Nathan Burke Credit: Hancock County Jail photo

The second of two defendants in an August 2018 dog-killing case in Winter Harbor has pleaded guilty to eight misdemeanor charges and been sentenced to time already served in jail.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Nathan Burke, 39, of Hancock, also was ordered to pay a $180 fine by the end of March and to serve one year of probation.

Burke originally faced several felony charges as a result of the shooting death of a pug named Franky, who was owned by Winter Harbor lobsterman Philip Torrey. Burke and the other defendant in the case, Justin Chipman, knew Torrey and each had previously worked for Torrey as sternmen on his fishing boat.

Chipman, 25, of Steuben, was found guilty in a November 2019 bench trial of a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals and, in January 2020, was sentenced to serve three years in prison with all but one year suspended. He appealed his sentence but lost the appeal, and began serving his sentence last November.

The reason prosecutors were more lenient with Burke was because, in June 2020, he passed a lie-detector test in which he said he did not shoot the dog, according to court documents. Burke told prosecutors Chipman shot the dog and that he did not know Chipman was going to shoot Franky, the documents indicate.

Still, prosecutors believed Burke was an accomplice in the dog’s death.

Franky was killed in August 2018 when Torrey was out of state. While Torrey was away, Burke and Chipman entered Torrey’s home without permission and took Franky for a ride in Torrey’s Hummer, during which the pug was shot and killed.

Franky, a dog owned by Winter Harbor resident Phillip Torrey, allegedly was kidnapped and killed while Torrey traveled out of state in August 2018. Credit: photo courtsey Phillip Torrey

Franky’s body was found a few days later, wrapped in plastic and washed up on a beach in Winter Harbor, by the wife of Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster. Foster, who reported the dead dog to local police, recused himself from prosecuting the case.

Burke and Chipman initially told police that Franky had run off during the joyride and that they did not see him again. Burke later told police, after the two men were charged and arrested, that Chipman had shot the dog. Both men initially were charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, aggravated criminal mischief for damaging Torrey’s Hummer during the joyride, burglary and two counts of theft.

Burke later was released on bail but on two occasions was arrested for bail violations and ended up serving several months behind bars before taking and passing the polygraph test.

All four felony charges Burke faced as a result of Franky’s killing and his subsequent bail violations were reduced to misdemeanors as a result of the plea deal with the prosecutor in the case, Hancock County Deputy District Attorney Norman “Toff” Toffolon. The plea deal will allow Burke, an Army combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq, to continue to possess firearms.

“I thought it ended fairly for Burke,” Jeffrey Toothaker, Burke’s defense attorney, said Wednesday. “He didn’t shoot the dog and didn’t know it was going to happen.”

The case drew statewide attention and inspired a change in state law that allows victims in animal cruelty cases to have courtroom advocates who monitor court proceedings, review records on animals’ condition from animal control officers, veterinarians and law enforcement officers, and make recommendations to judges.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....