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Accused mastermind in Gattuso murder posts $1 million bail

Gene Carl Kirkpatrick

The man accused of paying $3,000 to have his former son-in-law killed last fall posted $1 million bail to get out of jail on Thursday.

Attorneys for Gene Carl Kirkpatrick, who has been in custody since his Nov. 2 arrest in connection with the Oct. 26 hammer beating that killed Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso, provided a cashier's check for $1 million to the Clerk of Court to secure his release Thursday afternoon, said Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney.

Clerks verified the check was good, Laney said, and Kirkpatrick was released from the Cass County Jail at 3:30 p.m.

"Now he's no different than any other American citizen," said Laney, who added that attorneys said Kirkpatrick planned to return to his home near Oklahoma City. His next court date is a preliminary hearing set for Thursday.

A phone message left for Irven Box, an Oklahoma City attorney representing the 63-year-old Kirkpatrick, wasn't returned Thursday.

Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick said bail conditions required Kirkpatrick to give up his passport and to have no contact with the Gattusos.

Kirkpatrick is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, accused of paying his former handyman to kill Gattuso and orphan the dentist's 3-year-old daughter, Kennedy. Kirkpatrick's daughter and Philip Gattuso's wife, Valerie Gattuso, died last spring, and police think Kirkpatrick arranged the alleged murder to get custody of Kennedy.

Roy Gattuso, brother of Philip, has custody of the girl temporarily pending a guardianship battle in court with the girl's maternal aunt, Regan Williams, Kirkpatrick's other daughter. Gattuso said it is frightening and difficult to believe that Kirkpatrick is out of jail.

"We're actually very fearful for our safety, and we're very fearful for Kennedy's safety," Gattuso said.

In a Jan. 22 custody hearing in Cass County District Court, an attorney for Roy Gattuso said that at that point the only maternal relative Kennedy Gattuso had asked for was Gene Kirkpatrick.

The family will consider getting a security detail for Kennedy, Gattuso said.

"If we could afford 24-hour bodyguards, we would," he said.

The 3-year-old is staying in the Gattusos' hometown of Gretna, La., a suburb of New Orleans, with Roy Gattuso's daughter, Molly.

At the Jan. 22 hearing, a Cass County judge ordered that the ongoing custody battle be moved to Louisiana courts, where Gattuso said attorneys for Williams are seeking emergency custody of the girl. Oklahoma courts had given Williams, who lives near Oklahoma City, temporary custody before North Dakota's courts switched the arrangement and gave temporary custody to the Gattusos on Nov. 17.

Competing petitions in the Louisiana court system will now need to be settled by judges there, Roy Gattuso said. A tentative hearing on Williams' request for temporary custody is set for April 5, he said.

Burdick said $1 million is the largest bail his office has asked for, and he's not aware of a defendant ever posting a bail that high in Cass County. Laney said Chief Deputy Jim Thoreson, who's been on the force for 40 years, doesn't recall a bail that large being posted, either.

When Kirkpatrick made an initial court appearance in Cass County District Court on Nov. 27, Burdick told District Judge Steven Marquart that he considered Kirkpatrick a possible flight risk and worried that given the custody situation is similar to what it was before Gattuso was killed, "history could, in fact, repeat itself."

Reached at home Thursday evening, Marquart said he couldn't comment on Kirkpatrick posting bail.

If the circumstances call for it, Burdick said he will consider asking for larger bail. But he said the mere fact that a defendant is able to post a large bond is not enough to warrant asking for a larger amount.

If Kirkpatrick doesn't show up for his hearing on Thursday, "We'd certainly ask for his bail to be revoked," Burdick said.

Michael Allen Nakvinda, the former handyman who Kirkpatrick allegedly gave $3,000 to kill Gattuso, remains in the Cass County Jail on $1 million cash bail.