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Brother of slain Fargo dentist testifies family suspected grandfather in murder

The brother of the Fargo dentist beaten to death with a hammer last fall testified this morning in the trial of the man who is accused in the killing.

Much of the testimony of Roy Gattuso Sr., brother of slain dentist Philip Gattuso, was about the tension between the dentist and his in-laws concerning custody of Gattuso's daughter.

Michael Nakvinda, who is on trial for murder, theft, burglary and robbery, was allegedly paid to kill Gattuso by Gene Kirkpatrick, the victim's former father-in-law. In an interview with police five days after the Oct. 26, 2009, death, Kirkpatrick said he wanted the dentist dead so his family could raise 3-year-old Kennedy Gattuso, and he admitted he gave Nakvinda $3,000 in connection with the murder-for-hire.

Kirkpatrick faces a conspiracy to commit murder charge in Cass County District Court and is set to stand trial in March.

Roy Gattuso testified that before Philip's wife died in March 2009, the grandfather had said he would kill Gattuso if the Kirkpatricks didn't get to raise Kennedy, who had lived with them for months as her mother tried to recuperate from a heart operation.

"I didn't think anything of it at the time," he said. "I said, 'I don't think they're going to give you any trouble.'"

After finding out that his brother was killed, Gattuso said he didn't suspect that Kirkpatrick was involved, even though "everybody else in my family did."

Roy Gattuso's family is raising Kennedy after the custody case with Regan Williams - the sister of Gattuso's late wife, Valerie - was dropped by Williams this summer.

He said Williams dropped the case after she and her parents were deposed for the custody trial. In those depositions, she admitted she sent an e-mail to her attorney asking how many years she would have to serve if she "knocked him off," referring to Gattuso, Roy Gattuso testified today.