48 Hours Mystery: The dog trainer of Anacortes

A celebrity dog trainer is murdered... Now, exclusive interviews reveal the truth behind the crime

The Dog Trainer of Anacortes

Produced by Liza Finley with Marcelena Spencer and Sara Rodriguez

(This story originally aired on Feb. 5.)

Mark Stover was known as the dog whisperer of the Pacific Northwest - a man who could tangle with the most ferocious canine and bring it to its knees.

"He was almost more dog than he was human. I would see him get down on all fours and look at the dogs right in their eyes and he just had this amazing connection," says friend and client Andrea Franulovich.

"I think every once in a while you run across these people that are extraordinary. And Mark definitely was ... extraordinary," she continues. "He just had this way to be able to walk in the room and just grab the attention from everybody."

An outdoorsman and avid hunter, Stover was also a history buff and gun collector with over 30 firearms, says his sister Vicky Simmons.

"Highly intelligent, well-read, excellent cook," Simmons describes her brother. "He could be difficult. He could be pointed in his comments."

A hard edge, she says, that came from a tough upbringing. Their father died when Mark was just 18 months old; then, a sister died.

"It wasn't a normal childhood. Survival was a pretty big item on our list," Simmons says. "And my mother just had a very hard time."

And she had an even harder time reining in her rebellious son. "He was on bad path," Simmons says. "He got kicked out of high school for smoking dope... I think he was stumbling in the dark for a number of those years."

And then, a German Shepherd named Gunther came into his life.

"Mark and that dog bonded that very day ... it gave meaning to his life. Gave purpose to his life," Simmons says. "That dog saved him."

Mark trained that puppy to become a search and rescue dog. He had found his calling - a calling that eventually led him to the woman of his dreams, Linda Opdycke.

"I was looking to do some training with my dog and went through the phone book and found him in the phone book," she tells "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Peter Van Sant in an exclusive interview.

The daughter of multimillionaire Wally Opdycke - once co-owner of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and K2 Ski Corporation - Linda was Mark Stover's type: tall, beautiful and rich. At first, she says, the feeling was not mutual.

"I felt he was very arrogant, actually rubbed me the wrong way initially," she tells Van Sant. "But yet he seemed also to know a fair amount about dogs, so I thought, 'Let's try this out.'"

In Linda Opdycke, Mark Stover had met his match. This one time junior Olympic equestrienne could shoot and fly cast as well he. The high school dropout who came from nothing and the elegant beauty born of privilege fell in love.

"He was incredibly bright, eccentric - um, charismatic in many ways - very witty," she says.

Three months into their relationship, the couple opened a dog training business on Kiket Island, a private island owned by Linda's parents.

"I really had a vision for this business," she says. "I'd swim the dogs, we'd do massage therapy for them. Really a lot of custom care for the animals."

By 2002, Stover & Opdycke had grown into a million dollar-a-year enterprise. After 11 years together, Linda and Mark finally decided to get married.

Father Wally toasted his new son-in-law, but Linda's mother, Nancy Corbin, wasn't celebrating the moment.

"Mark is not a choice I would have made for Linda," Corbin says. "From the beginning, Mark showed an arrogance ... where he wanted to isolate Linda, all bad signs."

"I didn't listen and I should have," Linda says of her mother's concern.

Linda says the dark corners of Mark Stover's personality began to emerge more frequently.

"The last few years of being in a relationship with him was incredibly difficult," she explains. "The more the business began making money, the more obsessed he became with money... I would buy maybe a $5 item at the grocery store and he would be in a rage about it... For example, an avocado. That was too much money, really upset him."

"You guys had a million dollar business, he's upset that you bought an avocado?" remarks Van Sant.

"I recognized Mark was really somebody different than I had thought he was," Linda replies. "He was in rages and he had tantrums all the time, everyday and it was very, very difficult to live with. I saw him becoming more aggressive with people, for example, on the property."

Danny Jensen was clamming on Kikit Island when he came face to face with an angry Stover brandishing a gun.

"He threatened us with a handgun," Jensen recalls. "He told us that this was his land, we were not allowed to dig clams there, and that he would hurt us."

Asked if Mark Stover would have been capable of using that gun, Jensen replies, "Oh, definitely."

Similar incidents followed and it was taking a toll on their marriage.

"I told him I was ashamed by the behavior. This is not how my family does things and this is my family's property and I would like him to approach people with respect," says Linda.

In 2005, after 14 years together - three years of marriage - Linda Opdycke had had enough. "I decided I could not be in the marriage with Mark anymore because it just continued - the abuse, escalated and I really, literally, felt like I was dying."

She told Mark she was leaving him.

"He went just sheer white. His eyes went just crazy. He clenched his hands and fists and he was just in a shaking rage," she recalls. "He says, 'You've got war! I'm not going to grant this to you. You've got a big fight on your hands.'"

Neither one of them had any idea just how big a fight it would be.