A mother and daughter who owned two Pit Bulls that broke through a damaged fence and savagely attacked 75-year-old Emako Mendoza in her own backyard in 2011 were convicted on Monday, Feb. 11 in San Diego, of involuntary manslaughter and two counts each of owning a mischievous animal that caused death.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney ordered the women to be taken into custody pending sentencing on March 11, according to U-T San Diego.
The charges against Alba Cornelio, 39 and Carla Cornelio, 19, stem from a June 18, 2011, attack by their two female pit bulls on 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 brutally 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, saying the dogs were in his yard.
Mr. Mendoza testified later that he found his wife lying in a pool of blood, crying and screaming, “Jim, Jim! Help me! Help me!’ He said he tried to cover her with a blanket.
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.”
After the attack, the elderly woman who "loved to dance," according to her husband, underwent eight surgeries including the amputations of her left leg and left arm.
Several weeks before she died, a surgeon had to amputate her right leg as well, because the damage done during the Pit Bull attack proved too extensive to save the limb. “It was too much,” Emako told the San Diego Union-Tribune at that time.
Emako was readmitted to the hospital on December 23, 2011 and died on Christmas Eve 2011 due to complications from her injuries, according to the Medical Examiner.
After the verdict was announced on Monday, Alba Cornelio, the mother, cried in the courtroom and was removed by paramedics on a gurney.
At the preliminary hearing on September 9, 2011, the proceedings had also been interrupted when Alba Cornelio began to hyperventilate and was removed from the courtroom by paramedics.
The Cornelios previously faced other criminal charges including serious bodily injury from a mischievous animal, failure to provide public protection from dogs, owning or having custody of a dangerous animal/dog causing injury and failure to restrain a dog.
The District Attorney 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 Monday, defense lawyers unsuccessfully argued that no one could have foreseen the attack, and that both the Cornelios and Mendozas made significant efforts to reinforce the barrier between their yards, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“It’s not Mr. Mendoza’s job to protect himself from the Cornelios’ dogs,” the prosecutor contended earlier. “It was the Cornelios’ responsibility to protect their neighbors from their dogs.”
The Cornelios are due for sentencing March 11 and face up to four years in prison.
PIT BULL OWNERS WERE BREEDERS
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 SignonSanDiego.com.
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.