Descent into Darkness
What happened to Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller?
One lawyer at the trial suggested that Noel, himself a big man, was attracted to the extreme machismo and violence that was represented by Schneider and was so different from his own well-to-do life.
A former Pelican Bay guard quoted in Rolling Stone magazine said he saw Noel change. "I'd get on the phone with Bob to ask him about a case," Keith Whitley said, "and all he did was talk about how big Bane's balls were."
Noel himself bragged to the magazine about the size of the dog's penis and its erections.
Noel made similar comments in some of his correspondence, and he seemed to revel in the fear that the dogs inspired in his neighbors. He did not seem to mind Knoller's apparent attraction to Schneider, however, and in fact wrote in sexual terms about his wife in letters to the Aryan Brotherhood boss.
Knoller seemed simply smitten. "I think Marjorie Knoller just fell in love with Schneider," said Hawkes, the gang expert. "She fell in love, and that's it."
Clearly, the couple was consumed with the dark world they now lived in. Police found in their apartment a book entitled Manstopper! that described how to train a killer dog.
Some experts believe that the lawyers had trained the dogs in their apartment using a rag-biting technique — training that could explain Hera's tearing off of Whipple's clothing.
"They used to have this charming flat," said Whitley, who visited just days before Whipple's killing. "The dogs turned it into a piss pot."
Whatever the reasons, how far Noel and Knoller had traveled into a world of violence and death became even more apparent on Sept. 5, when Schneider and seven others, one of them a former girlfriend, were charged with racketeering in the attempted murders of 24 people over a 15-year period.
Schneider is also charged with the 1995 murder of a sheriff's deputy killed by Aryan Brotherhood associates who were carrying out a series of robberies allegedly ordered by Schneider from his prison cell.
Those charges are in addition to the attempted murder and the armed robbery convictions that earned him a life sentence.
For three years, Noel and Knoller flirted with the violent codes, along with the explosively repressed sexuality, of prison gang life. Little by little, they abandoned the trappings of middle-class professional life, taking up the work and attitudes of the Aryan Brotherhood instead.
Now, barring a highly unlikely sentencing decision, Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller are about to join that life for themselves.
David Barry is a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles.