Grudge over dog linked to fa­tal shoot­ing

The Goderich Signal-Star - - Year In Review: 2018 -

Don Frigo changed the name of his cham­pion dog.

Eight years later, that de­ci­sion, the Crown said, cost him his life.

That’s the sim­plest way to un­der­stand the deep grudge car­ried by Boris Panovski, 73, a for­mer high-fly­ing dog trainer and breeder from Scar­bor­ough, who un­til an abrupt fall from grace in 2006, lived and breathed the field dog trial world.

In the mix too is an em­bar­rass­ing news­pa­per head­line in a Way­nes­boro, Ge­or­gia news­pa­per about Panovski dur­ing the big­gest and bright­est field dog train­ing cham­pi­onships.

After that, he lost his busi­ness, his mar­riage and his con­nec­tions. And Don Frigo changed the name of the dog he bought from Panovski from Panovski Sil­ver to Bell­field Sil­ver. Panovski re­mained stead­fast in his be­lief that Don Frigo, the owner of a suc­cess­ful Eto­bi­coke con­struc­tion com­pany who lived on a farm in Cale­don, and a dog trainer Mike Hester, who trained Sil­ver, had con­cocted a scheme to de­stroy him – and he would “get them back.”

In her open­ing state­ment to the jury Mon­day, Huron County Crown Teresa Don­nelly said Panovski’s re­venge came in the form of three shot­gun blasts from the bushes at Don Frigo and his wife Eva Willer Frigo, while they rode their horses back to their camp­ground while at field dog tri­als at the Hul­lett Wildlife Area, north of Clin­ton in Cen­tral Huron on Sept. 13, 2014. Don­nelly said Panovski had “a long stand­ing, deep ha­tred of Don Frigo,” so much so that he shot him in the face and then, with the shot­gun bar­rel pointed out the pas­sen­ger side win­dow of his old Toy­ota, shot him in the back of the head after he had stum­bled and fallen from his horse. Be­tween those two shots, an­other blast in­jured Don Frigo’s wife, when a pel­let went into her cheek and her tooth.

She will be tes­ti­fy­ing at this trial, Don­nelly said, and will de­scribe see­ing the pro­file of the shooter who wore a cam­ou­flage jacket and hat when she glanced back as she rode away for help of her hus­band’s ex­e­cu­tion.

This will be a com­plex trial for the seven men and seven women who are hear­ing the case. Don­nelly’s 40-minute ad­dress cov­ered a lot of ground, in­clud­ing the closeknit world of field dog train­ing, where hunt­ing dogs com­pete for glory for their own­ers by dis­play­ing their hunt­ing as­sis­tance prow­ess.

The Fri­gos’ and Panovskis’ shared love of com­pet­i­tive field dog train­ing stem­ming back to the 1990s.

This was the Fri­gos’ hobby, and one they em­braced with a deep pas­sion. On the week­end of Don Frigo’s death, they were re­turn­ing to Hul­lett where a group of fel­low bird-dog en­thu­si­asts gath­ered an­nu­ally for train­ing. But for Panovski, it was this was his busi­ness. Un­til 2005, he was an envy in the dog train­ing world, both in dog han­dling and breed­ing, and worked with his son and grand­son, Don­nelly said. In Oc­to­ber 2000, Panovski sold Don Frigo a dog that would be­come a cham­pion, Panovski Sil­ver. The dog was trained by Hester and went on to win sev­eral cov­eted prizes.

In the Amer­i­can Field Jour­nal, the bi­ble of the field dog trial in­dus­try, Don Frigo took out an ad in Jan­uary 2004 about the pride of the field dog world and thanked ev­ery­one who had helped, in­clud­ing a spe­cial thanks for Panovski. Panovski, Don­nelly said, was at the top of his game, sell­ing his dogs for up to $20,000 a pup. He grabbed two na­tional cham­pi­onships in the United States for han­dling a dog he had sold to Gabe Mag­notta, of Mag­notta Wines.

But in a flash, Panovski’s world fell apart. While in Way­nes­boro, Ga., in Jan­uary 2005, the epi­cen­tre of field dog com­pe­ti­tions, a story ap­peared in the Way­nes­boro True Cit­i­zen news­pa­per with the head­line, “Pan­der­ing Puts Man in Jail.”

The story re­ferred to Panovski by name, age and ad­dress, and Don­nelly said, what he had al­legedly done. Don Frigo be­came aware of the al­le­ga­tion and a copy of that news­pa­per ar­ti­cle was found in his pos­ses­sion after his death.

In what ap­pears to be a move to dis­tance him­self from Panovski, he changed the name of the cham­pion dog to Bell­field Sil­ver, a change noted in the Amer­i­can Field Jour­nal in an is­sue that was later found in Panovski’s apart­ment. No more credit was given to Panovski for the dog’s suc­cess. Within a year, Panovski’s lost his high-pro­file clients, his ken­nel went out of busi­ness, his mar­riage col­lapsed and he be­came es­tranged from his fam­ily. And he was no longer wel­come into his beloved field dog trial world.

Now per­sona non grata among the peo­ple he who had been his com­mu­nity for years, Panovski lev­elled the blame Don Frigo and Hester for his demise.

But, Don­nelly said, nei­ther were re­spon­si­ble or pre­vented him from be­ing part of their dog world.

The grudge was held for years. Panovski ap­pears to have set a plan in mo­tion to ex­tract his re­venge in the days be­fore Sept. 13, 2014. He changed his per­son­al­ized li­cence plates on his 1998 Toy­ota Corolla that read 2NAT CH, for his na­tional cham­pi­onships. He tinted the win­dows on his car, fixed his 20-gauge shot­gun, checked for when the Hul­lett Field tri­als would be hap­pen­ing – he had been a fre­quent par­tic­i­pant in that event for years and knew the area well – and his cell­phone was traced to be­ing near the Fri­gos’ home.

He ac­quired a bird hunt­ing li­cence that was sup­posed to be used in the Stouf­fville area.

The morn­ing of the shoot­ing, he told his girl­friend that he was go­ing hunt­ing, Don­nelly said. He dropped her off at home and she didn’t hear from him for the next eight hours.

A wit­ness saw a car that looked like Panovski’s and a man in camo in the driver’s seat, near the cor­ner of Front Road and Huron Road, the for­mer High­way 8, near Clin­ton, just south of the wildlife area and 200 kilo­me­tres from his Scar­bor­ough apart­ment.

After the shoot­ing, his cell­phone was traced to Fer­gus, then Guelph – nowhere near Stouf­fville, east of Toronto. The Fri­gos had ar­rived at the Hul­lett wildlife area that morn­ing with two trucks, trail­ers, horses and dogs. They had break­fast at Bartliff’s bak­ery in Clin­ton and spent the day with their field dog train­ing com­mu­nity. The shoot­ing hap­pened at the end of the day, after all the field trial and while they were rid­ing back to their camp.

They were both wounded. Eva Willer Frigo heard her hus­band say “my head, my head,” after the shots. Then she briefly saw the man who shot them who was run­ning to a car.

Don­nelly said Frigo’s wife, who will be tes­ti­fy­ing with the aid of an emo­tional sup­port dog, can’t iden­tify Panovski – she hadn’t seen him since her fa­ther’s fu­neral in 2006 and his ap­pear­ance had changed over the years – but she was able to give the po­lice a de­scrip­tion of the car.

Panovski can­celled his in­surance, his gym mem­ber­ship, gave away his cars, his shot­gun and took out $5,000 Cana­dian and 5,000 Eu­ros from the bank. He booked a plane ticket to Mace­do­nia and left Sept. 15, 2014, He hadn’t been back there for 30 years.

After the OPP, who had searched his apart­ment, an­nounced he was wanted, he flew back to Canada and was ar­rested on the plane in Toronto as soon as it landed, Don­nelly said.

The first wit­nessed were two OPP of­fi­cers who were first to ar­rive at the scene, which was treated as an ac­tive shoot­ing.

The trial is ex­pected to last eight to 10 weeks.

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