SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A woman whose two pit bulls attacked her 75-year-old next-door neighbor, resulting in her death months later, was sentenced Monday to four years in state prison.
Carla Cornelio, 21, was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Emako Mendoza.
Cornelio's mother, Alba, was also convicted but will be sentenced later because she is hospitalized with leukemia and a heart condition.
Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney said he was convinced by trial testimony that at least one of the canines was malnourished.
"The animals were neglected," the judge said. "The animals were starving. The animals were poorly housed. The animals were feeding themselves."
Prosecutor Makenzie Harvey told jurors that the defendants knew their dogs were dangerous because the canines had attacked a man and his puppy six months before the attack on Mendoza, which occurred in her Paradise Hills back yard garden the morning of June 18, 2011.
Mendoza was 76 when she died on Christmas Eve of that year.
James Mendoza pleaded with the court to impose the maximum sentence, saying his wife "was completely tore up. I hope they do some suffering, just like my wife did. She suffered a lot."
The victim had to have her left leg amputated below the knee. Doctors later amputated her right leg.
Witnesses testified that the dogs got through a gap in the fence, ripping a hole near a metal gate that the victim's husband had installed.
Attorney John O'Connell, representing Carla Cornelio, asked for leniency from the judge prior to sentencing.
"Carla did not commit this attack," O'Connell said. "She did not kill Mrs. Mendoza. She's a good person, providing for her family when her mother got sick. If it wasn't for these dogs, you'd never see her in court."