The trial of a Steuben man accused of killing a dog owned by a Winter Harbor fisherman started Thursday in an Ellsworth courtroom.
Justin Chipman, 24, is one of two men charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and other charges in connection with the death of Franky, a pug owned by Phil Torrey, who had employed Chipman as a sternman on his lobster boat. The other defendant, Nathan Burke, 38, of Hancock also worked as a sternman for Torrey and is expected to be tried separately.
Each of the men is charged with burglary, two counts of theft, aggravated criminal mischief and aggravated cruelty to animals.
Justice Robert Murray is presiding over Chipman’s bench trial and, because there is no jury in the proceeding, will decide whether Chipman is guilty. Testimony in the bench trial is expected to wrap up Thursday afternoon.
The duo is accused of breaking into Torrey’s home, kidnapping Franky and then shooting the dog on Aug. 24, 2018, when Torrey and his girlfriend had traveled out of state to attend a concert. They also are accused of taking Torrey’s Hummer out for a joy ride as part of the same incident and causing more than $2,000 worth of damage to the vehicle.
The dog was found dead six days later on a local beach by the wife of Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster. He was wrapped in plastic and appeared to have been shot through the throat “some time ago,” according to an arrest warrant and affidavit filed in court.
Because Foster is considered a witness in the case, Deputy Hancock County District Attorney Norman “Toff” Toffolon is prosecuting the case. Foster testified Thursday morning about taking the dog to the local police department to report the alleged crime.
Chipman and Burke told police they frequently came and went from Torrey’s house because they worked for him off and on. They told police that Franky jumped in the Hummer when they took it for a ride while Torrey was out of town. But then, they said, the dog ran off and the pair did not see him again, according to court documents.
Toffolon rested the state’s case Thursday morning, but during a break declined to comment on evidence he presented to the judge.
Aside from saying he had testified, Foster declined to comment or elaborate on evidence Toffolon presented Thursday morning to the judge.
Among the people in the courtroom gallery Thursday morning were five women wearing bright yellow t-shirts with a photo of Torrey’s dog and the words “Justice for Franky” printed on them.
Chipman is being represented by defense attorney Robert Van Horn of Ellsworth.