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Published July 28, 2011, 04:40 PM

Jury finds Kirkpatrick guilty in murder conspiracy

Marking the second conviction linked to the 2009 murder of Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso, Cass County jurors ruled Gene Kirkpatrick is guilty of conspiring to murder his former son-in-law, a verdict handed down at 4:31 p.m.

By: Dave Roepke, Associated Press

FARGO – Marking the second conviction linked to the 2009 murder of Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso, Cass County jurors ruled Gene Kirkpatrick is guilty of conspiring to murder his former son-in-law, a verdict handed down at 4:31 p.m.

Jurors also found the 64-year-old from Jones, Okla., guilty on a less serious charge of conspiring in the burglary of Gattuso’s home.

Kirkpatrick was accused of hatching a murder-for-hire with his handyman – Michael Nakvinda, already convicted of the murder in an earlier trial – in order to secure custody of a 3-year-old daughter Gattuso had with Valerie, his late wife and the younger of Kirkpatrick’s two daughters. He told cops he was unsettled by the parenting skills of the dentist and “her future welfare was more valuable than his life.”

Prosecutors claimed that Kirkpatrick’s own actions, admitted to police when he was interviewed five days after Gattuso was beaten to death with a hammer on Oct. 26, 2009, showed there was an agreement reached with Nakvinda. The grandfather told officers he paid Nakvinda $3,000 in expense money related to the murder plot as well recording a video of Gattuso’s home at the handyman’s request.

Defense attorney Mack Martin disputed the notion the men agreed to a murder-for-hire, arguing Kirkpatrick was just venting to Nakvinda – who had then gone “maverick,” pulling off the murder without the sanction of Kirkpatrick. He said the cash was for work unrelated to the killing.

In the closing arguments delivered Thursday morning, a week after testimony in the trial started, Martin recalled he had counted 26 points in the nearly three-hour interview when Kirkpatrick denied he had an agreement with Nakvinda.

“They’ve never put their case together, and there’s 26 reasons why,” he said.

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