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A mystery unravels in dog trainer’s death

stoverThe body of the Pacific Northwest’s most famous dog trainer still hasn’t been found, but authorities have charged his ex-wife’s boyfriend with his murder.

T. Mark Stover was the Seattle area’s dog-trainer-to-the-stars, with clients that ranged from members of Pearl Jam and Nirvana to  Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz to Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who entrusted Stover with his Shiba Inu.

Last month, employees at the kennel, Island Dog Adventures, 55 miles north of Seattle, found Stover’s dog, Dingo, shot in the face, but authorities could find no signs of Stover, other than smears of his blood in a downstairs bedroom and hallway.

Prosecutors have charged his ex-wife’s boyfriend,  Michiel Oakes, with murder, according to an Associated Press report.

Stover, 57, and ex-wife Linda Opdycke, 45, opened Island Dog Adventures in the early 1990s on an island owned by her wealthy family. Her father was one of the founders of Washington’s biggest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle.

The kennel offered training, massages, pedicures, a raw-meat diet and weight-loss programs.  Clients included Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder; former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic; Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell; moviemaker Cameron Crowe and his wife, singer Nancy Wilson of the ‘1970s group Heart; and Costco Corp. CEO Jim Sinegal.

When Opdycke and Stover divorced, he agreed to dividing their assets, and to pay $175,000 for her share of the business. She would get the SUV and the horse trailer; he would get the Porsche and BMW, AP reported. Stover also agreed to move the business off the island, which the state is buying for a park.

Tension between the couple apparently continued after that. In early 2008, Opdycke, who has since become a private investigator, took out a restraining order against Stover, claiming he showed up at her home uninvited and that a neighbor had caught him going through her garbage.

On Oct. 28, police responded to a report of trespassers at a grange hall a half-mile from Stover’s house. Two cars were parked out back — one was Stover’s, and the other belonged to Opdycke’s boyfriend, Michiel Oakes, authorities said. The neighbor reported that a man by the cars was seen with a large piece of plastic.

The next morning, Stover’s fiancee reported him missing, and at Stover’s house employees found Dingo, a Belgian malinois, bleeding from gunshot wounds. The dog is now recovering.

A sheriff’s deputy found Oakes and Opdycke at her home. According to authorities, Oakes excused himself and was seen throwing a plastic bag over an embankment. When deputies recovered it, they found a .22-caliber pistol inside.

(Photo: from Islanddogadventures.com)


Comment from Heidi
Time November 24, 2009 at 1:23 am

Mark was a great man! I feel fortunate that I had a chance to work for him. He will be missed.