SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A woman whose two pit bulls attacked her 75-year-old next-door neighbor, leading to the victim's death six months later, pleaded not guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter and other charges.
Carla Cornelio, 20, faces four years and eight months behind bars if convicted in the death last Christmas Eve of Emako Mendoza.
Cornelio's mother Alba, also charged in the case, has been hospitalized for treatment of leukemia, her attorney said.
A status conference was set for May 21. No trial date has been set.
After a preliminary hearing last month, Judge Charles Gill ordered the defendants to stand trial on the manslaughter charge, 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 charge was added three weeks after Emako Mendoza died of complications from the June 18 attack at her Paradise Hills home. She was 76 when she died.
According to previous court testimony, Emako Mendoza was attacked in her fenced-in yard when she went outside to get her newspaper. The victim's left arm had to be amputated below the elbow and her left leg amputated below the knee. Doctors later amputated her right leg.
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.
Prosecutor Makenzie Harvey alleged the defendants knew they had dangerous dogs because the same pit bulls escaped from their yard on Christmas Day 2010 and attacked a man who was walking his puppy. The dog suffered a broken jaw and the man was bitten.
The judge, in binding the defendants over for trial, said he had reservations whether prosecutors could prove the charge of involuntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt.
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