Disturbed Ground: The True Story of the Arsenic and Old Lace Case

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She didn't look like anybody's idea of a serial killer. But she could change her appearance and personality with lightning speed. Celebrated as a great benefactress, sometimes she was the local Mother Teresa. As socialite, she was the playful Dorothea who danced with Governor Jerry Brown. In the dim light of her neighborhood bar, she was a very desirable, flirtatious older woman. Some were convinced she was an accomplished surgeon. To all, however, and especially to the unfortunates who flocked around her, she ...
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Overview

She didn't look like anybody's idea of a serial killer. But she could change her appearance and personality with lightning speed. Celebrated as a great benefactress, sometimes she was the local Mother Teresa. As socialite, she was the playful Dorothea who danced with Governor Jerry Brown. In the dim light of her neighborhood bar, she was a very desirable, flirtatious older woman. Some were convinced she was an accomplished surgeon. To all, however, and especially to the unfortunates who flocked around her, she was a paragon of generosity and compassion. How could someone so good be so bad? Dorothea Puente ran a boardinghouse on F Street in Sacramento, taking in the city's indigent and homeless. She fed them hearty meals, and tended her flock as if they were family. But when first one corpse, and then another, and another were dug up in her lovingly tended garden, it was clear that the genial landlady act disguised a psychopathic killer. Disturbed Ground takes the reader on a fascinating yet savage journey into the ingenious mind and deceptively warm heart of Dorothea Puente. Carla Norton has created a masterpiece portrait of a woman, her victims, and the epic trial of an American tragedy.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In August 1993, Dorothea Puente of Sacramento, Calif., charged with nine murders, was found guilty of three, with the jury hung on the other six. Norton ( Perfect Victim ) masterfully portrays a white-haired, grandmotherly woman who, affecting compassion for her city's mentally ill, alcoholics and other down-and-outers, ran a model boardinghouse known for its cleanliness and good food. She was finally unmasked as a killer motivated by greed for the Social Security and disability checks of her boarders. Concern on the part of social workers and employees of a detox center for a sweet, mentally slow drifter helped reveal the horror, and seven bodies were eventually dug up from Puente's yard. The most striking thing about Norton's book, besides the incomprehensible verdict which found the jury able to agree on just three of the murders, is its illustration of the contention that U.S. jurisprudence is concerned with winning, not justice, in allowing the other six murders to remain unresolved. Puente is now serving a life sentence. Photos not seen by PW . (June)
Sue-Ellen Beauregard
Dorothea Puente didn't fit the profile of a serial killer. The 70-year-old (or was she 55?), gray-haired woman ran a boardinghouse in Sacramento and seemed to truly care for the transients who made their home in her rented Victorian abode. So what if some of the residents mysteriously disappeared? Living on the fringe of society, they were barely missed. One boarder was a particular favorite of local social workers, however, and his disappearance caused concern. On a hunch, police began digging in Puente's backyard. They discovered nine rotting corpses. Unlike some true-crime tomes that start out strong but get bogged down in trial details, this book sails along through the lengthy trial and eventual conviction. Expect high demand.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688097042
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/21/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 415

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2014

    Hard to believe it's actually a true story!!

    I really enjoyed reading this murder mystery .. but it didn't hit me until I was half way through that it's actually a true story!!
    Norton did a great job of showing all sides of the social service system, from the hard working front line people to the mass of rules and regulations that often stymie assistance. She also shows the trouble that attorneys on both sides go through to plead their cases. She's incorporated a bit of detective with a bit of forensics with alot of personal angst to weave a great story.
    And all compounded by the fact that in the early 70s I lived just a few blocks down F Street in Sacramento where the "boarding house" is located.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    Great insight to a very disturbed woman. A great read.

    I was living in Sacramento while these crimes were committed. But they were not yet discovered. I lived on G Street, Doretha lived on E. I walked past both her homes many times during the 8 years I lived there. They mentioned many familiar places in the area that I lived. There have not been a lot of female serial killers through out the years. This book takes you into the mind of one. Great read , fast read and amazing insight on how one person can do as much damage as was done. And still claim victim stance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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