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Dog owner gets prison for fatal dog mauling

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SAN DIEGO — 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 CornelioCarla 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.

Attorney John O’Connell, representing Carla Cornelio, asked for leniency from the judge prior to sentencing.

“Carla did not commit this attack,” he 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.”

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.

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.”

A female pit bull involved in the attack had “prominent” bones and the remains of two opossums in her digestive system when euthanized, indicated she had been hunting for food, the judge said.

Witnesses testified that the dogs got through a gap in a fence, ripping a hole near a metal gate that the victim’s husband had installed.

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.

The man in the previous dog attack suffered a minor wound but declined to press charges when the Cornelios offered to pay the poodle’s veterinary bills. No charges were filed since there were no witnesses to the attack.

The prosecutor described an enclosure in the Cornelios’ backyard constructed to separate the dogs from the human inhabitants as a “fortress.”

“These pit bulls were not pets,” Harvey said.

She said the Cornelios “were criminally negligent in allowing these dogs to get out and to attack” the woman.

O’Connell asserted that the canines were indeed pets, and noted that some sections of the backyard enclosure were only 4 feet high.

“The contention that these were super vicious dogs was not the case,” O’Connell said.

It was the the second time in 30 years that county animal services officials pursued a felony case against a dog owner.

20 comments

  • Amanda

    Dogs that are loved like a pet and not starving likely wouldn't act this way. I have no sympathy for the owners and I'm happy she's going to jail.

    • SteveB

      Really Amanda?!? Pit bulls will attack anything at any given time… they are bred to kill. Unpredictable regardless of whether they're raised in a good home or not. You and your delusional pet friends need to face reality.

  • That Girl

    If you won't be a responsible pet owner that takes care of the animals needs, then you must be responsible for their actions.

    • Anonymous

      This is bull. It is a shame someone was killed, but she was not raising fighting dogs. An accident happened. She was only at the house to help care for her mother who is ill. This sentence needs to be overturned. Rapists and drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents get less time. It is disgusting how messed up our judicial system is.

  • AnimalProtector

    Just look at the smug expression on her in the photo above. Anyone who treats animals this bad, to the point of having to FEED THEMSELVES is barbaric! Prison is too good for these people. Put them in feces filled rotten backyard and make them malnourished so they can feel what its like. I have no sympathy for them as Amanda and hope they rot in hell….

  • Tamara

    This should happen EVERYTIME some dies or gets hurt. Doesn't matter if its pitbulls, rottweilers or any other dog. Take responsibility for your dog. You neglect to do that, then you deserve MAXIMUM time. SOO done with people who don't want take responsibility for their animals. Four years in state? I'd say give 10 years since the woman had to amputate both legs and later died because of it. Seriously, wouldn't you want maximum sentencing if they tore up your grandma or kid? Yeah, I thought so.

  • Farnsworth

    Society is jacked up. We claim to be a society of caring people, but we don’t act that way. What would Jesus do? Jesus would forgive. I’m sure she is sorry. You really think the grandma would want a kid to be locked up when her mother needs her?

    • AnimalProtector

      Screw your forgiveness. Do you see ANY remorse in the face above? She is going to brag to her friends about this is my guess…… I agree with Tamara. The HORROR people have done to animals in return for their unconditional love has got to stop once and for all. They deserve a place on this p[planet, even more so than some humans do… C'mon Jesus, show these evil people the light…..

  • pitbullowner

    don't blame the dogs.. blame the owner… she did not take care of those dogs. if taken care of correctly… those dogs would be great pets and never attacked the poor lady.

    • SteveB

      Another delusional pit bull owner… these dogs are dangerous and should not be allowed to be pets.

      I don't think a beagle would attack and try to eat a human being if they were starving. Only a savage pit bull would do something brutal like that.

  • Farnsworth

    And who are you to judge? If I make it to heaven I hope I am judged for the good I do rather then the evil I have had a hand in. And defendants are told to no emotion FYI. Jurors tend to match tears with guilt, laughter with guilt, sadness with guilt. Lack of any clears and preconceived notion a juror may have.

  • Farnsworth

    Not true. Dogs often times like to display dominance over property. Has it crossed your mind the dogs perceived neighbor as trespassing? I know a great dog that killed one of her owners dogs. Since then she has been kindest dog ever. So those owners are bad? They caused dog to kill their oldest dog?

  • Thor

    they are pit bulls, they have a viscous nature and will attack anything they see is a potential threat — real or not. Pit Bulls have been known to attack their owners out of the blue for no particular reason. The state should require pet owners of known viscous animals to carry extra insurance, along with a high yearly pet registration fee, and bi-yearly inspections of the area they are kept. Require the owners to go thru special training before being able to own such a animal.
    Don't punish the owner for something the state and or county should of taken care before it got to this point.
    Drunk drivers get less time in jail then this person.

    • Farnsworth

      Any dog has a potential to attack and the only reason this case got steam required for a conviction was because it was a put bull.

  • Boook

    So glad this scum will spend some time in state prison. No doubt she will be out far earlier than the 4 year sentence but I hope every single day is torture for her. I do wonder if any of the neighbors, including the poor man who lost his wife, ever complained to Animal Control about these poor neglected dogs. People need to be more proactive and speak for the animals. Of course they may have been intiminated from the looks of her. But the man whose poodle was mauled definitely screwed up by not reporting it.

  • jr

    I know this people they are big time drug dealers,how you guys think they paid 30,000 dollars to bail ger out, they deserve more time..its karma for everything they have done..

  • Torque Spinner

    I am just not sure if I want my tax dollars to pay for her in prison. That's a big expense to us, yes, I realize the dogs mauled someone and she died, but mercy, my sister was also mauled along with her 2 children while she was out walking, we would have had to pay for them too. The owners in my sisters case, were asked to do Community Service at the animal shelter for a certain amount of time and then had to pay for their own probation–and were forbidden to ever own a pet. Probation checked on them regularly.

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