When Diane Whipple, 33, came home from the grocery store on Jan. 26, 2001, she did not expect the creatures that awaited her. The young, popular lacrosse coach from St. Mary’s College in San Francisco was brutally attacked by two dogs, which ended her abbreviated life.
Whipple was attacked by neighbors’ 112 and 123-lb., Presa Canarios, a very large breed of dog. The dogs were being held by a leash, but when Whipple arrived, the leash was soon pulled out of the owner’s hand and the dogs raced towards Whipple.
The Presa Canario breed is a mix of the English mastiff dog and the Canary Island cattle dog. This type of dog is often trained to fight other dogs. The dogs, named Bane and Hera, lunged at Whipple and attacked her in the throat area. She eventually bled to death.
According to friends, Whipple was graceful and an exceptional athlete.
“She was a big sister, a friend when she needed to be, a mom, a coach,” a friend of Whipple said.
Whipple played lacrosse at Penn State, where she was named the university’s female athlete of the year in 1990. In 1999, she began to coach lacrosse at St. Mary’s.
The dogs belonged to San Francisco lawyers, husband and wife, Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel. Althought Knoller and Noel were not known by others to hurt people, they wrote a letter to authorities after the incident that seemed to insinuate that Whipple herself may have instigated the attack. They accused Whipple of wearing a pheromone-based perfume that could have had some scent that the dogs may have detected.
Also, they suggested that Whipple, being an athlete, may have been on steroids, which whould have the same effect on the dogs.
Knoller and Noel told authorities that they had rescued Bane and Hera from previous owners, who had mmistreated the dogs, but it turned out that the real owners were revealed as two men who are serving life sentences in prison.
It was later found out that the dogs had previously killed animals such as kittens, sheep and chickens. Because of a incidents with neighbors, Bane had earned the nickname “Dog of Death.”
One of the men in prison, Paul Schneider, hired Knoller and Noel at one point to get the dogs back for him, who were taken away when he was put in prison. Knoller and Noel got the dogs back, but they eventually wound up living with the couple.
Police will continue to investigate Knoller and Noel and if they find that they were aware that the dogs could cause harm, they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
On Feb. 1, at St. Mary’s College, 450 people attended a memorial ceremony for Diane Whipple.