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Opinion » News

50 years in 50 weeks: 2001: Death of Diane Whipple

by BAR staff

Photos: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive
Photos: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive  

The Bay Area reacted with shock and horror in January 2001 when Diane Whipple was mauled to death by two Presa Canario dogs in the hallway outside her Pacific Heights apartment. Mourners packed a memorial Mass at St. Mary's College in Moraga, where Whipple was the lacrosse coach. Her partner, Sharon Smith, told the 600 people present that Whipple had "an amazing spirit." Criminal charges were brought against the dogs' owners, attorneys Robert Noel and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, who lived next door to Whipple and Smith. Ultimately, Noel was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and Knoller of second-degree murder in Whipple's death. Noel, who was disbarred, was paroled in 2003 and died in 2018. Knoller, who gave up her law license, remains in prison and her next parole hearing is scheduled for January. In August 2001, Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch at an Oakland A's game and was joined by members of the St. Mary's lacrosse team. The civil side of the case made LGBTQ history when Smith was allowed to proceed with a wrongful death suit as a domestic partner. To view the issues, click here and here. To read a summary of the case after Noel died, click here.


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