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Published July 21, 2011, 02:54 PM

Lawyer: Handyman Went 'Rogue' in Killing Fargo Dentist

The handyman already convicted of killing Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso acted alone, the defense attorney for Gene Kirkpatrick argued this morning.

By: Dave Roepke, Forum Communications

FARGO – The handyman already convicted of killing Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso acted alone, the defense attorney for Gene Kirkpatrick argued this morning.

“We’ve got a guy going maverick, a guy going rogue,” said Mack Martin, Kirkpatrick’s lead lawyer.

Kirkpatrick, 64, of Jones, Okla., is on trial in Cass County District Court for conspiracy to commit both murder and burglary. A man he often hired as a handyman, Michael Nakvinda, was convicted of the murder in a trial last year.

He’s accused of plotting a murder-for-hire with Nakvinda that lead to the fatal beating in Gattuso’s Fargo condominium Oct. 26, 2009, charged largely because of statements he gave police five days after his former son-in-law was murdered.

Kirkpatrick told police he gave $3,000 to Nakvinda for expenses and promised at least $10,000 more, angry at Gattuso for how he had reacted after his wife Valerie Gattuso – Kirkpatrick’s daughter – died in March 2009. He said he was worried about the future up-bringing of Kennedy Gattuso, the 3-year-old daughter of Philip and Valerie.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Boening, in the state’s opening statement this morning, said the cash payment, a video Kirkpatrick recorded of the dentist’s condo and convertible and scheduling details he lifted from Gattuso’s calendar show “an otherwise good man” had conspired to murder the 49-year-old.

In his opening statement, Martin repeated a contention Kirkpatrick made at Nakvinda’s murder trial: That $3,000 was for unrelated work, and Nakvinda was never told to go ahead with any sort of killing.

Martin said given “this overwhelming agony living in him” after Valerie died, Kirkpatrick was telling every person he met about his problems with Gattuso.

“He vented to this guy along with everyone else,” Martin said of Nakvinda.

Martin said in the course of the nearly three hour interview with police Oct. 31, 2009, Kirkpatrick said more than 20 times he had not reached an agreement with Nakvinda.

“There’s never one time that Gene made an admission in there,” he said.

Detective Paul Lies, the Fargo police officer who interviewed Kirkpatrick, is expected to take the stand this afternoon, testimony during which jurors will listen to audio tape of the interview.

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