Text messages from suspect cited in probe of dog’s slaying

ELLSWORTH — The death of a kidnapped dog, whose body washed up on the shore of the Hancock County district attorney, has captured the attention of Mainers, especially dog lovers.

Franky, a 30-pound Boston terrier-pug, had been shot in the throat and wrapped in plastic, according to an arrest warrant affidavit written by Winter Harbor Police Officer Eli Brown.

The burglary and kidnapping occurred Aug. 24 at the Winter Harbor residence of Phil Torrey.

Brown said Torrey’s former sternman, Nathan Burke, 37, of Hancock, and Justin Chipman, 22, of Winter Harbor, entered Torrey’s home, kidnapped Franky and took Torrey’s Hummer for a ride to a gravel pit, according to an arrest warrant affidavit Brown filed on Burke and Chipman.

Torrey, who had been out of state, was alerted that something might be wrong during a series of text messages from Burke.

“In the texts, Nathan admitted to ‘being smashed’ and going into the residence and hanging out, taking Franky for a ride because Franky was being mean to Budge, another dog,” Brown stated.

“Nathan admitted to taking the Hummer to the town dock, although Chief Danny Mitchell and I could not find proof of this on the surveillance recordings from the dock,” the officer said. “Nathan admitted to taking the Hummer to ‘Cookie’s’ [Clair Whitten’s] pit.

Burke told his boss that Franky ran off when they were at the pit.

“Nathan clearly stated that he and Justin were together and carried this out on Friday night, 8/24/18.”

When Torrey returned home, he found a live Winchester .45 pistol cartridge on the hood of the Hummer, according to the affidavit. Torrey also found what he thought was a dog hair, Brown stated.

“Mr. Torrey asked Nathan several times to explain the bullet and Nathan ignored the question,” the officer stated in the affidavit. “Mr. Torrey and I both believe that Franky was shot using the headlights for illumination and this live round was manually ejected from a firearm while a person was standing directly in front of the vehicle.”

When Torrey returned home, he turned to social media for help finding Franky, to no avail.

Franky was found dead on the evening of Aug. 30.

The dog’s body, which had been wrapped in several layers of plastic, washed up on the shore at the Hancock home of District Attorney Matt Foster and his wife, Melissa.

According to Brown, the Fosters live across the bay from Torrey’s residence. The prosecutor took Franky’s body to the Winter Harbor Police Department. Torrey was able to later identify the body as that of Franky.

Burke and Chipman turned themselves in to the Hancock County Jail on Sept. 4.

Both men have been charged with one count each of aggravated cruelty to animals, aggravated criminal mischief, burglary, theft — concerning Franky — and unauthorized use of property, referring to the Hummer.

Burke is free on $1,000 cash bail, which Justice Michael Roberts set on Sept. 5.

Roberts also set bail for Chipman at $1,000 cash.

However, Chipman is still incarcerated pending a Sept. 25 hearing.

Court records state that Chipman had been on “administrative release” in connection with a terrorizing conviction. A condition of his release is that Chipman not commit any new criminal conduct.

Administrative release is similar to probation, Foster said.

Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon argued in court that Chipman should be held without bail pending a hearing to revoke his “administrative release.”

The terrorizing conviction can be considered a “violent” offense, Toffolon said. “Now he’s alleged to have committed a new crime of violence…”

Attorney of the day William Ashe represented Chipman.

Ashe told the judge that $1,000 cash bail was sufficient for both the new offenses and the motion to revoke “administrative release,” but the judge did not agree.

Roberts ruled that Chipman should be held without bail until a hearing can be held to consider whether administrative release should be revoked. That hearing has been set for Sept. 25.

Ellsworth attorney Jeff Toothaker represents Burke and advised that the $1,000 cash bail was sufficient.

“He turned himself in Tuesday and told the DA he would be here,” Toothaker said. “If anything, threats would make him want to stay home.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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