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Man Convicted in Fatal Dog Mauling Won't Return to S.F.

September 13, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The man reviled in this city after blaming dog mauling victim Diane Whipple for her own death was expected to be released from prison soon after serving little more than half of his four-year sentence, but he won't be returning to San Francisco.

Robert Noel, whose behavior was called "despicable" by the judge who sentenced him to prison, was eligible for release on Friday, but prison officials would not discuss his status.

Noel had been sentenced to four years for involuntary manslaughter in the 2001 death of neighbor Whipple.

He and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, were convicted in March 2002. Whipple, 33, was attacked in the hallway of their apartment building by the couple's two Presa Canarios.

Noel suggested that Whipple had brought the attack on herself by taking steroids or wearing perfume that attracted the dogs. His wife said Whipple could have avoided injury simply by shutting her apartment door.

The trial judge was outraged.

"Their conduct from the time that they got the dogs to the weeks after Diane Whipple's death was despicable," Superior Court Judge James Warren said, calling the dogs "a canine time bomb."

Knoller, 48, has refused to work during her incarceration at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla and won't be released until early March, the San Francisco district attorney's office said Wednesday.

Knoller originally was convicted of second-degree murder, but that conviction was tossed out by the judge. She also received a four-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

Noel, 62, who served most of his sentence in Oregon because of his past experience as a lawyer representing both inmates and prison guards in California, was transferred last week to High Desert State Prison in Susanville. He has been separated from the general population at his own request, according to Margot Bach, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.

While prisoners are typically released to the county in which they committed their crimes, Noel will not be returned to San Francisco; instead, he will be sent to Solano County, Bach said.

Noel also will be considered a high-control parolee, which means he will need to check in with his parole officer at least four times a month, Bach said.

Michael Cardoza, who represents Sharon Smith, Whipple's former partner, said Smith was shocked that Noel's release is imminent.

"She certainly feels it's not commensurate with the crime that was committed," said Cardoza, adding that Smith was on vacation and unreachable this week.

Wrongful death suits filed separately by Smith and Whipple's mother against the owners and managers of Whipple's apartment building were settled in December 2002 for an undisclosed sum.

The state attorney general's office is appealing the dismissal of Knoller's conviction for second-degree murder. Both Knoller and Noel also are appealing their convictions.

"The appeals are going forward. We're still fighting to reinstate the murder conviction," said Jim Hammer, who prosecuted the case.

Noel will be on parole for at least three years, officials said. The State Bar of California has temporarily suspended his license to practice law and plans its own probe on whether he should be disbarred permanently, once his appeals are completed, a spokeswoman said.

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