Sacramento, just like any other city, has its fair share of crimes and murders. However, it turns out Sacramento is actually a hotbed for serial killers. Though the state’s capital is by no means the state’s largest, nor the countries’ largest city, Sacramento and the nearby-area accounts for 15% of the nation’s serial killers.
Sacramento is a hotbed for murderers. The latest case of serial killers currently shocking the area are the so-called “Speed Freak Killers,” two men and a possible third who are suspected of killing 15 people (though one of the killers is claiming the number is actually “over 70”) and putting their remains in wells throughout neighboring San Joaquin County.
The Speed Freak Killers are just the latest in a long history of violent killers in the Sacramento area.
The Vampire of Sacramento
Richard Chase was a troubled young man who earned his name by killing, drinking the blood of, and eating six people over the span of a month in 1977.
He lived in an apartment on Watt Avenue, and committed horrific violent acts against his victims, the youngest of whom was a 22-month old baby, whose blood he also drank. Chase had a violent background, and killed a cat at the age of ten; the torture and killing of animals as an adolescent is seen as a sign of future violent behavior.
He was convicted of the murders in 1979, but he was found dead in his cell just a year later from an overdose of antidepressants he had been saving. Surprisingly, the Vampire of Sacramento is not the most famous murderer of the area. That title probably goes to the infamous Dorothea Puente.
The Lethal Landlady
Dorothea Puente was a kindly, older woman who rented out rooms in her spacious Victorian, at 1426 F Street in downtown Sacramento. She rented the rooms to alcoholics, drug addicts, and the elderly in the late 80s. She would dose her victims with the sleeping pill Dramamine, and bury their bodies in her backyard. She would take the Social Security check money of her tenants, and those who complained, went to the yard. Neighbors began to get suspicious when a putrid smell began emanating from her yard, which she blamed on bad plumbing.
When a man known to to do yard work for her disappeared, police found bodies in her back yard. She was accused of killing nine tenants, but was only convicted of three. She died in prison last March of natural causes at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. During her time in prison, she authored a cook book, called “Cooking with a Serial Killer,” and also appeared in a serial killer calendar for a site that glorifies serial killers. Dorothea Puente is definitely the most famous serial killer of Sacramento, because of her kind demeanor and older age. Puente used a relatively hands-off method of murder by her use of Dramamine, but the most chilling stories involve gruesome and violent acts. Gerald and Charlene Gallego and the crimes they committed are by far more terrifying to imagine than those perpetrated by Dorothea Puente.
Gerald and Charlene Gallego were a lovestruck couple who went on a killing spree, claiming ten young lives in Sacramento from 1978 to 1980. Gerald had a rough childhood, and was involved in Sacramento’s prostitution circles via his mother from a young age. Comparatively, Charlene had a great upbringing in the Arden Park area of Sacramento, and had a high IQ. In high school, Charlene began drinking and doing drugs, and after high school, was a part of two failed marriages.
She met Gerald after her second marriage to a soldier. They were both into sexual sadism and were married quickly. Shortly into the marriage, Gerald began to be bored by Charlene sexually, and convinced her they needed to kidnap young teenage girls to make them their sex slaves.
Their first victim was taken from the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of Watt and El Camino Avenue. They sought young girls in pairs, and would take them into the Sierra Nevada mountains to end their lives.
They took victims from the Sacramento and Reno areas, as well as Oregon. When they were caught, Charlene struck a deal with investigators in exchange for testifying against Gerald. Charlene was released from prison in 1997, and Gerald died in prison from rectal cancer in 2002. These crimes happened over thirty years ago, and the passing of time makes the case seem more distant, from another era, and therefore may make one think that maybe the idea that Sacramento is a hotbed for serial killers is dated. However, just 8 years ago, Herman Lee Hobbs was charged with the rape and murder of a Rio Linda teen that occurred 1975, and is suspected to be linked to several other murders at the time.
Cold Case Carnage
Herman Lee Hobbs was already in jail for rape when DNA evidence linked him to the cold case of a rape of thirteen year old Terri Pata of Rio Linda in 1975. Hobbs was a dangerous man, and in 2000, was convicted and sentenced in Yuba County for the rape of a fifteen year old girl. He received a 25-year sentence for the crime due to prior charges, including convenience store robberies in Sacramento in 1969. After his conviction in Yuba County, people began contacting police with information about Hobbs linking him to crimes in Sacramento. Detectives from multiple counties began comparing and compiling information about Hobbs and his possible involvement in other homicides. When they ran his DNA against biological evidence collected from the Pata cold case, it matched the killers. Several other bodies where found near the area where Pata’s body was found, but the bodies were too decomposed to collect any viable evidence, or to even determine a cause of death. Hobbs has also been investigated and charged with the murder of Brenda Ann Tucker, a young mother from Butte County whose skull was found near Hobbs home in Brownsville. Though Hobbs was only convicted of the murder of Terri Pata due to insufficient physical evidence linking him directly to the murders, its clear Hobbs can be added to the list of Sacramento serial killers because of his cold, calculating, patterned killings of young teenage girls.
Sacramento: A Serial Magnet?
For whatever reason, Sacramento seems to be a magnet for serial killers. This list is hardly comprehensive; Sacramento and the surrounding area has been host to so many serial killers, it would take several blog posts to document each, a daunting task indeed. However, these cases illustrate how Sacramento seems to have an usually high propensity for attracting serial killers. Maybe it’s something in the delta air, or the close proximity to a large mountain range with millions of remote square miles, making body disposal easy, as the Gallego couple learned. It would be comforting to think that the Speed Freak Killers are the last serial killers to come out of this area, but history is showing us this is probably not the case. And if you begin to smell something coming from your kindly old neighbors yard, don’t believe her when she blames it on bad plumbing!