Two men wanted in the alleged kidnapping and killing of a Winter Harbor man’s dog have been taken into custody, according to police.
Nathan A. Burke, 37, of Hancock and Justin T. Chipman, 22, of Steuben and Winter Harbor turned themselves in Tuesday morning at the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth, according to the Winter Harbor Police Department. Each is being held on $5,000 cash bail, and they are expected to appear in court Wednesday, Sept. 5.
The two men are accused of breaking into the Winter Harbor home of Phillip Torrey last month when he traveled to New Hampshire to see a concert. Torrey’s sister went to his house the morning of Aug. 24, and found that someone had broken in and that Torrey’s dog Franky was missing.
Winter Harbor police Chief Danny Mitchell has said the dog’s body later was recovered “washed up on the shoreline” but he has declined to release more specific details.
Mitchell said Tuesday that the two men have been charged with burglary, theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, aggravated criminal mischief and aggravated cruelty to animals. He said he thinks the two men were “laying low” somewhere in eastern Maine between the time of the incident and when they turned themselves in.
“I’m happy that they turned themselves in,” Mitchell said.
The case has generated outrage in the Schoodic Peninsula area and beyond, with many people posting comments on social media on what kind of punishment the people responsible for the crime should face.
Mitchell, who has seen much of the online commentary, said he is interpreting the comments as understandable outrage, but not as viable threats. He said he has not heard of anything that indicates that what has been written on Facebook or elsewhere has escalated — or is likely to escalate — into someone doing something foolish or potentially dangerous.
“Everyone knows what social media is,” the police chief said. “When people see there is that kind of disregard and that kind of cruelty, I believe the natural response is outrage and sadness.”
A sport-utility vehicle owned by Torrey also apparently was taken from the property but then later returned as part of the same incident, according to the chief. He estimated that more than $2,000 damage was done to the SUV before it was returned to Torrey’s house.
Torrey, a lobsterman, said Tuesday that he knows Burke and Chipman. He said Burke worked as his sternman, and Chipman also crewed on Torrey’s boat, working last winter as a third man on board.
He said his family is “sad and heartbroken” over Franky’s death. He does not know why the two men would have wanted to do anything to him or his dog, who was 6 years old and weighed only 30 pounds. Franky must have been “scared and confused” about being taken away and then killed, he has said.
“It was relieving to hear they had turned themselves in,” Torrey said Tuesday. “I feel like it’s one step closer to getting justice and putting this all behind us.”
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