- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

From combined dispatches
LOS ANGELES Two giant dogs attacked a woman, crushing her throat and tearing off her clothes, while the dogs' owner did nothing to stop them, a prosecutor told a jury yesterday in an opening statement featuring photos of the victim's bloody corpse.
San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Jim Hammer told jurors the dogs' owners Robert Noel, 60, and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, 46 knew the presa canario mastiffs were dangerous long before the huge dogs attacked and killed 33-year-old Diane Whipple in the hallway of the apartment building where they were neighbors.
Mrs. Knoller was with the dogs, Bane and Hera, at the time of the Jan. 26, 2001, attack that killed Miss Whipple as she returned from the grocery store. Mrs. Knoller is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a mischievous animal that killed a human being. Her husband faces the latter two charges.
Projecting photos of Miss Whipple's wounds on a screen, Mr. Hammer described how the first officer to arrive on the scene found her lying in the hallway "with head to toes no clothes on her whatsoever … covered in blood and crawling toward her apartment. Every shred of clothing had been ripped off her body by the dogs … She was pushing herself up with her throat ripped out."
The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of concerns about pretrial publicity in the San Francisco area.
An attorney for the defendants said Mrs. Knoller tried to stop the attack.
"Marjorie was very concerned," attorney Nedra Ruiz said. "She had never been in a situation where Bane had pulled her off her feet. She had never been in a situation where both dogs were not being obedient to her. … She wanted immediately to take emergency action to protect Ms. Whipple."
But Mrs. Knoller was nowhere to be found in the hallway when police arrived at the apartment, Mr. Hammer told the jury.
Each dog weighed more than 100 pounds about the same weight as Miss Whipple, a college lacrosse coach.
The giant mastiffs were reportedly bred by two members of a racist prison gang with ties to Mrs. Knoller and Mr. Noel, both lawyers.
Mr. Hammer said the owners knew the dogs were dangerous because there had been repeated incidents where the animals had lunged at people and other dogs.
The prosecutor presented a letter from a veterinarian who warned the couple not to bring the dogs into San Francisco because they "would be a liability in any household." He told the jury he would show them at least 30 instances in which the dogs attacked other people, including a time one dog severed Mr. Noel's finger.
The defendants sat impassively beside their lawyers as the prosecutor showed jurors gruesome photos of Miss Whipple's injuries the back of her neck bloodied and punctured by the dog's teeth, her buttocks and breasts also punctured, her face covered in blood.


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