- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) A woman who raised the dogs that killed Diane Whipple depicted one as "a big clown" yesterday, but said the other animal was so unpredictable it should have been put down.
Janet Coumbs, the first witness in the trial of the San Francisco couple charged in Miss Whipple's death, told of the presa canario dogs, Bane and Hera, ransacking her home, pulling down fences, killing her livestock and eating a doghouse.
The defense sought to establish through cross-examination that Marjorie Knoller, who is charged with second-degree murder, was unaware of any danger.
But Miss Coumbs said she warned Miss Knoller and Robert Noel about the dogs when they came to pick them up.
"I told them Hera should never have been taken off my property," she testified. "Hera and Fury [another of the dogs she raised] should have been shot because you never knew what they were going to do. I was very concerned about it."
Miss Whipple, 33, a college lacrosse coach, was mauled in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building on Jan. 26, 2001. The trial of Miss Knoller and Mr. Noel, her neighbors, was moved to Los Angeles due to extensive publicity in San Francisco.
Miss Knoller, 46, who was walking Bane when he and Hera attacked Miss Whipple is also charged with involuntary manslaughter and having a mischievous animal that killed a human being. Mr. Noel, 60, only faces those two charges. He was not home during the attack.
Miss Coumbs suggested that she was an unwitting pawn in a scheme by Pelican Bay State Prison inmate Paul Schneider to run a business raising fierce dogs.
"Did you consider Bane to be part of your family?" asked attorney Nedra Ruiz, who represents Miss Knoller.
"Yes," said Miss Coumbs, who added that she never feared the 120-pound animal who would put his paws on her shoulders and lick her face.
"He was a big clown," Miss Coumbs said. "He would get up and jump and dance for people … It was a loving relationship. We would go down to the pond and play."
She said the dog had his own pet, a cat named Chewy Chewbaca.
When she sent a picture of Bane and the cat to Schneider, he was furious, she said, accusing Miss Coumbs of creating dogs who were weak. He ordered her to turn the dogs over to Miss Knoller and Mr. Noel.

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