Mother-daughter pit bull owners convicted in animals’ mauling of 75-year-old neighbor

SAN DIEGO – A mother and daughter whose two pit bulls attacked their 75-year-old neighbor — who succumbed to her injuries several weeks later — were convicted today of involuntary manslaughter and owning a dangerous animal causing death.

Alba Cornelio, 41, and her 21-year-old daughter, Carla, each face up to four years in prison when sentenced March 11.

The defendants were taken into custody after the verdicts despite a plea from defense attorneys that the mother is battling leukemia and also has a heart condition. Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney said the defendants posed a possible danger to the community and were a risk to flee.

Alba Cornelio cried loudly when the judge made his custody order and had to be taken out of the courtroom by paramedics.

Deputy District Attorney 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 Emako Mendoza.

Harvey said the mother and daughter were on notice that their pit bulls were dangerous, but were ”indifferent” until the dogs attacked Mendoza in her back yard garden the morning of June 18, 2011, in Paradise Hills.

”Mrs. Mendoza was literally ripped to shreds by these two pit bulls,” Harvey told the San Diego Superior Court jury.

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

Mendoza was attacked in her fenced-in yard when she went outside to get her 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 at earlier hearings that the pit bulls got through a gap in the fence, ripping a hole near a metal gate that the victim’s husband had installed to bridge the gap in the fence between the two properties.

John O’Connell, the attorney for Carla Cornelio, told the jury that it was not a crime to own pit bulls.

”What happened that day was not a crime,” O”Connell said.

In the six years the defendants owned the pit bulls, they only had the one problem with the dogs getting out and biting the man and his puppy, the attorney said.

After that, Carla took the dog that bit the man and his puppy to the veterinarian and had her brother fix the fence, O’Connell said.

Despite those precautions, the dogs were able to get through the fence the morning Emako Mendoza was attacked, he said.

”Those dogs did something completely unexpected,” O’Connell said.

6 Responses to "Mother-daughter pit bull owners convicted in animals’ mauling of 75-year-old neighbor"

  1. Fallbrook Resident   February 12, 2013 at 1:14 am

    Yet nothing happened to the irresponsible dog owners that had their cleaning lady killed in Fallbrook by their pack of dogs??? Where is the fair system?

  2. ????   February 12, 2013 at 7:11 am

    R.I.P. Mrs. Mendoza. How sad that Mr. O’Connell has the audacity saying that what happened was not a crime. How do you figure that? What happened was a crime, someone lost their life because of two incompetent individuals that do not think they have to follow laws and rules about having and allowing dangerous animals. If you own a dog, it does not matter the type, make sure you are not imposing your animals on someone else, secure your area!! It is not the dogs fault, it is the idiots fault that thought it was alright to raise an animal to be mean. My heart goes out to the family of the victim, and what a horrible death. Lock them up, and throw away the key.

  3. grunt   February 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

    @resident – there aer at least two differences here – 1, the pit bulls had attacked before. 2) the pit bulls left their yard to attack. both are sad.

  4. Preston   February 13, 2013 at 8:39 am

    We need to put an end to the breeding and sale of Pit Bulls as family pets. We need put a stop to agencies that promote this breed for adoption claiming they are loving dogs. Yes, I know they can be sweet but so can one of many other breeds that don’t turn and kill their owners, their children and their neighbors — It is instinctively what they do.
    Please don’t tell me it is the way the dog is brought up, read the statistics.

  5. Dog Owner   February 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm


    I have spent numerous years working with pit bulls. You’re right, they can be sweet. They can also be mean. The OWNER is the determining factor. I think that pit bulls are wonderful dogs if they belong to responsible owners.

    Unfortunately, those "statistics" you are referring to are skewed. Don’t get me wrong – I am not arguing in favor of ALL pit bulls. There are many pit bulls out there who should be put down. The media jumps on opportunities to report stories about pit bulls, but passes on opportunities to report attacks by other types of dogs….making it seem like pit bulls are the only dogs who attack.

    ALL dogs have the potential to be aggressive. How about the time my friend was bit in the face by a Golden Retriever and had to get 20 stitches (and now has a huge scar across his face)? Wasn’t on the news. Or the time I was bit in the hand (down to the bone) by a Jack Russell? Wasn’t on the news.

    All I’m sayin’ is – don’t be so quick to pass judgement. The best dog I ever had was a pit bull. He never bit or purposely hurt anyone.

  6. Dog owner   February 14, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Let this be a warning to dog owners. If you even suspect your dog may attack, you better make sure it never get the chance. The dog owners in this case may not be getting much jail time because Uncle Jerry will let them walk, but most likely there is a clause in their insurance policy that excludes protection for certain breeds. I’m sure pit bulls are at the top of the list. The dog owners are going to be financially wiped out by lawyer bills and court costs defending themselves in civil court.


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