Attorneys Wrap Up Evidence Phase in Fargo Murder TrialBoth prosecutors and the defense rested their cases today in Michael Nakvinda's murder trial at the Cass County Courthouse in Fargo. Attorneys from both sides will present closing arguments Thursday morning before a jury of nine women and three men begin deliberating the case.
By: Dave Roepke, Forum Communications
FARGO - Both prosecutors and the defense rested their cases today in Michael Nakvinda's murder trial at the Cass County Courthouse in Fargo.
Attorneys from both sides will present closing arguments Thursday morning before a jury of nine women and three men begin deliberating the case.
Earlier today, Nakvinda countered the testimony of several prior witnesses, claiming he had nothing to do with the deadly beating last fall of Philip Gattuso.
Nakvinda denied having any discussions with Gene Kirkpatrick about killing Gattuso, saying, “Nah, I’d remember that.” He said they didn’t talk about those sorts of personal matters.
“I just didn’t get too far into detail,” he said. “I call it sissy talk.”
Kirkpatrick, who’d hired Nakvinda as a handyman, is accused of paying him to kill Gattuso, his former son-in-law, so he could get custody of Gattuso’s 3-year-old daughter after the girl’s mother had died.
On Monday, Kirkpatrick testified he’d talked with Nakvinda about a murder-for-hire, but he says they never had an agreement.
Kirkpatrick is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and is scheduled to stand trial next spring.
Nakvinda also denies that weeks before the killing on Oct. 26, 2009, he told another former employer, Deborah Baker, that if he were to kill Gattuso, he would use a hammer. He said he tried not to cuss in front of Baker, so he surely wouldn’t have brought up murdering anyone.
A hammer with Gattuso’s blood and hair on it was found inside his stolen Porsche in an Oklahoma City storage unit Nakvinda admits he had rented, and a medical examiner testified the dentist’s head injuries were consistent with blows from a hammer.
No physical evidence was found at Gattuso’s home to link Nakvinda to the crime scene, and no witnesses can identify having seen Nakvinda in Fargo.
Nakvinda claims he’s being framed by Kirkpatrick and says he picked up the stolen Porsche after spending the night of Oct. 25 in Wahpeton, N.D., at the direction of Kirkpatrick.
The next morning when he woke up, the truck and trailer were already loaded with the car he’d been told he was to pick up, he said.
Nakvinda couldn’t give a detailed description of the man who he spoke with in Wahpeton, nor could he recall the man’s name.
In cross-examination that was interrupted by a break for lunch, prosecutors were drilling Nakvinda on the details of his story.
One of those issues is the time it would take to get from Fargo to Wahpeton to a rest stop just south of the South Dakota border along Interstate 29. Surveillance video time stamps show 70 minutes passed from when the truck and trailer were seen leaving The Bowler in south Fargo to when they pulled into the rest stop.
Yet witnesses for the defense and the state have said it would take at least 15 minutes longer that that if the trip included a stop in Wahpeton – excluding how long it would take to exchange drivers.
Roepke is a reporter at the Fargo Forum