Possible Sex Abuse in Dog-Mauling Case

ByABC News

March 30, 2001 -- Newly released court documents allege the couple charged in the fatal dog mauling of a San Francisco woman had ample evidence the animals were dangerous — and that they may have engaged in sexual activity with the pets.

According to police affidavits, witness statements, and other information released Thursday evening, Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel's two presa Canario mastiffs had twice attacked a blind woman and a guide dog, and had bitten numerous other people.

The two animals, 120-pound Bane and 113-pound Hera, attacked and killed the couple's neighbor Diane Whipple on Jan. 26 in a hallway outside her apartment.

Did Sex Abuse Spur Deadly Attack?

The documents also include a letter, described as being written by either Knoller or Noel, discussing sexual activity between the couple and the male dog, Bane.

Investigators were looking into the possibility that sexual abuse of the animals may have spurred the attack on Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse coach.

Neither Knoller nor Noel has been charged with sexual assault on the animals.

The couple, who are both attorneys, has claimed the pets had not been violent before the incident. Noel wrote a letter to prosecutors blaming Whipple for the attack.

San Francisco attorney George Walker, who has said he will likely represent Knoller, said today he urged the couple not to talk about the case.

Lawyer: Trauma May Have Spurred Outbursts

"Obviously if I had any control over them, I would have told them not to go to the grand jury, not to talk, not to write letters," he said.

"Their attitude about this case has tarnished them," he said.

He suggested that psychological trauma from the incident has prompted some of Knoller's comments.

"I can't imagine that woman coming out of that [incident] without having some kind of trauma," he said.

Walker met with district attorney's office today to discuss the case, and was expected to ask that Knoller's bail be lowered. Her bail was set Wednesday at $2 million, and Noel's at $1 million, because authorities considered them a flight risk.

Will the Trial Be Moved Elsewhere?

If Walker indeed represents Knoller, he said he would likely ask for the trial to be moved out of the region, because of the intense media scrutiny of the case.

Knoller, who was present at the time of the attack, faces second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges. She faces the possibility of life in prison. Her husband is charged with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Bane was euthanized shortly after the fatal attack. Hera is being held at an local animal control facility.

Maryellen Geist, with ABCNEWS affiliate KGO in San Francisco, contributed to this report.