martin (64), and Betty Palmer (78). It is thought that she may have killed at least six others.
Puente was convicted of three murders, and sentenced to two life sentences, only being spared the death penalty because of her age. She was incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California. It was there that she died at age 82 in March 27, 2011, having spent spent her final years always maintaining that all her victims had died of natural causes.
Before they were attributed to Barraza, the crimes that were committed were described by chief Mexico City prosecutor Bernardo Bátiz as the work of someone with “a brilliant mind” that was being “quite clever and careful”. Eventually nicknamed La Mataviejitas, The Old Lady Killer, by the press, she killed her victims, most of whom lived alone, by either strangling them or by bludgeoning them to death, before robbing them. Investigators believed that she may have posed as a government official, offering her targets the chance to sign up for welfare programs, before striking after gaining their trust.
Juana Barraza was arrested on January 25th 2006 when she was apprehended while fleeing the home of her latest victim, Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro (82), whom she had strangled with a stethoscope. Her arrest shocked many Mexicans, as most had assumed the killer to be male. Witnesses at previous murder scenes had described a “masculine looking woman” that police had assumed to be a transvestite. On her arrest she was found to closely resemble a composite sketch of the suspect, which showed La Mataviejitas as having close-cropped hair dyed blonde and a facial mole, and suggested that she would be carrying a stethoscope, pension forms and a card identifying her as a social worker.
Fingerprint evidence linked Barraza to at least ten of the more than forty murders that were attributed to the serial killer. She is said to have admitted to murdering Alfaro and three other women, but denied killing the others. On March 31st she was found guilty on sixteen charges of murder and aggravated burglary, including eleven separate counts of murder, and sentenced to 759 years in prison.
She is currently serving her sentence at the Penitenciaria Santa Martha.
HAZEL DULCIE BODSWORTH
Hazel Dulcie Bodsworth may not share a kill count that anywhere near competes with the previous two entries, but the fact that she had a reputation for baking cakes and delivering them to the local police station at least makes her a surprising candidate. Authorities eventually discovered that she had killed three men, including her husband; the father of her three children.
Bodsworth staged her killings so that they would look like accidents. Her first husband was made to look like he had accidentally drowned, and another of her victims perished in a house fire under strange circumstances. She attempted to kill her son-in-law by shoving him into a hole, but he was lucky enough to survive the attack.
The police finally caught up with her in 1964, when she was on the way to pick up her newly adopted son with her new husband, Henry William Bodsworth. She admitted guilt, and was sentenced by the court to life in prison. She only served fourteen years. Henry pleaded guilty to manslaughter of Bodsworth’s first husband, and served five years.
There’s more horrific tales to come on the next page.