The story begins with Bert, a gentle, unassuming street person who mumbled to himself and talked to trees. He wasn't an alcoholic, but he hung out at a detox center in Sacramento, where a volunteer named Judy took an interest in him. Judy was overjoyed when she found a home for Bert with a silver-haired grandmother, Dorothea Puente, who ran a tidy boarding house in a blue-and-white Victorian. Little did Judy know that Puente (just one of the woman's many aliases) would soon become her obsession. By the end of the story, Bert has disappeared, and the cops are digging up seven corpses from the backyard of the boarding house. Author Carla Norton (Perfect Victim) skillfully unfolds the many-layered character of this classic Arsenic and Old Lace-style serial killer: "At the pinnacle of her fame and glory, Dorothea was like a junkie with a philanthropic habit... Everyone dipped into her pot and benefited from her largesse." She was ultimately tried on nine counts of murder, and sentenced to death. DISTURBED GROUND-Carla Norton
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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You are now listening to true murder, the most shocking killers and true crime history and the authors that have written about Gacy, Bundy Dahmer, the night Stalker Dck every week, another fascinating author talking about the most shocking and infamous killer crime, history, room murder, with your host journalist and author Dan good evening. The story begins with bird, a gentle, unassuming ST person who mumbled to himself and talk to trees. He wasn't an alcoholic, but he hung out at a detox center in Sacramento
loyalty is all about being there day in day out the AAA thanks you for being there with loyalty rewards like when you get savings on AAA Auto insurance, just for being a AAA member, and when you switch to AAA auto insurance, you could save more based on how long you've been a AAA member and how long you've had your current insurance insurance. That's not just insurance learn more about AAA. Auto insurance and loyalty rewards click now or visit triple a dot com. Slash insurance, where a volunteer named Judy took an interest in him. Judy was overjoyed when she found a home for bird with a silver haired. Graham, mother, Dorothea Puente, who ran a tidy board. House in a blue and white victorian did Judy know that went to a just one of the woman's many aliases would soon become her obsession by the end of the story. Bird has disappeared in the cops, are digging up, seven corpses from the back
yard of the boarding house, author, Carla Norton, author of perfect victim skillfully unfolds the many layered character of this classic arsenic and old lace style serial killer pinnacle of her fame and glory. Dorothea was like a monkey with a philanthropic habit. Everyone dipped into a pot and benefited from her largess she was ultimately tried on nine counts of murder, an sentence to death the book that were featured, featuring this evening is disturbed ground with my special guest listen, author, Carla Norton, welcome the program and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Carla Norton, thank you and thanks so much for having me thank You. Finally, we have you on and we're going to be able to talk about to really really good books,
disturbed ground and then later we will talk about your classic best selling book. Perfect victim is an amazing book that I just discovered this year, an will be. To share a little bit about that story and that incredible book a little bit later now basic The one of the questions I asked often before, without giving any really any. Story away, tell us Why you decided to write about this story? Why this story was compelling to you? I think when I first heard about it, I it was one of those stories that you just don't believe, because here was the the capital of Sack of California, Sacramento right. Downtown in this charming little. You know victorian house. They started digging up bodies and when the story broke, Dorothea Puente.
Flood town. They didn't know where she was and they proceeded to on earth seven bodies from her boarding house garden. It was such a bizarre story that I I just couldn't get my head around it and when I started looking into it, I began I understand kind of the the softer human element and how it was that this professional con who been getting away with murder, literally for years and years and years was finally caught, and I just thought this is an amazing story. Somebody is going to write about it and it could be me so I just dove right in.
Yeah you have great instincts to in terms of the the human side that you would be able to uncover and be to basically convey in this book here and and you in you pay you, you paint a very vivid portrayal of how this happened. First, of course, with Bergman Toria tell us about Birdman Toria this is an incredible story, and- and I I and I like that, you put it at the beginning of the book and re- we really got to see to see who, but my toys so tell us a little bit about want to well. He was a very unlikely fellow to be staying in a detox center. He clearly had mental problems. And was a very gentle soul. He literally would give you the shirt off his back. He would help the maintenance guy paid the tables if he fat,
only some money. He would turn it in. He was just a very mild mannered fellow, but he had you know issues he would speak to the trees. He thought they were spirits. Talking to him, he was, he didn't really speak English very well. In fact, for years people didn't think you spoke English at all But what was interesting about bird is that Dorothea made a mistake in targeting him because most The people that she to Inter Boarding house and then later killed where people I didn't have family checking on them and even Albert didn't have family. He did he have a social worker Judy Maurice who was attached to him and so Burt was they kind of have a bad choice for a victim, but let me give you a little bit of history. First of all,
because that thing about Dorothea is that she had been a con artist, all her life since the very young age and I like to see, If she'd been bad, smelling, bearded and tattooed, she wouldn't have gotten away with this. For so, long, but she was a wow haired, lady, who live but she was also than she was. She told people she was. Seventy I am without her teeth with her pale pale ski janitors snowy white. Here she could look seventy, but in fact she was like fifty nine when she was arrested, and so she played the little old lady roll and no one would have suspected that she was um, praying upon these meeting people if she would meet them in a bar and bite them into a boarding house find out how much they were getting for their various
Curity disability, pension checks whatever and and select her victims. Well, you say how could she possibly do that, though, unlike other people that have pulled this ruse before taken men and then people that no one's checking on them? What was the treatment of the of the people before we get to the Burke, especially but what is the treatment at this boarding house? What was the atmosphere that was there for anybody that would have come by and an spent a few hours? What would they have seen? Well, Dorothea was uh wonderful Chameleon and she played the part extremely well all of the most benevolent landlady, you can imagine, she ran a tip top ship. She cooked big meals, generous meals for all of her borders. She liked she liked
the reputation of being very generous person, and she would or nicely calendar make sure everybody was going to the doctor at the proper time, arrange for rides for them and she also all all the medication in the household and she controlled the mail. So if, once but he started getting their checks delivered to the house. She was the only one who could open the mailbox and and then she would have them sign over their checks to her, and ultimately, after they were deceased, she continued receiving their checks because she buried him in the yard. Nobody know new they were gone and she would sign him herself over to her she'd. Take them down to the car, Did Joe's corner bar where she was well known and he would cash the checks at a bank and bring back thousands of dollars to her every month,
she had a really a seamless con going and she went to church every Sunday. She was very generous again at the bars local bars. She would sit it certain corner and chat some some Clearly, fellow who was in need of a place to live an by GOSH, she had a place in her boarding house that had just opened up, and wouldn't you like to come and see and it was, you know clean well run. There were no guns being hold on anyone. It wasn't noizy. She made sure that people got up early. If you, if you miss prep, when you didn't get to eat, so she would get up very early in the morning and make breakfast before that she would be gardening. And she did have a remarkably beautiful rose garden.
We know now that it was a very well fertilized rose garden, but she. She ran things amazing, Koeman, and even when neighbors would complain about. Sometimes there would be an odor. She would complain about it too. I don't know where that's coming from. I think that's the neighbor over there, so she is kind of at all, but she was able to pull this off for so long, even her name on the line Dorothy appointed, she pretended that she was Mexico and that she was. One of eleven children that they called her. Think of the family wanted. In fact she was just you know. I southern californian orphan at a very young age, um, Dorothy Helen Gray was initially her name and so she you know everything about her.
Was a layer, an another layer to layer on top of that of a false identity. Now part of the rules is that cheap you said she handled the medication, but she also tried to pass yourself off as a doctor as a retired nurse, as a retired doctor what were some of the other aliases or did she just limiter self, the medical and we all false medical background. Well, this is what was so I interesting about her is that she was able to read people. So if you were very bright, she wouldn't try to pretend that she was a doctor, or if she was going to be around you a long time. She you know she would read. You then figure out what would work for you? She might say she was a medic. She was in the military. She wants it next to a pharmaceutical salesman for an hour.
In a bar and talk to him about medications, and he convinced him. She was a doctor. She would you know, credit her lavish gifts on being a retired surgeon to some people years before that she I think she was kind of a in the hispanic community had been known kind of healer. But if you had the flu or toothache or something Dorothea can fix you up and she was known as La Doctora and in fact she would host a table at the charity ball and at one point then Governor Jerry Brown, who was now again, California's governor recognized her an crossed the room to kiss her cheek and ask her to dance because she had such a reputation. Of being a very charitable individual within the community, so yeah,
which is kind of phenomenal. She, like I say she went to church regularly Then she would go from the church almost directly to the bar. She also she didn't drive and She had a taxi driver that she often called, and the taxi driver would take her to the What do you call the hardware and lumber store? gardening and she buy gardening supplies. Soil and lime and plants and all kinds of things for her garden. So she was busy. And she even the medications that she cashed or that she had subscript prescriptions for were under two different names, as well as the names of the various people that had lived in her house
so she was that she had. I identification. I think they found driver's licenses in five different names for Dorothea after she was arrested. But in fact her life I started when she was very young, and I found that one of the most fascinating things about the trial which she was is a young teenager. She went to school in Napa for a short time. She was living in with an older brother and she told the other kids that she was portuguese. Exchange student, and so she had a little trouble with English, but that she was a mathematical genius and they were so fascinated by her. They wrote an article about her for the school newspaper and when the ministration should read that, of course they were bad because they knew she wasn't exchange student. So these wild fabrications started when she was quite young.
Did she have any criminal background? Did she have any contact with psychiatrists or psychologists at that time of any detail? This is yeah. This is what's so interesting about Dorothy's, She actually has she had a long criminal background and apparently was a prostitute for at a young age and then She actually had gone to prison, so she was an ex con when she was arrested. She shouldn't have been running a boarding house because she was prohibited by her parole from running a boarding house. She shouldn't have been administering medications to anyone, because what she had done before was that she had passed her off herself off as a home health care nurse, and so then she would be taken care of someone who was sick and elderly and she stole their jewelry
she stole their checks and they testified against her. So then she learned that If you leave them alive, you're in danger of going to prison, because during that say, in creative time she actually committed her first murder- and this is the one that's the most interesting to me, because Ruth Monroe will leave to the Dorothy was her friend, but two of them went into business together and they were running a restaurant, while Ruth Monroe was the one that was putting up the money and large amounts of cash for then disappearing. Anne Ruth Monroe had a family who would did come and check on her Ruth and Dorothea became roommates and when Ruth fell ill. Her family was very concerned about her, but zero was taking care of her. She assured them that roof is going to be fine. She was taking care of her and
the children went home and then Ruth died, um very early in the morning. I think it about five hundred am and Dorothea called an ambulance and said that her friend had a heart attack and When you have an older, overweight woman. Living with another older woman. You don't imagine that it's a murder scene, and so they took her off and did the autopsy found that it was not a heart attack that she had died from a drug overdose and, of course by then there was no crime scene. This was two weeks later, I believe, and then
you have two choices: it's either suicide or it's murder, so they decided it was suicide in the family never accepted that. But at about that time, Dorothea was arrested and put in prison for drugging and robbing other people who then testified against her. So she had a period in pot of time while she was in prison to think about her mistakes and when she got out. That's when she started committing more murders. In fact, when she was tried, she was tried on nine murder counts sound on seven. There were the seven bot found in the yard, but prior to that there was Ruth Monroe. And then the reason I charming older gentleman who wanted to marry her who broke her while she was in prison. I'm sorry your request out what was that? What the question I didn't want to oppose was when the police found when they did the autopsy, what drug was used to kill a ruse? Monroe and what drug was then used in the
when she drug the her other victims. Oh that's a very good question. Well, She used to see the medicine and Not everyone realizes that tylenol, which is acetaminophen, is deadly when used in combination to excessive alcohol and it's a rather prolong to death, but it affects your. I can't remember. I think it's your kidneys that shut down and so she basically poisoned are over a period of time, giving her cream immense to drink along with high doses of tylenol, and yeah and Dorothea among her belonging. She had a guide to pharmaceuticals, but was interesting because the seven people that were unearthed from her yard and let
talk about them for what she ran, a sporting house. She would meet someone, they would move in. She would take excellent care of them, everyone would be selling process and then they would simply disappear, and a lot of these people were alcoholic somewhat itinerant. I had very little, you know in terms of means they were retired, didn't have jobs, so there was no one to miss them, they didn't have family and if they disappear, very few people came asking questions and if they did well people wandered off all the time. So you know she would say I don't know where you know getting Wentz. You know she was here and now she said she was going to up to Oregon. She just make something up and she would then give away their clothes to charity and bring some one else well in the meantime, she so she was always kind of,
caring for someone else to be brought into her layer and what she did was so clever because she would have these workers come to the house. And one thing I found fascinating was the incredible charisma, that she had an connections. Where did she get these workers from ironically they were right out of prison. They were halfway house workers, you know when they've been discharged in there on parole and with these people she swore up a blue streak. I mean she she could. She was an ex con. She know how to talk to those people as well She paid the chicken and she told them, and she told him that he told him listen. I can empathize with you guys, because I did a stint in prison too. Yeah so it didn't matter who you know what rank someone was she could she would
suede them that she was. You know, uh had a lot in common with them. She would tell people that you know she was hispanic if they were hispanic. She always found some common ground in some way too. Some way to somebody where you were asking about their medications. Everyone. Every time someone came to her house. She basically collected their medicines from them. So even if they weren't around anymore, she would still have a supply, and it was very difficult during the trial for the prosecutor to prove that she had murdered these people because they were so decomposed, and that was a really key part of the trial. When you have ill people who have
heart conditions and diabetes and are alcoholic and all you know you name it. They had all kinds of medical medical conditions. How do you prove that they were murdered? Well, it was very interesting and I actually have a graph in the back of the book that one of the drugs that Dorothy had two prescriptions four and a big stash of with the downing and down main when it's administered very quickly, catalyzes into a different chemical compound. So if someone has taken out within twenty four hours a day, yeah, it's a there's a marker, you can tell that they took it within twenty four hours of the time they were killed and all of the bodies. Exhumed had some residue of domain in their system,
which proved that they've been administered that drug shortly before their death, whether or not they'd ever had prescription for domain right right now she knew her drugs She newer drugs, but she used the whole combination of things and I believe that she also used alcohol. You know that she would mix things into an alcoholic beverage and say drink. This it'll make you feel better. The prosecutor positive that once they were knocked out that she may have been smothered them, uh And then she had to have had helped to bury them in the yard. I believe, but she wasn't really
position to say I didn't do it, but he helped me yeah now, there's there's a good reason. We've alluded to it that you include Burke so prominently in this book and I'm really glad that you did because sometimes just by virtue of accessibility, you you don't really have
axis, like you did with this person with this gentleman, he's very important, obviously, because it leads to the discovery of this little old grandmother, a woman who is connected all through town and is known as this great philanthropic, philanthropic, nice, lady, so tell us about Birdman toy we're and get back to where Judy is in his life, takes a liking to Burke and and the incredible journey that he goes through and and the great effort from this good Samaritan Judy and her and bass and a couple other people would tell us about that incredible journey of Bert from in this story. Well, I'm glad you ask about him because Bert was unusual and, like I say in that he was not,
Alcoholic but he was staying in a detox facility that was run by the volunteers of America. We just simply called detox, but it was a big corrugated metal shed or warehouse almost with fluorescent lights, that can sleep up to sixty men and they just had vinyl mounts on the floor, a big open room and run by good hearted people and on on sundays they would take busloads of them to church and they had, I believe they had coffee- and you know some minor breakfast in the morning, but most of the people, then we go home. Burt was one of the few that would come back every night. He wouldn't do
They call the walk and he would walk from the volunteers of America in the morning to a soup kitchen. I think two miles away and and the the end up back at the ways to detox again at night and Judy Maurice worked there. She started working there and she her job was to get hold people off the street. She would. Find people that maybe they were schizophrenic and they were taking their meds and they just needed some help to get back into some kind of more wholesome situation. But the problem with Burt was that he didn't have any id and
and many people feared that he was illegal and that he would be deported, but he communicated to her that he was american and that he was born in Costa Rica, but he had immigrated, and so she set about trying to find his social security card and it took for months and months of letters in writing and finally, she did find those great card. The reason that was important was it that he could get some benefits, and that meant he could move out of this very uncomfortable warehouse and into an actual home, and then she started searching around and Dorothea came with very high recommendations. I mean There was not, and there aren't many people that take you know the whole and basically homeless, mentally ill people burnt was not an especially at three.
Active man. He was unkempt and Dorothea took him under her wing. She are cleaned them up. She bought him clothes he started becoming more verbal. She got him to take his medication and one day Judy voice came over and she was astonished that he initiated a conversation with her and said. How are you doing? I heard you were sick, and that was so unlike him because he used he was very shy and he would just kind of mumble and hang out in the background he actually called Dorothea Mama and she took pride. She was always padding him and and talking about how well he was doing, and so he seemed to be the textbook case of you know what could happen if someone were put in the in the right situation, but then something happened,
that in retrospect was really ominous around this time. Judy moist was busy with other things and she wasn't checking regularly on Burt. She has a son who has a mental disability and she had lots of her own problems and she was working, but during this time I think perhaps Berthia saw her window of opportunity. This is also about that. I'm one of her other tenants again faint, disappeared and then inexplicably, Burt left Dorthy's walked all the way across town and went back to the volunteers of America, shelter the detox shelter an he spoke to a friend of his there
really understand why he'd come back and he said he didn't want to go back to Dorothy and his friends had. But one day I mean you have your own room, you have a bed, you have hot meals served to. You got a tv in your room. I mean bird will be a. Why would you want to be restored yeah and didn't articulate really what his concern was? He he, he seems, I'm happy, but this worker just couldn't understand he thought. Maybe he was lonely or whatever, but he he was convinced that there was no way that couldn't possibly be happy back in this corrugated metal shelter
with a bunch of snoring drunks when he could have his own room in his own bed and clean clothes. So he took him back. He drove him back to Dorothy's Ann Burt stopped him. He asked him to stop and leave having dropped off about a block before the house, because he was afraid Dorothea would be mad if she saw him draw, and now this other fellow's car- and that was the last time I saw him at training- does name, I think his name is Chuck or Charlie. And- and he was quite I won't say tearful, but you know regretful later when he realized that that that was the last
Robert and with the and are a couple of months from now the purpose gone, and now that was when all the dominoes started to fall because Judy stopped by to visit Burt. You know I haven't seen him for awhile Dorothea how's, he doing and Dorothea said well he's in Mexico visiting my family. Yes, I took him to Mexico and they liked him so much. They asked him to stay and if perhaps, if Dorothy had come up with a better store, she would have gotten away with this, but Judy insisted that he would not be would not be ok in Mexico and no matter how generous are relatives were he couldn't be getting his so security checks and he needed to come back to the states and Dorothea then promised? Oh, yes, yes, I'll bring him back I'll, bring back, he'll, be back
next week and when you came back next week, he wasn't there and she made other story, and when this went on Judy said well, I'm going to have to call the police and Dorothy said no, no, no, no I'll go down and get it myself. I promise he'll be here Saturday and when Judy showed up Saturday again he was not there and again she had an elaborate story about him. Some relatives had shown up and you know taking him off to Utah and she kept You know weaving more and more elaborate tails and beauty. Unlike many people was quite persistent and at one point one of the other tenants John Sharp, who was know a man who lived up to his name is a pretty sharp guy pulled. You aside and said, there's something going on here and he had noticed these long trenches be
Bing dog in the backyard, and then he get up the next day in the trenches would be filled in an benthic was gone, and so he told her about that, and so she went to the police and they kind of scoffed at her story that this little old lady was murdering people right in the middle of downtown Sacramento. But then the police went and they asked they actually brought shovels and asked to dig in the yard. Ah, Dorothy of Gabor broke character. She said, oh, yes, that would be fine. I have no idea what's back there and they started digging and they found a leg bone, a human leg bone, so they shut down all the digging and and Dorothea
Called the detective Cabrera over and said, am I under arrest and he said no, she said well. Would you mind if I go and have coffee with my cousin, and he said that would be. Fine and by then there was quite a. You know an audience I should say there were a lot of spectators. Neighbors there was police tape, they brought in heavy equipment for the digging the media, had. I had gathered and Dorothea was the antithesis of understatement. She was there with her. Pink umbrella and her purple pumps and her red coat, and he escorted her detective Cabrera, escorted her past all of the media to go have Coffee, allegedly, and when they exhumed our body, she was gone and once they decided they would arrest her. She had disappeared,
and that's when they did the all out manhunt in the and they realized that she was an ex con. That she'd been conning a parole officers for years And they you know where she was really embarrassing, of course, for Sacramento law enforcement. They watched the the airport and the bus station but what Dorothy did was very clever. They found out later She took a taxi to a bar in West. And had a few drinks with a friend? And then she took a taxi all the way to stock, then, which is about sixty miles south of Sacramento, and there she caught a bus and went to LOS Angeles, and so she had fled the flood,
Sacramento an apparently even called the police and gave them or had someone give them a fault. The tip she was in Reno, and so they were, the police were already for her to fly into Reno. They had the flights and, of course she was not in Reno. So she was a very clever escape. Artists and she probably would have gotten away with it. So I continue telling this story 'cause, it's so what well? What did lead? What did lead to her downfall? How long was it before? Please actually well tell us how police proceed, and then you can tell us how long and how about how exactly she was apprehended. Well, initially, they took her in for questioning, and you know she continued with her story that she didn't know
happened to birds doubt well. You know that she had a that. She had seen her birds, Alec kids, come and pick him up on that Saturday. Is she continued with lion? In fact, she asked one of the other tenants John Sharp to live for her, so he
act upper story, but then what happened was that when she stepped out of the room, John Sharp half the note to the detective saying she's making me life for her, and so they threw a hand, signals arrange to meet around the corner later, and so the detective picked him up on the corner and question and snappy, and he revealed to the police more of what he knew and he had a room underneath the stairs, and he said that one night he'd heard this from some some some coming down the stairs that was about two in the morning and it scared him so much that he he could go back to sleep and he prompted organs are chair against the door. So the the police, then that's when they start bringing in the heavy equipment and watching the house, but they didn't have
They didn't have enough to arrest Dorothy at that time, so they continue with the exclamation. From the yard- and as I said, they got seven worried there and what is really not a very big yard. I mean it's not like it was. You know an acre in the middle of Sacramento. It was just a regular, not a lot right there on a fairly busy street with the sidewalk and big shady trees, and they you know we're we're continue with their all points bulletin. She goes all over the news, but meanwhile Dorothea was had there. S had fled to LOS Angeles and she stayed in a hotel room for several days and then finally, she kind of went back to her old routine. What would soon after her, she decided. She
to drink. She called the taxi. She went to a bar. She stay out at the counter. She struck up a conversation with this fellow and she charmed him completely see. She said she had just come into town and then unscrupulous taxi had driven off with her luggage and and it was clearly getting close to Thanksgiving, and so she chatted up this guy and said she would make Thanksgiving dinner for him, and so they made an arrangement. He was going to come pick her up the next day and take her shopping and something was eating at him. He thought she kind of looked familiar and then the news came on and they had a picture of her and he thought she looks like she could be, but gosh. I really don't know and I'd hate for that really to be her. So what was interesting? You didn't call police, he called the tv station think of CBS and
talk to the reporter and they talked for quite awhile and and the reporter got his address and came with some photographs and called his news team and then called the police and when they arrested her, she was quite acquiescent and, and these lower back to Sacramento and started these proceedings, knowing like could believe that she could have gotten away with it all this time, and I think that was what's so fascinating about this case- is that she she was so successful and you don't think about female serial killers. They are really quite rare.
Round- and she was one of the most successful that I know no- she just talked to her original story with police when she was question that she didn't know where these gentlemen were. Were she didn't know the whereabouts of or what was contained in the back garden. So It is, and at the same time, are they trying to find anybody that assisted her with say the burials? Well, that was that was one of the things that was fairly controversial because, yes, she was, you know healthy individual. I don't believe she did on her own, but you know you have to be careful who you accused of,
gene an accomplice to murder and she she just glammed up. She got her attorneys and she, the defense, put forth the theory that these people just died. She's guilty illegal burial and Stealing their money, but not of murder, and no one, no one else, was accused of helping her. I mean. I think that there is a one fellow who was called her major trauma. They called him who was a good friend of hers, but again she wasn't in a position to say I didn't do it, but he helped me so since she didn't testify, they were not. They didn't bring charges against anyone else. They
only brought charges against her, and even then it was a year. Long trial, I felt so sorry for the jurors, because it really was a very arduous on going to trial. The prosecutor lost forty pounds during the whole course of the day. He was working hard now that that how much and how important was the fact that there was traces of domain and, of course, with domain and its characteristics, they could be again testified at court to through experts. Tell us about the role of domain in this. If any. Well, that's what what was so difficult that, because some of these bodies were extremely decompose all right, but what the forensic team dead was. They took extractions from their liver and their brains and from nap they ran it through something called a man.
Spectrometer that can read all the chemicals that are in the body and they found a number of chemical domain is just the the one that was the most significant link, but they found you know our whole toxic cocktail of things in these people's bodies. The problem was that you there are no studies, You can't murder someone very them and then test them. You know, months or years later to see what the levels are and so you don't know whether these drugs become more concentrated in the liver and the brain as the body desiccates or whether they actually dissipate as the body decomposes and pass out with the fluids, and so
That was the argument that went back and forth and back and forth with the expert transit apologist came on on stand and testified, and also why these people, the doctors, came and testified about their. They are chronic medical conditions. But eventually it became pretty clear. Not only from the matter of the combinations of drugs that were in their systems and again, Dorothea was the common link, even if they had never never had a prescription for gal main, they would have done in their systems, and she had at least two prescriptions on going into different names for downing and she would hoard them. I mean, if you you know, if you have sixty pills and then break my.
In a glass of bourbon, that's a pretty strong drink, but anyway the other thing is the manner in which the bodies were buried. They were all wrapped. The same way, they were wrapped in sheets. They had something of these pads. I think they're called checks. Pads are kind of essentially like a big diaper. It their faces, and then they were wrapped and taped and then with plastic bags over them, uh, They had lie sprinkled on them, so they were, they were uh Commonality's in the way all of the bodies were prepared for burial, and so there was no no question that it was quite intentional. If they, you know they didn't just stumble out into the garden and fall into a hole and get covered with leaves or
and they weren't disposed of in ways that were terribly dissimilar. Although I have to say that the first woman that Dorothea murdered the first woman who went missing Betty Palmer. Was extraordinary in that she had no head hands or feet, and I can only suppose that Dorothea felt that that would make her harder to identify if the body was found and those body parts were never I know it as of how good of attorney did she have and and how good was a defense of the date that they did mount because we're talking about nine counts tell us how good that defense was or what was the prosecution's. I know the the the
you couldn't say when, because of the degradation that happened over this long period of time, but they draw any again circumstantial to a great degree, but could they say anything about the first again Debbie Palmer with the hands and and Anne had missing and the lie which would seem to progress the the decomposition radically as well. So tell us how really the prosecution battled against the fence and what the defense really chose to use. Tell us a little about that. Well, the there there were two defense attorneys Peter fill out and Kevin Clymo. So she had. Two public defenders working for her case and then John Mayer.
What was the sole prosecutor uh and during the course of the trial they they both mounted. You know massive amounts of evidence and long testimony from all kinds of experts. I think that the the question is not you know who was a better attorney or who presented the better case. So much as you know what was going on in the minds of the jurors, because it really just takes one and to me logically. If she murdered one, she murdered them all, and yet the jury found her guilty on. Only four counts. Now, that's kind of without them, but it came out later that there was one juror who did not believe that poisons and could be pharmaceuticals,
and the other jurors could not convince some of that, and so for that read and they they deliberated for a record amount of time. I'm trying to remember how long it was how many days it was well over a month, and They even tried to come back as a hung, jury and the judge asked them to to going to liberate some more and finally, that's the best. I could do that. They came back with for murder counts and I get to me, that defies logic, but then I wasn't on the jury and it only takes one person who's unconvinced to hang a jury, so that's the best they could do and to me the saddest thing about that was. Bruce Munro, because she was the woman who her death was ruled a suicide and she had a very active family uh
and who testified, and they were very upset because Dorothy had pretended to your friend and their mother would never have committed suicide, and so they never got the satisfaction of seeing their mothers death vindicated. So I think that was extremely hard for them. What's interesting, too, is that for the California court system, once someone is convinced convicted multiply, murder counts, then the trial goes to another phase, which is the penalty phase and it's a death penalty state. So at that point there is a shift once she had been convicted on those four counts,
There is a shift towards basically the defense begging for her life and what was extraordinary about that was that they brought out all kinds of information about her past that I had not been able to unearth. I've been researching at that time, for is it three or four years, because this went on for so long and I found some marriage certificates under different name things and different things, but I had not realized that she had such a horrible childhood and they brought out forensic psychiatrist is in testify about what Dorothy had gone through as a child, which truly was horrific. I mean her father died of tuberculosis when she
quite young there was a house full of children. I'm going to forget now if it was four or six kids, that would be left alone for days at a time they would, you know basically be through garbage cans in the neighborhood and and neighbors would call- and I guess they didn't have child protective services at that time, because these days they would have been taken away from their mother. But She was. She was her. Mother was a prostitute, she would bring men to the house or she would disappear for long periods. Her mother was killed in a motorcycle accident and Dorothy, I think, was nine when she was shipped off to an orphanage and we can only imagine what happened there. So and then after that, that's when she started concocting. These elaborate lies, so you know she's, certainly a damaged a damaged individual and
and they even brought Anna woman. Everyone was astonished that she had a daughter and her daughter came and testified she good, no more mother, of course, but the defense team was able to locate her and she was quite a sympathetic. Witness so. They didn't send her to death a sensor to life without parole and Dorothea died almost two years ago now, I believe in prison center July. They talk about this. This is a death penalty case. What distinguished the and you say it only takes. One juror to you know have a hung jury, but what distinguished the
four murders from the other five that they didn't convict on. So what distinguishes those murders that they were able to to get a conviction of murder? With from that same jury, you know what that was. Is this something that all the peoples of the press and and the observers discussed afterwards because it was baffling to us, were so surprised? It seems to me- and this is just my personal opinion- that the the the murders that were argued the most rigorously we're the ones that we're not can he or she was not convicted on and the ones which seemed kind of you know like obvious, and therefore we're not debated strenuously in court where the one
but she did get convicted on. So I think that they were the more controversy there was over. These people are that that the then perhaps more confused, or maybe the better the case that the defense made for those cases that the ones that didn't get a lot of attention in court or the one she was convicted on it was unusual. But forensic Lee other than what you've just said was a distinguishing characteristic. Really, you know if you can answer this forensically, really, really anything. You know more, authoritative, then the other one. You know I mean in terms of those four murders was where Clearly more, prosecutable, or was it like? You say, maybe a little bit This link to everybody at the end of it. I couldn't find any any real
I mean it really. It just doesn't make any sense to me. I I I knew I didn't interview that particular, afterwards. He just kind of disappeared and didn't give interviews. So I don't know I I really couldn't say but is a very good question and someone else might have an idea, but I'm afraid I can't answer that. Well, the thing is too: I with nine. I mean, of course, regrettably, five people, five families, five victims- do not have justice. You know in quotations from this court case, but at the same time, in terms of prosecution, this person is going to spend the rest of her life in prison and did, and so four out of nine six out of nine seven hundred and nine. If you, if you see that, I mean it's regrettable, that you don't get justice for all those other cases, but.
Certainly as long as she's prosecuted an it's, I think that justice is done overall. I would think well one good thing. That after this, the the procedures for regulating boarding houses and also for distributing tracks became more stringent, so what Dorothea was able to pull off the band wouldn't be replicable today did wake people up that you know the system was was flawed and so there were some changes made and I I would hope you know in part of what was I was thinking. When I was writing the book is that I hope that people pay a little more
engine and don't just assume that, just because someone looks nice that they're going to be taking good care of us, mom or dad or grandpa that you need to be a little more suspicious and- and you know, russian people's motives and also their background. It's interesting to you know talking to an FBI agent, recently there's kind of a saying that that, in terms of serial killers that that men kill in the bedroom and women kill in the kitchen yeah and generally you, women who are killers generally tend to use poison as opposed to violent means, and so they can more easily.
This guy is the the murder as an unnatural. Well, historically, that's what what we're finding is that people say well, there's not female serial killer in the hall and they've been around for centuries, and that's exactly what they're poisonous and very prolific poisonous as well and for and for multiple reasons as well. It would be just that would be robbery would be. It would be two or three things involve sometimes so kind of complex killers as well yeah. What other thing they? They say that you know male serial killers, usually target strangers and that women usually change, go after people. That know and trust them. So that's a cautionary tale right there,
yes, I'm more into medieval, will say yeah yeah, but she she really was a fascinating person, because you know once who is in prison. She wasn't dangerous. You know she, she wasn't the kind of person to be shanking guards, org being in fights. You know they thought she would. People thought she was innocent, but you know she she I have been there and she was very motherly to the fellow inmates, and you know she was. I think she, even though, and cooking, and I think she worked in the house is going to have this should have in the kitchen. Yeah yeah would just get the inmates to test out the food mind. You know oh yeah, she had quite the reputation and in fact, someone wrote a book Dorothy appointees cook, but I think it's kind of tongue in cheek hi. You know just because of the yeah. It echoes the arsenic and old lace.
Story right. You know there are elements humorous humorous elements. Is very dark, humor, but humorous elements and in Dorothea story as he can, and so is it. You say she passed away a couple years ago in prison, yeah yeah. So so we can. We can close the chapter on on Dorothea, but but in my book is still out there, which is nice, so disturbed ground. This app, it's only
it was in the book- is out of print, which is kind of a shame, because the book, the print broadcast photographs of Dorsey and some of her ideas and the other people involved in the case, the you know the digging up the yard eight street house right. Well, thank God! It's it's made it to you book, probably because a great sales in the first place, but you know, lives again so again previously to the work of the book. We just go out of print and well that's it and that that we real shame yeah yeah. I'm I'm glad that it's out in the book and well, it's so was perfect victim. That's my other two crime that you mentioned, and then I just came out with my baby fiction, the edge of normal, which is inspired by a true story,
it's kind of a Elizabeth Smart meets Clery, Starling tech story. I don't think so, and I can so how how how nonfiction, how much how non fiction all is it yeah? Do you mean how much truth is in the story? Yeah well, it was it. It was inspired by a survivor of kidnapping in captivity. So perfect victim is about the victimization of a young woman who is, and the edge of normal, is fiction about a survivor of kidnapping in captivity, so they're kind of mirror images of of those stories. But a lot of people ask me about the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction and The closest I can explain is that when you're writing nonfiction, the story must serve the fact
And when you're writing fiction, the fax serve the story, so you have a different priority when you're, when you're writing those kinds of books, you really have to be very careful in writing. Nonfiction because it it's always the full. What on your shoulder, but that lawyers and doctors and forensic experts are going to be reading your book with a very critical I, if you, One thing wrong: they are going to throw the book across the room, so you're, always very cautious. Your credibility, whereas when you're writing fiction, you know I've made up a fake town, because I didn't want someone say
there's really not an exit there when you go right across the lake or I didn't want people arguing about the facts of the geography yeah absolutely now with the perfect victim. Normally we just talk about one book and we have a little bit more time just to talk about briefly about perfect victim, because I'd like to I apologize, but I like to get you back on just to talk, a perfect victim because it's such an incredible book such an important story. Again, I don't know how on earth. I didn't really know about this story. Tell us when this book was published, tell us when the story actually occurred, at least in terms of the trial, because stories started wait much much before. That would tell us just a little bit of color on into this a little bit about this incredible case and when it when it did
occur well. What was an amazing story and at the time everyone was kind of astonished about the headlines, went international Originally, it was a kidnapping that happened in one thousand, nine hundred and seventy seven a twenty year old hitchhiker was picked up by a man and his wife and their infant. It looked very safe, but he was actually looking for a sex slave and he abducted her in a very grisly manor and held her captive most of the time in a box for seven years when she was released, she and the wife lead together and the trial was in nineteen eighty five, and so it was a case that it was so unsettling because it's about brain, washing or captivity syndrome stock
home syndrome mind control version. You can use a lot of different terms, but it was so unsettling. I thought nothing like this would ever happen again and then, of course, there have been the three women just actually a year ago today, the three women in Cleveland who were discovered the Jaycee Dugard case, which it's just absolutely startling to imagine anybody help for eighteen years. The Elizabeth Smart case is the one that has really think caught public attention. She was held for nine month, but she was such a simple. That is such a sympathetic and and inspiring young woman that she has really, I think, taught the public a lot about
um not only about what a victim goes through, but what a survivor must do overcome that kind of uh deal and she's a real advocate for something hold: rad kids for teaching kids self defense to fight off a doctor's, any case perfect victim when it came out because it discusses the use, mind, control issues that were not well understood. It was picked up by the FBI's Behavioral Sciences unit and and put on your reading list and the book came out and is on the New York Times. Paperback non fiction, best seller list for.
Eighteen weeks it was number one on that list for for four weeks, and it's never going out of print. It's still something that at I think, every time. There's a horrific kidnapping story that there's another resurgence of interest in the story. And- and I'm very glad that I have maintained contact with the victim of that store, she's alive and well there not. Lot of blood on the walls. It's not a grisly murder, but it's psychologically, I think, just a fascinating, a fascinating story and at an astonishing crime, yeah, and the thing is to what I I I see a lot of reviews of books and there are certain channels, true crime, readers, that there is a dedicated to cram reader, that love the entire book and then there's other people that. So, while I didn't like to try
Well, this. This is incredible because not only of the information that comes out at trial, but for this woman, that's and held in captivity for seven years. To now have to answer. To now have to be cross examined now has to you know, been shut, shut away from society family and everyone else with these threats now is has to go to court, and it's just an incredible incredible viewpoint that you put the reader in
to be able to get this incredible, landmark trial and to really, by virtue of your entire book, perfect victim, to understand this Colleen Stan Jan Hooker and Mr Hooker. I guess, to a to a great degree the book at women's different from those other cases and again before the this time. The only but really only knew about the Patty Hearst case- and I mean that is a confusing case, because Patty Hearst of Course goes on to do some crime under the two village of her abductors. So this, story that you have is just again a psychological thriller. It really is I'm not overstating stating
and it again I I a so I wanted to have you on what, when talking about to stir brown but perfect victim, I just gotta extolled the virtues of how great this true crime book is it's one of the most unique and incredible book. So I I just want to thank you for this interview about to stir Brown, but also I'm again. I got to have you back on the talk specifically about perfect victim. Thank you Dan. Thank you is that right. I really appreciate those comments on I'm glad you like the books, and I thank you for reading both of them. It's been a real pleasure talking to you and I
Yes, I'd like to speak to you again, yes at the other thing was, is that the perfect victim is also again. The incredible access you have is by virtue of having the prosecutor at least helping with this book, and so together. This book has this again an access to some information that you really don't get with mall, true crime books. So yeah we collaborated on the book she prosecuted the case and and then we worked on the on the book after the trial. An I really did want to put together the problems that she had in prosecuting it an answer, those questions with the facts of the case
But it was a real education for me as well, because there are all kinds of legal issues that aren't necessarily apparent in the courtroom. But there were a real conundrum and when you bring up Patty Hearst I mean yes, she was. She was tried for crimes. She committed after she'd, gone through this very intense dot indoctrination and had taken the century slave name, and so that there are similarities between those two cases and then, once again it was the same courtroom in the same state and people didn't believe that Colin Stan had been held captive by Cameron Hooker for all those years against her will and that would
partly because they didn't understand the mind, control issues and how you go about subverting someones well over a very intense period of time, torture and deprivation. What you also include two is just a little bit of information about a classic fictional book that I guess was in Spain. I guess was inspiration to serial killers like the subject of die. For me, Leonard Lake and Charles NG, but specifically Leonard Lake, and he had a little of same kind of dream, is as Mr Hooker little cell, underneath his home, where he would have a sex slave and he utilized his own family, girlfriend, daughter and and friend, in into this abduction and in slave meant of of all of his victims. So I thought it interesting that you included the little references well and again
this John Fowles was, is a fictional account, but you sign up the collector yeah, the collector collector. Yes, absolutely, and so you, I see a connection with the. Sinister type of, I think from all the true crime that I've read when you get a couple, a man and wife or girlfriend boyfriend. Two, and but especially a man and wife abducting people and enslaving them and the contract that she was. She believed that she was signing this incredible, incredible horror that this woman was subjected to and then, if you think, jeez that how could it get any worse? Well now you have a trial hand,
and it isn't black and white. It isn't an easy conviction. People are not familiar with this. They have actually can't believe this and, as far as a defense attorney, this he's a really good, dedicated attorney. That's giving a very, very vigorous defense to his client yeah. I super clean to have to go through that, but you're right I mean we I had no idea which way that the verdict would go because it was it was such a peculiar case and and it's gone on for so long and and there was really no precedent for it. Absolutely well, you know, thanks to part of you, know, savvy publisher and two dedicated people like yourself and is it Christine? Mcguire was a prosecutor, yes, the name yes
right, and so you came up with a fantastic book that I highly recommend, and so thank you very much and thank you for this uh interview about disturbed ground. Thank you, Carla, Norton, for coming on and spending some time with us this evening. Thank you very much Thank you Dan. You have a good evening. You too goodnight bye. Now.
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Transcript generated on 2019-11-06.