Justin Chipman, now 25, of Steuben is shown in a file photo at his first appearance in Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth in September 2018. Chipman began serving his sentence last week for killing a dog after losing his appeal before the state's high court. Credit: Nick Sambides Jr. / BDN

A Steuben man convicted of killing Franky, the pug owned by his former employer, began serving his sentence last week at the Hancock County Jail after Maine’s high court rejected his appeal.

Justin Chipman, 25, of Steuben was sentenced in January to serve three years in prison with all but one year suspended after being convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals, one count of burglary, two counts of theft and one count of criminal mischief.

Franky, owned by lobsterman Phil Torrey, was found shot to death on a Winter Harbor beach in August 2018. Chipman was found guilty a year ago following a jury-waived trial in Hancock County Superior Court.

Franky, a dog owned by Winter Harbor resident Phillip Torrey. photo courtsey Phillip Torrey Credit: Courtesy of Phillip Torrey

The other defendant in the case, Nathan Burke, 39, of Hancock, is facing identical charges but his trial date has not been set. His case has been delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic because of limits on the kinds of cases judges can hear.

Chipman was free on bail while his appeal was pending. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed his convictions on Nov. 12 in a one-page memorandum that did not outline the justices’ reasons for the decision as a written opinion would have.

He is expected to be transferred to state custody. Transfers from county jails to prisons have been suspended due to coronavirus outbreaks at several state facilities.

Burke remains free on bail despite allegations that he has violated bail conditions more than once since the dog’s body was discovered.

He most recently was released from jail in June on $500 bail, according to court documents. Jeffrey Toothaker, Burke’s Ellsworth attorney, said in September that his client was granted bail because he passed a polygraph test in which he denied having killed the dog.

Burke and Chipman allegedly shot the dog owned by Torrey, 48, of Winter Harbor, for whom they had worked as sternmen. Torrey was out of town on Aug. 24, 2018, when the duo allegedly entered his home, took Franky for a joyride in Torrey’s Hummer and, sometime during the ride, shot and killed the dog. The two men later told police Franky ran off during the outing and they never saw him again.

The dog was found dead six days later on a local beach wrapped in plastic, after it apparently had been shot through the throat, according to an arrest warrant and affidavit.

District Attorney Matthew Foster recused himself from the case because his wife found the dog’s body in Winter Harbor.