SAN FRANCISCO — A woman whose dogs viciously attacked and killed her neighbor in the hallway of their apartment building seven years ago was sentenced Monday to 15 years to life in prison.
Marjorie Knoller was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2001 mauling death of Dianne Whipple, but a judge later reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her in 2002 to a four-year prison term.
The California Supreme Court last year ruled the trial judge had set too lenient a standard and sent the case back. Last month, Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard reinstated the murder conviction, for which Knoller was sentenced Monday.
The case is the California's first murder conviction connected to a dog mauling, prosecutors say.
The case turned into a tabloid sensation because of the viciousness of the attack — the two large Presa Canario guard dogs tore all of Whipple's clothing from her body and left her with more than 70 bites — and the seemingly cavalier attitudes of Knoller and her law partner and husband, Robert Noel, who blamed Whipple for the incident.
The couple also said they were keeping the canines on behalf of Paul "Cornfed" Schneider, a white supremacist accused of running an attack dog ring from his state prison cell. The couple eventually adopted Schneider as their son.
Knoller, who has served three years in prison, will have to serve 12 more years before she can apply for parole.
In denying Knoller's plea for probation, Woolard noted that Knoller didn't call 911 or otherwise try to help Whipple during the 10-minute attack. The judge said Knoller knew the dogs were dangerous, ignored numerous warnings to train them and hasn't expressed remorse for the attack.
"She has blamed the victim and has held her dogs in higher regard than humans," Woolard said.
Whipple's partner, Sharon Smith, addressed Knoller before she was led off to jail. Smith called Knoller's relationship with the two dogs and the prisoner "perverted" and expressed satisfaction with the lengthy prison sentence.
"It is very hard to find forgiveness for someone who doesn't accept responsibility," Smith said.
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