ELLSWORTH – In a case that has captured the attention of Hancock County – Justin Chipman has been found guilty on multiple counts in connection with the killing of Franky the pug.
“Justice for Franky” supporters and Franky’s owner, Phillip Torrey, walked out cheering from Ellsworth District Court Thursday afternoon.
Franky, a Winter Harbor pug, was found shot and killed in August of 2018.
In a one day trial, Justin Chipman, one of the men accused in that crime, was found guilty on five counts, including aggravated cruelty to animals.
“It’s like a weight taken off your chest,” said Torrey. “And when it finally came – you know, you could hear what he [the judge] was getting to, it was like thank you God, you know this was amazing.”
Torrey testified that he left his Winter Harbor home in August of 2018 for a concert in New Hampshire, leaving his two dogs, including Franky, alone.
He came back to find his Hummer truck moved and Franky gone. The pug’s body later washed ashore in a bag in a neighboring town.
The defense argued the state did not explain exactly how Franky was killed, and that there was no physical evidence linking Chipman to it.
“He left his keys to the Hummer in the vehicle, he left the doors to his house unlocked,” said defense attorney Robert Van Horn. “I mean anybody could have done this…and where we’re at is well maybe Mr. Chipman did it but that’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The state said Chipman’s motive was a fight between his dog and Franky about two weeks before Franky’s death.
Prosecutors focused on the fact Chipman sometimes worked on Torrey’s boat and knew Torrey was away.
The state also pointed out Chipman did not help look for Franky in the days after he was reported missing, and left the area for Bangor before turning himself in.
“How many people know that Phil isn’t at home? Mr. Chipman knows because he was told directly by Phil, ‘I’m leaving for New Hampshire, I’m taking my family, why don’t you come with me,'” argued Hancock County Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon.
Chipman was found guilty of four misdemeanors (theft, burglary, criminal mischief, and unauthorized use of property) and the felony of aggravated cruelty to animals.
“I feel like this is a huge step for animals,” said Torrey, “You know, not only are the laws changed, but also people know the word is out there, don’t be mean to animals.”
Though a date has not been set, Chipman is expected to be sentenced in January.
Nathan Burke, the other man accused in the Franky case, has a warrant for his arrest for not showing up for court.