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Judge awards $9.6 million in wrongful death suit of Fargo dentist

This July 21, 2011, file photo shows Gene Kirkpatrick during his murder conspiracy trial in Fargo. Forum file photo

FARGO – A young girl whose father was murdered here by a hitman hired by her grandfather has been awarded $9.65 million in damages by a Fargo judge in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her father’s family.

Judge Lisa Fair McEvers ordered the award Monday against Gene Kirkpatrick for his granddaughter, Kennedy Gattuso, in the lawsuit filed in August 2011 in Cass County District Court.

The suit was filed after a Cass County jury found Kirkpatrick guilty in July 2011 in the conspiracy to murder his son-in-law, Dr. Philip Gattuso.

Gattuso, a widowed dentist with then-3-year-old daughter Kennedy, was bludgeoned to death in October 2009 with a hammer wielded by Kirkpatrick’s handyman, Michael Nakvinda, in Gattuso’s south Fargo home.

Nakvinda was convicted of the murder, for which he said he was paid $3,000 by Kirkpatrick to kill Gattuso, with another $10,000 to come.

Prosecutors said Kirkpatrick wanted Gattuso dead to so he could gain custody of his granddaughter following the March 2009 death of his daughter Valerie, Gattuso’s wife and Kennedy’s mother.

The ruling calls for Kirkpatrick to pay more than $4.4 million for economic damages, $5 million for non-economic damages, and $250,000 for other damages.

McEvers wrote in her order that since Kirkpatrick was incarcerated in a South Dakota prison, it was unlikely he would ever be able to pay any amount of noneconomic damages.

Emily Welker | Forum News Service

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