“He tortured him and he killed him,” the sheriff said, adding that Wilkinson recently adopted the Habs after the dog failed inmate-led training to become a service animal for Veterans.
Wilkinson has now been charged with one count of second-degree torture or animal murder, a felony that carries a sentence of up to seven years in state prison. He was arrested on Thursday; a judge has allowed him to stay out of jail as long as he promises to show up for upcoming court dates. Wilkinson, who worked as a prison guard in Genesee County, was fired following his arrest.
Neither Wilkinson nor his attorney, Michael Beer, immediately responded to a Washington Post request for comment on Sunday evening.
Although Wilkinson is accused of killing his dog in September or October, the investigation didn’t begin until March 24, when a road crew discovered the Habs’ body as the snow melted. They hailed animal control, which sent two officers to check on the corpse.
One, Bailey Gosen, told WJRT she wasn’t sure what she was looking at when she saw an animal’s carcass, its legs and snout bound with duct tape. and his skull riddled with bullets.
“We didn’t really know it was a dog at first. He was so decomposed he looked like a pig,” Gosen said. “The coloring was almost white, and he was supposed to be a chocolate brown colored dog.”
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Investigators found a microchip inside the body, which led them to a branch of the Humane Society about 100 miles away, MLive.com reported. Staff members told them they had transferred the animal, then known as Randy, to Blue Star Service Dogs, a non-profit organization that places rescue animals in prisons, where inmates train to become service dogs for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain. wounds. Although Habs, which was renamed in honor of a veteran who died by suicide, failed to become a service dog, a Michigan Department of Corrections officer working at the jail – Wilkinson – l had blown away. He decided to adopt the Habs.
“This dog has touched many lives,” Saginaw County Animal Care and Control Director Bonnie Kanicki told WJRT, later adding, “There were definitely a lot of people cheering on this dog with the hope that he would land in a loving home.”
Investigators found that Wilkinson left the state corrections department in January to take a position with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Swanson said Kanicki called him on April 21 to let him know the investigation had led to one of his deputies. Wilkinson was working in the Genesee County Jail when he got the call, Swanson said. He pulled his deputy off the ground for out-of-town detectives to question.
“He confessed everything,” Swanson said.
On paper, Wilkinson had a “stellar background,” Swanson said. His lawyer said he graduated with honors from a local university. He was a paramedic who trained as a combat medic and worked for the state corrections department from May 2021 until late January when he started with the sheriff’s office.
But, the sheriff added, that story didn’t matter once they determined that Swanson had tortured and killed his dog.
“He got out of here,” Swanson said. “Some people talk about the blue line. There is no blue line when it comes to good and bad.