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Tipster in Boardinghouse Murders Reunited With Family

December 9, 1988

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) _ A man’s role in helping police arrest a woman charged in a series of California boardinghouse murders led him to an emotional reunion Thursday with a son he hadn’t seen in more than three decades.

″This is the moment I’ve been waiting for for the last 32 years,″ Charles Willgues Sr., 59, said after embracing Charles Jr. at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. ″I’d always hoped, but I was about to give it up. You know the record by Frank Sinatra, ‘For Once In My Life?’ That’s what I’m experiencing right now.″

Two of Willgues’ daughters didn’t come to the airport to avoid publicity. He was to meet with them later.

″I’m just going to take this day-by-day,″ said 35-year-old Charles Willgues Jr. of Taylor.

Willgues’ children hadn’t seen their father since he left Michigan more than three decades ago. They say they might not have found him if he hadn’t helped police find a California murder suspect.

Willgues Sr. met Dorothea Puente in a Los Angeles bar last month, five days after she fled her Sacramento boarding house following the discovery of seven bodies on the property. He tipped off authorities and she was arrested.

A television reporter trying to locate Willgues after Puente’s arrest visited his old apartment, where there was a letter from Willgues’ youngest daughter, Debbie Sculley. She had traced her father to California, but didn’t know he had recently moved.

The reporter passed the letter on to Willgues and Taylor Police helped him get in touch with his family, leading to Thursday night’s reunion.

″I’m a little bit excited and a little bit confused,″ the younger Willgues said before the plane arrived. ″I mean, I haven’t seen my father in 33 years. I never really even knew him.″

The son, who drives a tractor-trailer for a Detroit trucking company, said he and his sister wrote the letter found by the reporter.

″We said: ’This is so-and-so, your long-lost son and daughter, and we’d like to get together sometime,‴ he said. ″If (the Puente case) had never come about, we might have never gotten together.″

The elder Willgues’ 34-year-old daughter, Linda, said earlier Thursday she was waiting for a private moment with her dad.

″I’m not going,″ she said of the airport trip. ″It’s just too public.″

A woman who identified herself in a telephone interview only as Willgues’ first wife said she was not anxious to see him again.

″He left when the kids were babies,″ she said. ″I don’t know why the kids are so anxious to see him. I guess it’s mostly curiosity.″

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