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2 San Diego Women Face Trial for Pit Bull Attack on Neighbor

A San Diego mother and daughter are facing up to three years and eight months in prison for felony counts which include owning a mischievous animal that causes serious bodily injury, and six misdemeanor code violations, including failure to protect the public from a dog and owning a dangerous dog, according to San Diego officials.

The charges against Alba Cornelio, 39 and Carla Cornelio, 19, stem from the June 18, 2011, attack by their two female pit bulls on a 75-year-old neighbor, Emako Mendoza.

That morning Emako went out to pick the newspaper in her Paradise Hills yard around 6:30 a.m. She was savagely mauled by the two pit bulls that had pushed through a hole in the fence separating the properties.

James Mendoza, Emako’s husband of 53 years, said he was asleep in a front bedroom and was awakened by knocking on the door. It was the two women who owned the pit bulls, and they told him the dogs were in his yard.

Mr. Mendoza testified at a two-day preliminary hearing last week to determine if the owners of the dogs would stand trial and stated that he found his wife that morning lying in a pool of blood, crying and screaming, “Jim, Jim! Help me! Help me!’

Emako was so badly mauled that her left leg had to be amputated below the knee and her left arm was amputated below the elbow, according to her husband. “Her limbs were just hanging by threads,” he said.

District Attorney Makenzie Harvey contended that the two women knew the dogs were dangerous because the attack on Ms. Mendoza was not the first reported for the dogs. Evidence was submitted at the hearing regarding an attack on Christmas day in 2010 by the same pit bulls, which caused serious injury to a neighbor’s poodle puppy while being walked by its owner.

On Friday, September 9, San Diego Judge Yvonne Campos ruled that the prosecution had presented enough evidence for the case to proceed and ordered Alba Cornelio and Carla Cornelio to stand trial on both felony and misdemeanor charges.

The hearing was interrupted when Alba Cornelio began to hyperventilate and was removed from the courtroom by paramedics.

Donovan Dunnion, defense attorney for the Cornelios, stated after the hearing that Alba Cornelio had experienced a “cardiac problem” and lost feeling in her extremities, according to

The defense argued that the dogs may have become agitated and aggressive because of a bee hive in the Mendoza’s yard, but Deputy DA Harvey said there is no evidence that either of the dogs had been stung by bees, according to

Arraignment in Superior Court was set for September 22 for the mother and daughter, at which time the trial date could be set.

Emako could not appear at the hearing because she has had five surgeries and is still in a rehabilitation facility, said her husband.

The Cornelios bred and sold pit bull puppies, according to animal control officials. The two 6-year-old female dogs and eleven puppies recently born to one of them were all relinquished and euthanized at the owners' request, stated Lt. Dan DeSousa of San Diego Animal Control.

The officials reported that during the quarantine period the dogs continued to act aggressively, according to

San Diego County code allows residents to maintain six adult dogs per household, plus puppies under four months of age are not counted. At the time of the attack, in addition to the Pit Bulls, the Cornelios also had four Chihuahuas at the residence, according to San Diego Animal Control.


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