Courtesy photo
Madison Panagopoulos and her dog, Tommy. Tommy was shot and killed in her back yard.

The Ely Times

A family left their home on the evening of March 19 for a birthday dinner.  It was nothing unusual, the Panagopoulos family had left their dogs in their backyard plenty of times.

But, when they got home that night, what they found was the beginning of a nightmare they will never be able to forget.

Bill Panagopoulos, said he has lived in that house for 17 years and has never had a problem.

His daughter’s dog Tommy was found shot, dead in the backyard when they returned from dinner.

There were two other dogs in the backyard that were unharmed.  Bill’s girlfriend Amanda Lytle said they left the house that evening around 5:30 to take her father to dinner.

When they returned at 8:15 p.m. Lytle opened the back door to call the dogs in, the female dog Citca was sitting on the back porch not wanting to come in while Hank and Tommy, the two males, were in the yard.

Lytle went out to the yard, Tommy was laying down and Hank had Tommy by the nape of his neck trying to pull him somewhere safe.

Lytle said she looked down and saw a pool of blood around Tommy.  Lytle said she started screaming for Panagopoulos, and when he came out, they got a blanket, picked up Tommy, and Hank was still trying to hang on to Tommy as if he didn’t want Panagopoulos to take him from him.

Panagopoulos said he is uncertain who would do this, as they do not have any enemies, and have never even had any complaints of their dogs barking or being a nuisance.  The yard is enclosed by a six foot wood panel fence, without a gate to it.

It is still uncertain how or who shot Tommy, but the shot was taken at very close range.  Tommy was shot near his eye, and Lytle noted that she found teeth, and skull particles in the yard, from Tommy’s head.  There was no exit wound.

The family lives in the Mineral Heights area, and the whole thing is still a mystery to them. The family commended the Sheriff’s office for the continued support and investigation with this matter.  They have increased patrol in that area, and the family are so appreciative of the departments compassion and assistance.

The family described Tommy as the sweetest dog you would ever meet. Panagopoulos’ daughter Madison now 17,  grew up with Tommy.  Madison Panagopoulos said she got him when she was just 6 years old.

Tommy appeared in their front yard 11 years ago and his previous owners were getting tired of him running away, and threatened to take him to the pound. Madison Panagopoulos’ mother told her that she could keep him. Everyday after that, Tommy became her protector, play buddy, and more than just a dog, to her, he was her baby.

“Tommy was the sweetest dog you ever would have met, never hurt anybody, always a happy dog,” Madison Panagopoulos said.

Tommy was the dog everyone loved. Bill Panagopoulos shared a memory of Tommy. When Bill Panagopoulos’ father would come over to visit and have coffee, Tommy would jump up in a chair and look at them waiting for his cup of coffee.   Every year at Christmas time, when the family gathered to play board games, he’d be sitting next to Madison as if he was playing the game too. And Taleah, Lytle’s young daughter, was also one of Tommy’s biggest fans.

Now, Madison Panagopoulos doesn’t even feel safe going to her own home, a home that she has lived in her whole life. She said, “I won’t go in the house now unless someone else is home.”

Bill Panagopoulos said they have to continue living their life and they have hope and they believe that time will heal wounds, but in the meantime they’re hoping this can be resolved and find out why someone would do what they did.

Lytle said, “How are you supposed to feel safe when someone took your protector away? I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy, making that call to Madison, telling her she needed to come home, that is the worst conversation, and to watch her get out of her truck and see her dad holding her dog….that is non repairable to my heart. Whoever this person is, they took something that I’ll never get back.”

Madison Panagopoulos mentioned the other dogs are still looking for Tommy as well. “I know none of this is going to bring Tommy back, but I want to be able to just put my dogs in the backyard so they can run around again, safely.”

There is a reward being offered that is currently up to $1,000 contingent upon the arrest and conviction of the person who shot Tommy.

Anyone with information should contact the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office at 775-289-8808.  Madison Panagopoulos said, “The worst part is that I left him home that morning, I never got to come home and see him happy again, I never got to say goodbye.”