Letter- Dog keepers mocked mauling victim

Thursday, September 20, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO -- The woman who was mauled to death by two dogs had been mocked earlier by one of the animals' caretakers as "a timorous little mousy blonde" who "almost has a coronary" at the sight of the animals, a grand jury transcript showed.

The quotations in a letter by attorney Robert Noel were among nearly 1,000 pages of testimony released Tuesday into the death of Diane Whipple.

Whipple, 33, was attacked by the dogs near her apartment door on Jan. 26. The animals lived down the hall with their caretakers, Noel and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, also an attorney.

Knoller was charged with second-degree murder, and both she and Noel were charged with involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog. Knoller faces stiffer charges because she was in the hallway during the entire attack. Both are in jail on $1 million bail.

The couple were allegedly keeping the Presa Canario-mastiffs -- a male named Bane and a female named Hera -- for two Pelican Bay State Prison inmates, Paul John Schneider and Dale Bretches. Both are serving life sentences and have been described as white supremacists.

About two weeks before the attack, Noel wrote Schneider about an encounter with Whipple, who at 110 pounds was lighter than either dog.

"This morning's was an interesting walk," he wrote, according to grand jury testimony. "Getting used to the jailbreak approach the kids (dogs) have, break from the door like horses out of the starting gate ... Elevator comes, hopefully with no one in otherwise they will knock them down rushing in. As soon as the door opens at six (the sixth floor) one of our newer neighbors, a timorous little mousy blonde who weighs less than Hera, is met by the dynamic duo exiting and almost has a coronary."

"Are you concerned that she almost had a coronary at the time?" Hammer asked.

"Not particularly, no," Noel replied.

"Did you apologize to her?" Hammer asked.

"No, not at all. I asked her to step back and we walked to the side."

Noel said repeatedly that people weren't afraid of the dogs, but also testified that he lost control of one or both of them several times.

He also had several run-ins with people on the street who thought the dogs should be better restrained.

Knoller also refused to say that she did not have control of Bane, even as the dog dragged her 50 feet down the hallway toward Whipple's apartment moments before the mauling began.

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