SAN DIEGO — Authorities Tuesday confirmed the death of a 41-year-old woman who was convicted, along with her daughter, of charges stemming from a fatal attack by their two pit bulls on a 75-year-old next-door neighbor.
Alba Cornelio was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter and other counts in the death of Emako Mendoza. The defendant’s 21-year-old daughter, Carla, was also found guilty and sentenced last week to four years in prison, but Alba Cornelio wasn’t sentenced because she was hospitalized with leukemia and a heart condition.
The day of the verdict, she cried out and later had to be taken to the hospital. She died on Saturday, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
At Carla Cornelio’s sentencing, 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.
The victim had to have her left leg and arm amputated. Doctors later amputated her right leg.
Mendoza was 76 when she died on Christmas Eve of that year from complications due to her injuries.
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 victim.
It was the the second time in 30 years that county animal services officials pursued a felony case against a dog owner.