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Eight More Murder Counts Against Landlady

April 1, 1989

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ A former rooming house landlady, who was arrested when the bodies of seven tenants were unearthed in her front yard last year, has been charged with eight more counts of murder.

Dorothea Montalvo Puente was charged with the additional counts Friday, bringing to nine the number of elderly or disabled people the woman is accused of poisoning in order to get their Social Security checks.

Puente, 60, pleaded innocent to each of the charges before Municipal Court Judge John V. Stroud. She faces the death penalty if convicted. She previously had been charged with a single count of murder.

On Friday, the district attorney’s office added eight counts, including the seven buried bodies, a body found in a box along the Sacramento River and a former patient of Puente, who once worked as a nurse.

Investigators said all of the victims were Puente’s former tenants. They were killed over a three-year period, except for the nursing patient, who died in 1982 of an apparent codeine overdose.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Tim Frawley said authorities were also investigating the death of another patient nursed by Puente.

Kevin Clymo, Puente’s court-appointed lawyer, declined to discuss the case.

Puente has a record of state and federal criminal offenses, including a 1982 conviction for defrauding two elderly people and robbing and drugging a third.

She fled Sacramento last November when authorities began digging up human remains in the grounds of her Victorian boardinghouse. She was recaptured days later in Los Angeles and returned to Sacramento, where she has been held in the Sacramento County jail without bail.

Stroud set the preliminary hearing for Sept. 12.

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