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Murder unleashed.

The girlfriend of a woman killed by an attack dog fights back against the owners, who suggest the victim was at fault

Diane Alexis Whipple was mauled to death by a 120-pound Presa Canario dog in front of her San Francisco apartment, and now Whipple's lesbian partner is vowing to see the dog's owners jailed. "I want to see [Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller] locked up," Sharon Smith, Whipple's girlfriend of seven years, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I believe ... they let this happen." Smith said the dog had bitten Whipple the month of the fatal attack, an allegation confirmed by Whipple's coworkers at St. Mary's College of California, where she coached lacrosse.

In the days after the January 26 attack, what first appeared as bizarre got even stranger. First it came out that Paul Schneider, a 38-year-old convict serving time at a California state prison for assault and attempted murder, had previously owned the dog. Schneider, a member of a white supremacist group, had allegedly been operating an attack-dog breeding business through intermediaries outside the prison. Then on January 29, Noel, 59, and Knoller, 45--both lawyers--legally adopted Schneider. A few days later the couple denied culpability for the attack, in part, they suggested, because Whipple didn't move quickly enough. They further implied that the attack might have been sparked by a pheromone-based perfume or steroid that Whipple may have used. Smith and her lawyer joined city investigators in calling the allegations absurd, and on February 7 district attorney Terrence Hallinan moved the investigation against Noel and Knoller to the homicide division.

Some legal experts say if Smith brings a civil suit against Noel and Knoller, it could be groundbreaking. California law bars same-sex partners from filing wrongful death claims. This case, some attorneys suggest, could present a strong challenge to that policy.

During a February 1 memorial service, hundreds celebrated Whipple's life. Friends and family said that Whipple, a 1990 NCAA Player of the Year, loved her work. "Knowledge of the sport got Coach her job," St. Mary's lacrosse player Amy Harms said. "But her friendship made us love her."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:woman mauled to death by dog in San Francisco, California
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Mar 13, 2001
Previous Article:Rants & raves.
Next Article:Young, gay, black, and HIV-positive.

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