Testimony reveals couple’s attitude toward Whipple, dogs | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Testimony reveals couple’s attitude toward Whipple, dogs


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Court documents released Tuesday show that during testimony before a grand jury in March, prosecutor James Hammer suggested that Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel enjoyed scaring and mocking people who feared the two Presa Canario dogs they cared for.

Nearly 1,000 pages of grand jury testimony offer a glimpse into Knoller and 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 face charges of involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog.

Bane and Hera, the dogs involved in the attack against Whipple, were being kept by the couple on behalf of Paul John Schneider and Dale Bretches, two Pelican Bay State Prison inmates who authorities say are gang members.

About two weeks before the attack, Noel wrote Schneider 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 blonde 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 answered.

”Are you concerned that she almost had a coronary at the time?” Hammer continued.

”Not particularly, no,” Noel replied.

”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 dogs on several occasions. He also had numerous heated run-ins with people on the street who thought his dogs should be better restrained.

During testimony, Knoller said Bane bit her during the attack as she tried to shield Whipple’s body with her own, but he never broke the skin because the dog knew her.

”So, it’s your testimony that Bane would bite and in an instant taste you and stop biting so hard,” Hammer asked.

”That’s correct,” Knoller answered.

Knoller faces stiffer charges because she was in the hallway during the entire attack.

Knoller also 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.

Knoller testified that Bane only attacked Whipple after she left the safety of her apartment to return to the hallway. She suggested Bane may have been responding to Whipple as if she was a female dog in heat.

Whipple, 33, was attacked Jan. 26 in the doorway of her apartment after returning from grocery shopping.

The transcript revealed she was naked and bloody as she tried to crawl down the hallway back to her apartment after the attack.

Knoller, who said she had advanced first aid training as a lifeguard and a dental assistant, said she plugged Whipple’s neck wounds with her finger, but then left the woman to put both dogs in her apartment. She said Hera stood by barking during the entire incident and 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.”

Hours after the attack, Noel wrote Schneider and Bretches a three-page letter.

”There’s no way to ease into this,” he said. ”Bane is dead as is one of our neighbors.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.