Judge refuses to dismiss charges in fatal pit bull attack - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Judge refuses to dismiss charges in fatal pit bull attack

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A judge refused Tuesday to dismiss charges against a mother and daughter facing involuntary manslaughter counts in the death of their 75-year-old neighbor, who was attacked by their two pit bulls in her backyard.

Alba Cornelio, 40, and her 20-year-old daughter, Carla, each face up to four years and eight months in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey.

During Tuesday's hearing, John O'Connell, the attorney for Carla Cornelio, argued the dog owners had proper fencing and took care to secure the animals, especially after their pit bulls attacked a man and his puppy on Christmas Day 2010, six months before Emako Mendoza was mauled in her backyard.

But Harvey told Judge Frederick Maguire that the defendants knew they had dangerous dogs and didn't do enough to fix the fence between their house and the Mendoza residence.

"I disagree that they did everything they could do," the prosecutor said. "They left it up to the victim."

The manslaughter charge was added three weeks after Emako Mendoza died of complications from the June 18, 2011, attack at her Paradise Hills home. She was 76 when she died on Christmas Eve.

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

In denying the defendants' motion to dismiss charges, Maguire ruled there was enough evidence to support an earlier decision by Superior Court Judge Charles Gill that the Cornelios should stand trial.

Whether the defendants failed to exercise ordinary care to secure the dogs or were guilty of criminal negligence should be left for a jury to decide, Maguire said.

In addition to 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.

They will be back in court July 9 for a readiness conference. Trial is set July 30.


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