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Published January 28, 2011, 12:16 PM

Nakvinda Sentenced to Life in Prison for Fargo Murder

A North Dakota judge sentenced an Oklahoma City handyman on Friday to life in prison without the chance of parole for the brutal 2009 alleged contract killing of a Fargo man.

By: Dave Kolpack, Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota judge sentenced an Oklahoma City handyman on Friday to life in prison without the chance of parole for the brutal 2009 alleged contract killing of a Fargo man.

Michael Nakvinda showed no emotion as Judge Frank Racek handed down the sentence in Cass County court.

A jury in December found Michael Nakvinda guilty of murder and three other counts for beating Philip Gattuso to death with a hammer in October 2009.

Prosecutors contend that Gene Kirkpatrick, of Jones, Okla., hired Nakvinda to kill Gattuso. Kirkpatrick's daughter, Valerie, was married to Gattuso until she died in March 2009 after an extended illness. Kirkpatrick reportedly was unhappy that Gattuso was raising his granddaughter.

Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick told Racek on Friday that the crime was "senseless, merciless and it was completely unprovoked."

Defense attorney Steve Mottinger said there was no physical evidence placing Nakvinda at the crime scene and asked for a sentence of 27 years, or at least life with the possibility of parole.

"He maintains his innocence, as is his absolute right," Mottinger told Racek.

Nakvinda said his prayers go out to the Gattuso family.

"I'm absolutely innocent of these charges," he told the judge.

Kirkpatrick is to stand trial in July on a murder conspiracy charge. He said in an interview with police that he spoke with Nakvinda about the killing but never gave him the green light to carry it out. Kirkpatrick admitted that he gave Nakvinda $3,000 for expenses.

Authorities said Nakvinda killed Gattuso in his south Fargo townhome and stole his Porsche. The Porsche eventually was found in an Oklahoma City storage unit rented by Nakvinda. A hammer with Gattuso's blood and hair on it was found inside the car.

Several longtime Fargo attorneys have said they can't recall another murder-for-hire case in the area.

Nakvinda has said in court documents he plans to appeal the convictions. He was convicted on charges of murder, robbery, theft and burglary.

Gattuso's daughter is being raised by relatives in Louisiana.

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