A former state corrections officer and former Genesee County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with torturing and killing his dog, the county’s top cop announced this week.
Wilkinson was arraigned in Saginaw County Circuit Court on Tuesday on one count of second-degree animal torture/murder, records show.
Wilkinson, who previously worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections, faces up to seven years in prison, Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson said in a Facebook update Wednesday.
He had only been in the county office for 42 days when he was fired following the charge, Swanson added.
“It’s not the first time we’ve held our staff here accountable. It’s not the first time we’ve arrested our own,” Swanson said. “I was elected sheriff to hold this office accountable to the people and I will continue to do so.”
Authorities began investigating after traffic crews found the remains of a dog in Saginaw County’s Tittabawasee Township, Swanson said.
A necropsy determined the dog, named Habs, had been shot three times, the sheriff said. Media reported that the dog was shot in the head. The dog’s front and hind legs as well as its muzzle had also been taped.
A microchip led to an address in Saginaw and Wilkinson, he said.
An attorney representing Wilkinson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The Habs were part of the Blue Star service program that helps military veterans, and Wilkinson adopted the animal after working to train it through MDOC in Saginaw County, Swanson said.
Wilkinson told investigators he tied the dog up with duct tape after a nail clipping incident in September or October last year, Swanson said.
“That dog bit him and he tortured him and he killed him and he left him for dead.”
Wilkinson served in the National Guard, was a veteran, and studied psychology at Saginaw Valley State University.
He never revealed the incident to county officials when he applied for the job last year or during a psychological evaluation, Swanson said.
Saginaw County Animal Care and Control Director Bonnie Kanicki alerted Swanson to the probe. The sheriff said he allowed Wilkinson to be questioned immediately in what he called a “gross, gruesome murder.”
“He confessed everything,” Swanson said. “He was immediately fired.
During his arraignment, Wilkinson was ordered not to possess firearms or animals. Bail was set at $10,000. A hearing is scheduled for May 9.
His case has alarmed animal advocates. Candace Shellnut, who leads Sterling’s Legacy, a group that formed after the murder of a mix of Macomb County pit bulls in 2019, launched a Change.org petition this week calling for tougher penalties. It collected over 2,000 signatures.
She hopes keeping the case in the public eye will lead to tougher penalties for animal abuse.
“I’m just disgusted,” Shellnut said Thursday. “I can’t believe a human could do this to another living thing.”