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To hear the man in charge of the San Francisco, Calif., police investigation of the fatal dog mauling tell it, it’s gumshoe time. “We’re in the boring part of the investigation,” Lt. Henry Hunter said Tuesday. “All the flash is gone, and all we’re doing now is interviewing people and gathering facts.” Investigators are pursuing leads in the Jan. 26 incident involving a dog owned by attorneys Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller. The animal attacked and killed Diane Whipple in the San Francisco Pacific Heights apartment building where all three lived. It’ll be at least another two weeks before that work is complete and all evidence is in, Hunter said. Inspectors Michael Becker and Richard Daniele from the general work detail are pursuing leads in the case. They are assisted by district attorney investigator David Parenti. Hunter estimates that his inspectors will interview nearly 40 people before finishing up their probe. According to Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle, who would prosecute the case, 27 people have already been interviewed. Several others are out of town, but returning. The inspectors are working plenty of overtime, meeting daily to exchange information and planning where next to take their investigation. It is relatively uncommon to have three investigators on a case, which underscores the importance that authorities put on it. Hunter said his men will remain on the case, even though he classifies the mauling death of Diane Whipple as a homicide. The general work detail, which gets sent 26,000 complaints a year, usually handles less serious cases, such as misdemeanor assaults and batteries. “If we had the information that we have now, it would have gone to the homicide detail,” he said. Hunter analogized the dog mauling to a runaway car that hits and kills somebody: “You’re responsible,” he said. “It’s the same thing with the dog.” He said the investigation so far “tended to show” that Noel and Knoller knew that their Pressa Canario dogs were dangerous. Hunter said police have interviewed a Southern California breeder of the dogs, who describes them as “a loaded .44 Magnum with a hair trigger.” New information, Hunter said, is also coming from neighbors who live in the same building as Noel and Knoller, owners of the dogs that killed Whipple. “We have a person who saw him [Noel] dragged on the ground” by Bane, the dog that killed Whipple, he said. “And he’s a big guy.” “These people came forward to say that they had problems with these dogs before,” he said. Other neighbors, however, have told police that the dogs were well-behaved. “We’re going to present both sides to the district attorney,” he said. “The district attorney can only pursue the matter, if we think he can prove it. You have to be able to win.” Hunter said he has made no conclusions at this point about the culpability of Noel or Knoller. “I wouldn’t even call them suspects,” the lieutenant said. “We haven’t even determined whether a crime has been committed.” But he is leaning that way. He thinks Noel and Knoller also believe they may face criminal charges. “I consider the letters as a pre-emptive defense,” he said of two letters sent to authorities by Noel. The first one-page letter argued that Whipple may have worn pheromone-laced scent or used steroids that excited the dog. The second, 18 pages, argued that Whipple provoked the dogs by her actions in the apartment and corridor. “These are two attorneys who came up with those defenses,” Hunter said. They didn’t help themselves either in the eyes of the police or public. Hunter doubted that the evidence would sustain a murder charge, but said manslaughter was another option, along with a new section of the Penal Code, 399.5, which allows for the felony prosecution of dog owners who knew their pets were vicious. Then he smiled and said, “Just one felony conviction, and it’s their bar cards.”

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