SAN FRANCISCO — Grand jury testimony released Tuesday offered a glimpse into Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel's attitudes about their dogs and their neighbor, Diane Whipple, who was mauled to death.
Knoller faces a second-degree murder charge in the January mauling, and both are charged with involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog.
Bane and Hera, the dogs involved in the attack, were being kept by the couple on behalf of two Pelican Bay State Prison inmates.
During testimony before a grand jury in March, prosecutor James Hammer suggested that Knoller and Noel enjoyed scaring and mocking people who feared the dogs.
About two weeks before the attack, Noel wrote one inmate about an encounter with Whipple.
"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 blond who weighs less than Hera, is met by the dynamic duo exiting and almost has a coronary."
"Who's that?" Hammer asked.
"That's Miss Whipple," Noel said.
"Are you concerned that she almost had a coronary at the time?" Hammer continued.
"Not particularly, no," Noel said.
"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 about how he lost control of one or both of the animals on several occasions. Knoller refused to admit that she did not have control of Bane, even as the dog dragged her 50 feet down the hallway toward Whipple's apartment.
"Your definition is that if he's dragging you down the hallway and then knocking you to your knees and dragging you on your face, is that control, in your opinion?" Hammer asked.
"Yes," Knoller answered.
Whipple, 33, was attacked Jan. 26 in the doorway of her apartment after returning from grocery shopping.
Knoller, who said she had advanced first aid training, said she plugged Whipple's neck wounds with her finger, then left the woman to put the dogs in her apartment. She said that Hera stood by barking during the entire incident and that Bane stopped biting Whipple as soon as she stopped moving.
"Did you ever attempt CPR?" Hammer asked.
"That's what I was--wanted to do when I went--when I was looking for my keys, jogging down the hallway looking for my keys. I wanted to get back to her to see if she had a pulse, whether or not I could stop the bleeding and render CPR," Knoller answered.
"But you wanted to get your keys before you gave CPR? Is that correct," Hammer asked.
"That's correct," Knoller answered. "And the reason for that is because my husband wasn't home. I didn't know when he was going to arrive. The management doesn't have keys to our apartment."