Manslaughter charges filed against dog owners - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Manslaughter charges filed against dog owners

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A mother and daughter whose two female pit bulls attacked their 75-year-old next-door neighbor in her backyard, causing her death six months later, were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter.

Alba Cornelio, 39, and her 20-year-old daughter, Carla, face up to four years and eight months in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey.

The defendants, each free on $350,000 bail, pleaded not guilty and were ordered to return to court Feb. 29 for a readiness conference.

Besides involuntary manslaughter, the defendants are charged with a felony count of owning a mischievous animal causing death and six misdemeanor code violations, including failing to protect the public from a dog and owning a dangerous dog.

The manslaughter charges were added three weeks after Emako Mendoza died of complications from the June 18 attack at her Paradise Hills home. She was 76 was she died on Christmas Eve.

The victim had her left arm amputated below the elbow and her left leg amputated below the knee. Doctors later amputated her right leg.

According to previous court testimony, Emako Mendoza was attacked in her fenced-in yard when she went outside to get the morning paper.

Witnesses testified that the pit bulls got through a gap in the fence, ripping a hole near a metal gate that the victim had installed to bridge the gap in the fence between the two properties.

Harvey alleged the defendants knew they had dangerous dogs because the same two pit bulls escaped from their yard on Christmas Day 2010 and attacked a man who was walking his puppy. The puppy suffered a broken jaw and the man was bitten.

After the attack on Mendoza, Alba Cornelio allowed animal service officers to euthanize her two pit bulls and their 3-week-old puppies.

Defense attorney Donovan Dunnion argued that the dogs were family pets and never hurt another human being before the attack on Mendoza.

At a preliminary hearing last year, Dunnion said the pit bulls were running from a swarm of bees when they attacked Mendoza.

Wednesday, the attorney said something "unusual" had to happen for the dogs to go through the fence and attack the victim.

Dunnion said the Cornelios were good people who took steps to ensure their dogs would stay in the yard.

"It was a horrific event," Dunnion said. "Everything that could have been done, I think, was done."

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