San Francisco murder-by-dog defendant gets new trial
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2002:
SAN FRANCISCO–San Francisco Superior Court Judge James
Warren on April 12, 2002 granted a new trial to attorney Marjorie
Knoller, who was convicted by a Los Angeles jury on March 21 of
second degree murder for the dog mauling death of her former neighbor
Knoller, 46, was also convicted of manslaughter and keeping
a dangerous animal, as was her husband, fellow attorney Robert
Noel. Noel indicated that he would also appeal the jury verdict.
Whipple, 33, was killed as she tried to enter her San
Francisco apartment on January 26, 2001, after Knoller lost control
of two Presa Canario dogs. Not leashed, the dogs each weighed more
than either Knoller or Whipple. The dogs were acquired from reputed
Aryan Brotherhood prison gang leader Paul “Cornfed” Schneider, who
is already serving a life sentence and is facing additional charges.
Schneider–whom Knoller and Noel legally adopted–had organized a
failed scheme to market Presa Canarios as “Dogs o’ War.”
Presa Canarios are a fighting breed originally produced in
the Canary Islands by crossing English mastiffs with pit bull terriers.
More than 30 witnesses testified about previous attacks and
other menacing conduct by the dogs kept by Knoller and Noel.
The retrial was granted, apparently, because of the
theatrics of Knoller’s original defense counsel, Nedra Ruiz.
Knoller is to be represented in the retrial by veteran defense
counsel Dennis Riordan, who has handled more than 100 previous
murder case appeals.
In Mausten, Wisconsin, Judge John Brady on April 16 ruled
that there is enough evidence to prosecute Wayne Hardy, 24, for
homicide and reckless endangerment, for the Valentine’s Day fatal
mauling of Alicia Lynn Clark, 10. Hardy and companion Shanda
McCracken, 32, left Clark and McCracken’s 11-year-old daughter
alone with two adult Rottweilers and a litter of puppies, even
though the dogs had previously threatened both girls and had recently
killed a cat.
Hardy could get up to 72 years in prison if convicted,
having already served time for burglary and possession of a firearm
as a convicted felon. Hardy and McCracken earlier pleaded innocent
to child neglect, but did not enter pleas on the other charges.
McCracken will apparently not be prosecuted for homicide and reckness
endangerment, although both charges were also filed against her.
Bradley D. Laskowski, 20, of Stevens Point, Wisconsin,
was charged on April 19 with two counts of negligent handling of a
dangerous weapon, for allowing his two pit bull terriers to severely
injure Danielle Woyach, 11, a guest of his younger sister. The
dogs had attacked people at least twice before, police said, and
mauled a neighbor’s golden retriever as recently as February 1.
In the first comparable California case going to trial since
the original Knoller/ Noel convictions, Michael C. Bryan, 46, won
permission to represent himself on five felony counts of owning or
controlling a dangerous animal and one count of misdemeanor
obstruction of a peace officer. Bryan allegedly owned five pit bull
terriers who severely mauled neighbor Jorge Elizondo on March 2. The
dogs disappeared before local law enforcement could take them into
New York State Supreme Court Justice William Wetzel is to
sentence Norman Schachter, 49, and Derrick Moultrie, 34, on May
6, in a dog attack case of a different sort. Schachter, a tanning
salon owner in New Canaan, Connecticut, and Moultrie, a Bronx dog
trainer, were convicted on April 11 of attempted burglary,
possession of heroin and cocaine, attempted assault, and attempted
witness intimidation. Schachter and Moultrie allegedly plotted to
have author Shawn Considine, 65, beaten up, and to plant illegal
drugs and child pornography in his New York City apartment.
The case began in 1998 when three Belgian Malinois dogs
handled by Schacter’s wife, Debbie Gamiel, 45, mauled Considine in
Central Park. Gamiel was charged with assault. She drew probation
in July 2001 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Schachter in
the interim tried to discourage Considine from testifying. against
Assistant Manhattan district attorney Jon Viega revealed
during the trial that Schachter pleaded guilty in 1996 to a charge of
aggravated harassment against a medical doctor who had been in a
dispute with Gamiel.
In Melbourne, Australia, director of public prosecutions
Paul Coghlan in early April recommended the first-ever Victoria state
criminal prosecution of a dog owner for an attack–but the charge of
reckless conduct is much weaker than the manslaughter charge
reportedly sought by Shelly Tarasinski, widow of Leon Tarasinski. A
75-year-old survivor of the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi holocaust,
Leon Tarasinski was trying to collect rent from tenant Debra Susan
Marks on February 16, 1999, when her Rhodesian ridgeback-cross
attacked him. Marks allegedly kept the dog to guard an illegal
marijuana plantation. Tarasinski fought the dog off, despite
profuse bleeding, but died from a heart attack soon after reaching
the safety of his car.
Giuovani Pacino, 35, of Western Aust-ralia, was convicted
of manslaughter in 1998 after his Rottweilers killed neighbor Perina
Chokolich, 85. Pacino was apparently the first person in Australia
to be convicted of causing a death-by-dog–but his conviction was
eventually reversed, reportedly due to a procedural error.
The Tarasinski case has stirred demands nationwide for
stiffer legislation against keeping dangerous dogs.
South Australia environment minister John Hill noted on April
19 that in Adelaide alone, a city of about one million people,
6,500 people seek treatment for dog bites each year. About 250
children under age 12 are hospitalized each year for emergency aid
after dog maulings, Hill added, and about 60 of them require
longterm care due to severe head and facial injuries.
In Tucson, Arizona, slightly smaller than Adelaide, only
about 2,400 dog bites per year are reported to hospitals and
police–down about 400 from the 1997 peak.
Residents of Cleveland, Ohio, and Fort Worth, Texas,
cities half again larger than Adelaide and Tucson, report under
1,000 dog bites per year.
The U.S. numbers may be lower, however, only due to
underreporting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that 4.5 million Americans per year are bitten by dogs, of
whom 800,000 require medical treatment. If dogs bite in Tucson,
Cleveland, and Fort Worth at approximately the same rate as in the
rest of the U.S., the ratio of bites to human population would be
almost the same as in Adelaide.
Concern about dangerous dogs has resurged in Europe too. In
Italy, where lethal animal control is technically illegal,
policymakers are wondering what to do about longterm custody of pit
bulls, after two pit bulls who escaped from a nearby home on April
15 killed farmers Vincenzo Ramis and Salvatore Rizzello. both just
past age 60, as they worked in their fields outside the city of
In Germany, controversial breed-specific legislation brought
into effect a year ago after previous dog attack fatalities got a
political boost on March 28–at a price–when a six-year-old boy who
was helping a 37-year-old woman to walk her two Rottweilers near the
city of Pirmasens tripped and fell. The woman was unable to prevent
both Rottweilers from attacking and killing the boy.
In Sofia, Bulgaria, a third larger than Cleveland and Fort
Worth but twice the size of Adelaide and Tucson, at least 3,020
people were bitten by dogs in 2001, including 558 children. Since
November 2000, when Sofia hosted the International Companion Animal
Welfare Conference, the city animal control department has
reportedly sterilized about 4,000 dogs and put them up for adoption
via local rescue groups–and has killed 36,000 dogs found at large.
The effort did not help pensioner Andrei Skliar, 71, however, who
was fatally mauled on January 30 in the town of Svishtov, north of