Criminal Investigation into the fatal dog attack
As the investigation into the dog mauling began, information and events started to emerge which made the case unusual. First, shortly after the attack, Noel sent a rambling 18 page letter to the San Francisco district attorney, Terrence Hallinan, in which he denied any responsibility for the killing. In the letter he speculated the perfume Whipple was wearing, or the fact that she may have been on steroids, provoked his dogs to attack.
Next, investigators learned of the connection between the defendants and 38 year-old Paul “Cornfed” Schneider, an inmate serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at California’s Pelican Bay State prisonl Schneider, described as one of the most dangerous men in the California penal system, was incarcerated for a number of felonies, one of which included the attempted murder of his attorney. Schneider had become acquainted with Noel and Knoller through their legal work at Pelican Bay representing prison guards charged with abusing prisoners. Subsequent to the trial of Noel and Knoller, Schneider was convicted of federal racketeering in 2003 and conspiracy for robbery committed outside prison by Aryan Brotherhood associates that resulted in the death of a sheriff’s deputy in Sonoma County, CA..
Further investigation led to the revelation that Schneider Dog and his cell mate, Dale Bridges, had plans in place to operate a web-based business from prison named Dog-O’-War Kennels. It purpose was to breed and sell aggressive Presa canario dogs to drug labs to finance the activities of the notorious white supremacist prison gang, Aryan Brotherhood. Schneider was a high-ranking member of the Ayran Brotherhood.
Schneider arranged for Noel and Knoller to obtain the Bane and Hera from another individual who had befriended him: a partially disabled and unemployed person named Janet Coumbs. Coumbs made humanitarian visits to Pelican Bay as a “good Christian”. As a favor to Schneider, she agreed to maintain and breed the Canary dogs Schneider had purchased (assumed through internet transactions) on a small farm she owned in Hayfork, CA. Two of these dogs were Bane and Hera.
Bane and Hera were delivered to Coumbs as pups from different breeders (Bane was obtained from Stygian Kennels in Chicago and Hera was obtained from Hard Times Kennels in Union City, CA.). After delivery, Coumbs maintained regular contact with Schneider. She sent him photos of the dogs. Eventually Coumbs fell out of favor with Schneider, however. Schneider complained that Coumbs was turning the dogs into “wusses”. He was angry because they were not exercised on treadmills or injected with steroids.
Via Schneider’s orders, Coumbs was directed to turn the dogs over to Noel and Knoller. On April 1st, 2000, Noel, Knoller and several others, arrived at Coumbs’ farm and took possession of the dogs. Hera was first transported to Peninsula Pet Resort in the Bay area. Subsequently she arrived in the defendant’s San Francisco apartment on April 30th. Bane was first taken to the private home of Rachel Huguez in southern California and subsequently to Noel and Knoller’s apartment to live with Hera in early September, approximately 5 months before the mauling.
During trial Coumbs’ testified that she felt she was used as an unwitting pawn in Schneider’s scheme to raise and sell the dogs. She described the rampant destruction the dogs had engage in, the killing of her farm animals by the dogs, and the aggressive nature of Hera towards people. It was also learned that Coumbs was in a Witness Protection Program because of threats she received from the Ayran Brotherhood.
The investigation into Whipple’s death further revealed that – strange as it might seem – just days after the mauling Schneider became the legally adopted son of Noel and Knoller. Authorities were curious to learn why the defendants would choose to adopt a 38 year-old white supremacist. Apparently, Noel and Knoller adopted Schneider in an effort to bring them closer together as a family. In fact, Noel referred to the relationship between himself, his wife, and Schneider as the “triad”. To many, this seemed rather odd: A search of Schneider’s cell at Pelican Bay uncovered nude photos of his “mother” Knoller. With respect to the adoption, Noel commented “He may be a prisoner but at least he’s not a Republican.”
The case became more bizarre when letters from the defendants to Schneider were discovered suggesting acts of bestiality occurred between Knoller and the dogs. Thus, it became clear to authorities that the relationship the defendants had with Schneider was rather unusual, suggesting that they knew and possibly even involved themselves in his scheme to breed and sell aggressive Canary dogs.
Next, the defendants accepted no responsibility and expressed little remorse for Whipple’s death. Instead, they blamed Whipple for her own death. They appeared on the TV program Good Morning America in February, 2001 to defend themselves and their dogs. This caused public outrage, particularly amongst those in San Francisco’s gay community.
Finally, other people starting coming forth saying they also had experienced dangerous encounters with the dogs and that Noel and Knoller showed no concern. Against this background, the victim Whipple was likable, an accomplished athlete, and gay. In marked contrast, the defendants came across to many as decidedly not likable and arrogant. For example, in one of Noel’s letters to Schneider, he described Whipple as a “timorous, mousy blond who almost had a coronary after an encounter with Bane.”