ELLSWORTH — A Steuben man was found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty Thursday for the August 2018 death of a Boston terrier-pug named Franky that belonged to the defendant’s former boss, a Winter Harbor lobsterman.

The dog was missing for days when its body, wrapped in plastic, washed up across Frenchman Bay onto a private beach at the coastal home of Hancock County District Attorney Matt Foster. Franky’s death mystified and angered the Down East community of Winter Harbor, which lies on the Schoodic Peninsula east of Bar Harbor.

Franky, a 6-year-old mix, belonged to Phillip Torrey of Winter Harbor.

Franky died of a gunshot wound to the throat, according to a report submitted into evidence, Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon said.

Justin Chipman, 24, was found guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals, burglary, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and unauthorized use of property in the daylong trial. A sentencing date was not known Thursday.

Defense attorney Robert Van Horn motioned for acquittal before closing statements.

Ultimately, Justice Robert Murray denied acquittal for four of the charges but granted the acquittal for the charge of aggravated criminal mischief.


The criminal mischief complaint was connected with damage done to the Hummer of Phil Torrey, Franky’s owner. The state did not introduce evidence that the vehicle had sustained $2,000 worth of damage.

Van Horn cited a lack of “direct evidence” tying his client to any of the crimes.

Toffolon advised the judge that circumstantial evidence could be considered and that the amount of circumstantial evidence in this case was “substantial.”

Toffolon cited Chipman’s departure from the area within a day of authorities discovering the dead dog.

“Where is Mr. Chipman? He’s fled to Bangor and secured a hotel room, where he stays until Sept. 2,” Toffolon said.

Toffolon said Chipman had motive to kill Franky because Chipman’s dog and Franky had an altercation two weeks earlier.

Chipman and co-defendant Nathan Burke, 39, were aware that Torrey and his family would be out of town because Torrey had invited them along and they declined, the prosecutor said.

Burke’s case is still pending.

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