Sacramento serial killer's former home renovated, ready for visits

By David Bienick, KCRA 3 Reporter
Published On: Aug 30 2013 07:53:08 AM HST

New owners renovated the Downtown Victorian where Dorothea Puente killed and buried seven bodies in the backyard.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) -

What might be the most infamous house in Sacramento will soon be open for a one-day-only tour.

The Victorian bungalow at 1426 F Street is where serial killer Dorothea Puente used to live and where police found seven bodies buried in the back yard in 1988.

In 2011, Barbara Holmes and her husband Tom Williams bought the house at a public auction for $215,000.

Since then, the couple has been renovating the property in what they admit is an eclectic style.

"We knew we had a lot of fixing up (to do)," said Holmes as she climbed the re-tiled front steps.

The couple installed shiny new kitchen appliances, added bright colors and removed some interior walls.

"And this just seemed to open it up so much more," said Holmes.

The couple said when they bought the house they knew its history -- how Puente had poisoned her disabled boarders, cashed their government-assistance checks and buried their bodies.

Puente died in prison in 2011 at age 82.

"Barbara wanted to change the image entirely.  And that just was never going to happen.  So we decided to play with it," said Williams.

The shower curtain is covered in crime tape and a metal plaque near the front door reads, "Trespassers will be drugged and buried in the yard."

A mannequin in the back yard holds a shovel, has a gray wig and wears a pink coat similar to the one Puente was wearing when she was arrested.

"Sometimes I think I make too much light of it and I'm going to offend some people, but you know, you just have to take a chance," said Williams.

Downstairs where the furnace used to be, the couple has installed an apartment for Holmes' mother.

Juanita Holmes said during the first week after the family moved in, she was awoken by a spirit in the middle of the night.

"It was a woman, I felt, and she had really heavy perfume," said Juanita Holmes.

Since then, the family said the house has been quiet and free of ghosts.

"If they're here, they like us.  They don't say anything," said Williams.

The couple said at least 1,500 people are expected to attend the Sacramento Old City Association's home tour.

"I think we'll be a draw," said Holmes.

However, she added she does not think most visitors will becoming to admire the crown molding or hardwood floors.

"Oh, I don't think it's about anything I've done with the house.  I think it's the house," said Holmes.

The couple said it realizes the house will likely always be an attraction, but hope that visitors no longer see it as a crime scene.

"I think as we try to add life to it, people like the life., as opposed to the death," said Williams.

The home tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 15.

Advance-sale tickets are $25 and same-day tickets are $30.

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