Pit bull owner convicted in fatal mauling dies: Family may be planning to sue sheriff's department

Alba Cornelio died while in custody

SAN DIEGO - A woman convicted of allowing her pit bulls to attack and ultimately kill an elderly woman died over the weekend following her sentencing, and her family may be planning to sue as a result.

The last time Alba Cornelio was in court she was swaddled in blue protective clothing, wearing a face mask and on the verge of death.

Last week, she was too sick to attend her sentencing hearing. Now, 10News has learned the 41-year-old passed away over the weekend while in custody at Scripps La Jolla Hospital. Cornelio's family is so angry that deputies would not allow them to visit Cornelio before she died that they now plan to sue the sheriff's department.

But do they have any legal standing? Attorney Steven Riznyk does not think so.

"They knew they had dangerous dogs," he said. "They didn't take protective measures. They killed someone else who also had family, and that seems to be inconsequential."

In 2011, Cornelio and her daughter Carla's pit bulls broke through a fence and mauled their next door neighbor Emako Mendoza, who was in her own backyard.

Doctors had to amputate both of the 75-year-old's legs and then an arm until Mendoza died six months later. Riznyk believes the Cornelios will have very little sympathy from jurors should they file suit against the sheriff's department.

"Yes, they have pain, but on the other hand, they caused somebody pain that they could have easily prevented," Riznyk said.

10News was unable to get in touch with the Cornelio family.

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