Pen Pal With A Serial Killer?

TYLER (CBSDFW.COM) – Imagine being a pen pal to one of California’s most notorious serial killers and not even knowing it? That’s what a Tyler woman discovered about her friendship with an elderly inmate.

Dorothea Puente was convicted of drugging, killing and burying people in her Sacramento boarding house yard in the 1980’s.  Calling herself ‘Dottie,’ she has been writing to ‘Norma’ in Tyler for the past seven years.

Norma is a mother and grandmother with a contagious laugh and polite manner who just wanted to do something nice for an older woman, for someone behind bars serving time.

“Four thousand prisoners and I picked one,” says Norma.

She picked “Dottie” because she was in her 70’s.  “I just wanted some plain little old lady to write to perk up her days.”

They exchanged two to three letters a month.  In the letters, Puente opens up about everything from prison life to where she feels she’ll go after she dies.

Dottie told Norma a lot of intimate details.  Puente says she was molested as a child, got married early, and lived on the streets. She never says why she was in prison and her pen pal never asks.

Sometimes the letter came with a request.  “She wanted peanut butter and coffee, creamer and cookies, things like that.”

Dottie never discussed her crimes, and Norma never asked.  She says she never judged her pen pal.  “I was her friend, not her judge and jury.”

But all of that changed after she got a letter from Dottie last month.  In her “deathbed” letter to Norma, Dorothea Puente says she’s dying of colon and liver cancer.

Norma decided to call her long time pen pal, to hear her voice before the end.  That’s when she learned the truth about her friend.

“I looked on the internet, and here’s her name… Dorothea Puente, boarding house murderer, I thought, ‘What!?'”

The more Norma learned, the more her shock turned to anger.

Norma read how police found the bodies of seven elderly victims buried in Puente’s yard.

Dottie mentioned in one letter how her family disowned her after she went to prison, but never talked about the crimes, and only once mentioned any regrets.  “So I’m trying to make amends with all to make sure I’m right with God” Norma reads from one of the letters.

Dorothea Puente did ask for one final favor, she asks for money to help pay for her cremation.  She also says when she dies, she’s looking forward to seeing her friends in heaven.

But Norma never sent the money.  Instead she sent one more letter.  “I told her, well, Dorothea, I found out why you’re in prison.”

Norma waited for a response, and the answer she received gave her the chills, as if a killer were taunting her.  “I was told not to discuss my case in these letters, but I thought you’d know.”


One Comment

  1. Laura Ross says:

    I don’t understand your shock at Dorothea’s crimes….she’s in prison. Did you think perhaps that she had simply ran a red light? I know that sounds ridiculous, but so does your shock at finding out her crime….she’s not in prison for life to improve her writing skills.

    I would think that whatever a prisoner’s crime is/was when you were looking to be a pen pal would not be of significance…..after all, you , I’m sure, were just wanting to write to someone in prison to help them deal with their time….doing your “good deed” for the day.

    I watched you story on the news but didn’t have any sympathy for you, and I’m not going to apologize for my feelings. Next time you go searching for a pen pal, try looking somewhere else besides prison….unless you can just write to the person and not be disgusted because of their crime.

    1. Norma says:

      Laura. look up Chowchilla. there are over 3,000 prisoners there that are there for crimes that are NOT murders.
      I have dozens of PEN PALS who are not in prison. I am not looking for I told the reporters , ” Christians will know what I am talking about ” FACT IS ! I have a friend in Georgia, Nancy. I have been writing to several years, she died a few months ago, her best friend wrote me recently and told me Dorothea had killed Nancys brother. Another shock, his name was/is James Gallop. I am NOT a news hound as I hate negativity , didn’t have a computer in the 80’s. Read some more and think it over . God loves us all the same. All of us react differently. seven years of letters and then…….yes SHOCK !

  2. coretta jackson says:

    I don’t know why she just did not just ask.

  3. Juan Hackney says:

    Certainly horrible crimes.
    But Norma, I’m sure you did much to bring humanity to the remains of the wreckage of her life.
    I personally feel that it was your Higher Power working through you to provide some comfort to a lonely soul.
    Please feel proud and hold your head up that you were able to help.

  4. Laura Ross says:

    Norma, I do agree with Juan. I just thought you were just a little too surprised by her crimes….like I said before.

  5. jeremiah trent says:

    How sad this little polite-mannered grandmother is really a hypocrite. She only wanted to do something kind, not be a judge and jury? Now she is shcoked, no,even, angered! Let’s hope God shows more compassion: we know He has already forgiven Dorotheaand she can be at peace during her suffering. Again sad that her self-righteous pen pal could not be an earthly comfort for her at this time. God bless her and forgive us all in our lack of charity/love for all our fellow mankind. Prisons are made for deterrence and retribution: God made us for love. I am not certain why I chose to know why my prison pen pal was incacerated but I do know that this knowledge did not prevent me from seeing him as a very caring and compassionate person, struggling with his choices as we all do. We wish health and happiness as we pray for one another.

    1. norma says:

      Thank you for judging me…sorry you don’t know the whole story.
      Mr. Trent……
      I never said I was angry….that was a reporters words.
      You don’t know WHY I started writing to penpals do you ?
      I didn’t get into all this pen pal thing to Dorothea for fame and glory.
      I did not get paid for the interview, Sacrameto wanted the story for the 22nd anniversary show. I don’t hate anyone, I am not a self-righteous person..
      Do you feed the poor and homeless ? I do in Jesus name. Another thing I did NOT know Dorothea was serving a life term. My daughter said, ” Knowing you mom if she had of been released, you would have taken her in “. No regrets on my part.I did all I could for Dorothea, and still am.Thank you.

  6. Karen Lewis says:

    Am I missing something? Let’s ignore the fact that this woman is infamous, and you could have learned everything about her years ago on the Net or at the library. This elderly woman is serving life – how did you think that happened? Stealing food to feed her family? What crime would you find “acceptable”? Norma, not only do I not understand your shock and anger – why did you feel it necessary to go on television? It certainly could’t have been to show us the depth of your compassion!

    1. Norma says:

      Yes, Karen you are missing a lot.
      The news room at CBS in Dallas, had not heard of her before my interview with CBS , KOVR, Sacramento.
      NO one I know has ever heard of her, she isn’t a household name here in Tyler Texas.
      Had you heard of her before now ? One crime is as bad as another. I didn’t judge her seven years ago and still am not

  7. Norma says:

    To all of the above. I am Norma, the penpal.CBS in Sacramento flew here to interview me on Dorotheas 22 anniversary, of discovering her crimes. The other TV stations picked up the interview and that is that ! I have other penpals in prison, one for murder, other drugs. They told me up front, it didn’t come as a shock.Today a person can murder someone and get very few years……someone else can run a red light and get 20 years. In her letters , the later ones Dorothea was always praying for my family, and I prayed for her.
    Seven years of writing and no mention of a murder,then discover the truth , is indeed a shock.I think God led me to her, and I have not abandoned her.Pray for her…Judge not lest you be judged. Thank you Jaun for your kind words.

  8. Lynda says:

    Lots of vicious people on here, huh? I’ve personally known Norma for over ten years and she is THE most honest, kind, helpful, smart, person I have ever known. She would give you the shirt off her back and throw in some extra buttons. She has not had an easy life, by any means, yet she is not bitter. She spends her life trying to help people and animals. It’s too bad the people who are leaving such negative statements on here are not as genuine as Norma. The world could use more like her.

  9. laura says:

    i Was just reading this as i too have decided to be pen pals with prisoners. I know what you mean i dont want to ask them what they have done but when i did find out what one of them had done i was shocked at first i think your doing a great thing and im glag i started at this age im 20 years old and feel proud to be doing what im doing. Norma your an inspiration and thats the reason i started to write to prisoners. YOur support all the way across the pond in scotland xxxx

  10. mirella says:

    Norma why are you surprised …she was in prison for a reason you are very! naive

  11. MIRELLA says:


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