Using the money he won in his lawsuit, and inspired by an ad in Dog Fancy, Schneider decided he’d start a dog -breeding business with the help of an unmarried Mormon woman who fell in love with the guy known as the “most dangerous man” in the California prison system. Schneider planned to breed and train Press Canaries to work as ferocious guard dogs for the Mexican Mafia’s meth labs.
The 33-year-old lacrosse coach was met in the hallway by her neighbor, a lawyer named Marjorie Knoll er. Knoll er recalled later that Whipple was standing in her open apartment door, staring at Bane.
Hera was the couple’s other dog, also a Press Scenario and also trained to protect Mexican meth labs. Following their heated exchange, Knoll er claims she attempted to protect Whipple from her two massive dogs by pushing the lacrosse coach into her own apartment.
Prior to that, they were being kept by Janet Combs, a Mormon woman who’d been talked into caring for the dogs for the incarcerated Schneider. But Combs turned the two dogs over to his lawyers after Bane and Hera ate all of her sheep, all of her chickens and her housecoat.
Although she couldn’t see her underneath the dogs attacking her, Bookmaker could hear Whipple screaming, “Help me! The terrified senior called 911 to report that “dogs were running wild” in the apartment building.
This time Bookmaker couldn’t form coherent sentences and instead could only scream into the phone. Officer Alec Cardenas, a medic from a police SWAT team, found Whipple somehow still gripping to life.
The dog ’s black and tan tiger stripe coat and white teeth were painted with Whipple’s blood. Animal control officers arrived on-scene and shot Bane with three tranqs darts strong enough to put down a dog of his enormous size.
She’s also described the boy who would grow up to become Corned Schneider as “very protective of me.” She claims her brother “stood up to our stepdad” who “used to beat the shit out of Paul.” He had clocked the lax habits of the armed guards who regularly visited the supermarket where his girlfriend worked and decided they were a ripe target.
Deep inside that home for the state’s worst offenders, he was locked-up in solitary confinement in an 11 x 7½ foot cell for 22 hours a day. Three years later, in 1990, when Schneider was brought to court to testify as a witness in another inmate’s case, is when he stabbed Cozens with a soup ladle he pulled from his rectum.
In the meantime, Schneider sued the corrections' system for all those X-rays meant to prevent another soup ladle shiv stabbing. Since Schneider was locked-up in solitary confinement, he obviously didn’t have the space to raise and train Bane and the puppies he planned to breed.
Schneider, who was 38 at the time, romanced Combs with letters and plied her with sweet words during her missionary prison visits. Over time, he convinced the lonely woman to allow him to store his dogs on her rural property and to care for and feed them as if they were the couple’s own furry children.
Combs lived with her teenage daughter in Hay fork, a small town in rural Northern California. A single mother, she and her daughter Daisy squeaked by with her disability check and what income they could pull out of a small farm where they raised lambs.
But when she didn’t make plans to remove his dogs from her farm, Schneider threatened her life. The threat was taken seriously enough that Janet Combs no longer lives on her farm in Hay fork raising sheep.
Noel said that his newly-adopted prison gang leader son serving multiple life sentences was a person who had “character and integrity,” and that “he’s got a family now.” Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, “While seeking evidence in the mauling, police found risqué photos of Knoll er in Schneider’s cell.
Police will not discuss other evidence, but their search warrant said they were after material ‘describing sexual acts by Noel or Knoll er that involved dogs.’” While he was locked-up awaiting trial (Knoll er and Noel were both charged with “manslaughter and keeping a mischievous animal,” with another charge of second-degree murder for Knoll er), Noel told a reporter from Rolling Stone all about how impressed he was with the hellhound’s enormous dick, “Bane was confident, proud, handsome.
He sees Marjorie, rolls over on his back and, bam, that big red arrow popped out. Boy, was that dog hung.” Later, in the same article, a former prison guard recalled how much Noel was impressed by Bane’s genitals, “I’d get on the phone with Bob to ask him about a case.
He’s our kid, and we love him.” She later added that as far as the porn she sent to Schneider, “It’s a tradition to write erotic letters to inmates. San Francisco District Attorney Terence “KO” Tallinn assigned Assistant D.A.
At the time, the young legal star was dazzling the local press with her media savvy, camera-ready personality and relationship with then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Along with lead prosecutor James Hammer, Guilfoyle showed in court that Knoll er and Noel were criminally responsible for their dogs’ behavior, recounting how the dogs, in their few short months with Knoll er and Noel, had attacked 30 people in all.
However, after being paroled, during Knoll er’s probation hearing in 2008, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woodard opted to reinstate the jury’s original verdict of 15 years to life. At that trial, Sharon Smith, who was Diane Whipple’s partner, said that she felt justice had finally been granted.
Then, last year, she was denied a final appeal of her life sentence, which presumably ends her legal fight, and guarantees that she’ll serve out her time for the heinous death of Diane Whipple. Aaron Burnett is an investigative journalist and long form features writer based in Los Angeles.
In San Francisco, tech startups like Craigslist and Napster were newly ascendant, local media was still thriving and looking for juicy stories, and the tough-on-crime sensibilities of the 1990s still ruled the court system. They were defense attorneys and self-described “left-wing liberals” who had spent much of their careers representing the homeless and dispossessed, those they saw as “getting screwed by the system.” They had converted a closet into an office where they worked, among other things, to defend prison guards and inmates in lawsuits against the corrections department, and support incarcerated people at Pelican Bay State Prison in nearby Crescent City.
Originally bred for guarding livestock, and commonly used for dog fighting, Press are characteristically devoted to their masters but can be “suspicious of strangers, according to the American Kennel Club. On January 26, Dianne Whipple, a lacrosse coach at St. Mary’s College who lived just down the hall from the lawyers, was returning to her apartment from an afternoon grocery run.
The dogs, each weighing over a hundred pounds, attacked the 5-foot-3-inch Whipple as she was entering her apartment, tearing at her clothing, torso, and neck. A neighbor called the police to report “two dogs rampaging out in the hall,” adding that she didn’t dare open the door for fear of being attacked.
When the police arrived, they found the hallway covered in blood and shredded clothes, with Whipple conscious but unable to speak. But the horror and spectacle of Whipple’s death, as well as growing dislike for the couple in the media, fueled the story and the case gathered momentum.
“I made it a habit of reading up on animals, all different breeds and temperaments, finding out about shelters and service groups,” Guilfoyle told the San Francisco Chronicle. Because the death of Diane Whipple looked initially like it might be classified as a common dog attack, it seemed for a moment to fall under Guilfoyle ’s purview.
But as the unusual circumstances and gruesome details of the case drew increasing public attention, it became clear it wouldn’t be covered like anything in recent memory. Besides the jury trial, there was also a civil case being brought simultaneously by Whipple’s partner, Sharon Smith, who was suing for wrongful death.
That case posed a challenge in that winning would require the court to recognize Smith and Whipple’s relationship in a time before gay partners had been granted conjugal legal rights. Smith’s lawyer, Michael Cardozo, felt strongly that Guilfoyle was not qualified to lead the prosecution for the criminal trial.
Noel, after serving his sentence of manslaughter in the case, spent his final years living in a van near San Diego and posting anti-Trump messages on Facebook. These days Guilfoyle ’s more visible than she’s ever been, crisscrossing the country as a top-billed Trump campaign surrogate and giving a rousing speech on the opening night at the Republican National Convention.
Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of Turning Point USA, called Guilfoyle ’s one of the “biggest draws” for the conference. But what she presents as self-advocacy and resourcefulness can feel closer to credential inflation, and what she and others tout as an ability to think quickly on her feet could be characterized as a willingness to play fast and loose with the facts.
The Summer of Love with its ecstasy and freewheeling idealism was still in the air at the intersection of Height and Ashbury, just a few miles from Guilfoyle ’s childhood home. And she was especially close with her father, one of the many Irish immigrants to come to the community, who “groomed me first to be my own best champion,” Guilfoyle wrote in Making the Case.
Guilfoyle helped pay for college and law school with modeling gigs, and she went to work for the Los Angeles district attorney’s office in 1996. After four years there, she got a job at the district attorney’s office in San Francisco, as her relationship with Gavin Newsom progressed.
They married in December 2001, in a glamorous wedding with 500 guests and a reception at the mansion of Ann and Gordon Getty, solidifying a relationship that would put Guilfoyle at the center of San Francisco society. Guilfoyle reveled in the attention, posing with Newsom in an evening gown, splayed out on a carpet of the Getty Mansion, as the city’s “first couple” for a 2004 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. She wasn’t above gloating about her new husband.
Once, upon learning she and pop star Jewel, who had dated Newsom, were going to the same corporate gala, she openly fantasized to a reporter about showing the singer up. There was already speculation that Newsom was destined for the White House, and Guilfoyle “certainly always has had that goal in mind,” according to an interview I had with true-crime author and TV presenter Aphrodite Jones, who’d published a pulpy book about the case in 2001 titled Red Zone: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of the San Francisco Mauling, for which she interviewed Guilfoyle extensively.
But the prosecution ultimately threaded the needle, and many cited Hammer’s passionate closing as the reason, including those who did so grudgingly, like Riordan who called it “grossly prejudicial” but effective. A 2001 profile of Noel and Knoll er in the San Francisco Chronicle portrays the couple not as evil but insufferably myopic, having styled themselves as “champions for the powerless and the unpopular, convinced they were decent people doing good deeds.” But sealed court documents that were improperly leaked by “law enforcement officials” presented a one-sided picture of the case.
The documents included salacious and unverified descriptions of the defendants, depicting them as not merely eccentric hermits but a villainous pair engaged in heinous behaviors, from bestiality and illicit affairs to an “incestuous love triangle” with John Paul Schneider, the Pelican Bay convict. Prison authorities claimed Schneider wanted the dogs trained to protect drug labs in Mexico, although the FBI found no wrongdoing and no charges were filed.
Journalists had a field day with the defendants, and Judge Warren would soon refer to them as “the most despised couple in this city.” Shortly after Whipple’s attack, the couple held a press conference outside of Pelican Bay, highlighting their ties to the controversial convict and flying in the face of one of the most common pieces of advice people in their profession give defendants under criminal investigation: Don’t talk to the press. Even after they were indicted for second-degree murder and sent to jail, the couple continued to self-sabotage, calling Smith’s wrongful death suit a “fraud and sham” and trying to have it thrown out on the grounds that as a gay partner she wasn’t a legal heir.
But Noel and Knoll er lost that battle, and it likely didn’t help that rather than seeking legal counsel, the lawyers had represented themselves, typing up their court papers from jail. Sobbing, she described how she’d fought and failed to control her dog, explaining that she had only gone on television to counter media “misinformation” and let people know “this was a totally unexpected, horrible event.” But it was too late.
Jury members couldn’t reconcile that Knoll er with the robotic lawyer they’d seen on Good Morning America, whose callous answers they could go back and replay, as prosecutors had to great effect during the trial. The ruling troubled criminal law experts like Phil Penny packer, a then-defense attorney who would go on to serve as a judge for the Superior Court of Santa Clara County in California, who told the Los Angeles Times in 2002 that the case quite clearly did not rise to the level of murder.
Franklin Firing, faculty director of criminal justice studies at UC Berkeley’s law school, has disagreed with the murder verdict since it was first made almost 20 years ago. But for many lay observers, the notion it was all a tragic accident didn’t square with the lawyer, almost robotic response from Knoll er and Noel, who seemed incapable of registering the appropriate degree of compassion and pity for Whipple and her loved ones.
Local reporter Ed Walsh, who has interviewed Knoll er a number of times over the years, said “she did express a lot of remorse about what happened” and that he had a very different opinion of her after talking to her in person. Before the trial by jury began in January 2002, the case was transferred to Los Angeles, to avoid bias resulting from the San Francisco media coverage.
But by the time the case was handed back down with a reinstated second-degree murder conviction in 2008, KimberlyGuilfoyle was long gone from the San Francisco DA’s office. But for Knoll er, the saga never went away: Should she be granted parole when she’s next eligible in 2022, she will face another political hurdle: Gavin Newsom, Guilfoyle ’s ex, could have the final say on her freedom.