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Matt Von Pinnon, Published November 22 2009

Von Pinnon: Little girl’s ongoing saga an important story to tell

No matter who ultimately has custody of little Kennedy Gattuso, it’s fair to say Fargo-Moorhead has adopted her.

The 3-year-old lost both of her parents within the past seven months, her mother to spiraling health complications, her father to what appears to be an unthinkable murder concocted by her maternal grandfather.

Kennedy is now caught in the middle of two extended families who feel strongly that her future will be brighter with them. Both families have good cases for custodial rights:

Kennedy’s aunt on her mother’s side cared for her most of her young life as her mother was dying. The aunt has a similarly aged daughter and seems pretty put together.

However, the aunt’s dad – Kennedy’s grandfather – is accused of plotting her father’s death because he didn’t like the way dad was raising her. The family ties and physical proximity of grandfather and aunt is hard for most reasonable people to overcome, even if the aunt knew nothing of the alleged plot. Awarding their family custody almost seems like a reward for his cruelty.

Kennedy’s uncle on her father’s side seems a good alternative, but she is less familiar with that side of the family and one wonders if her emotional well-being can take another drastic change in so little time.

I find myself pretty invested in this little girl’s future.

As the father of a 3-year-old girl, the story of Kennedy’s fate resonates with me and many other people I’ve spoken with.

But some readers have complained that The Forum shouldn’t publish any more information about Kennedy’s future or the ongoing custody dispute resulting from one of Fargo’s most sensational crimes. They argue that it’s prying and could harm the girl now and in the future. Some are fine with the stories surrounding her but don’t feel we should publish photos of the little girl.

I couldn’t disagree more on all counts.

Kennedy’s story must be told. If journalism does one thing very well, it gives witness to justice and injustice by telling stories about real people and their real-life challenges.

Yes, Kennedy’s story is complicated and sad beyond belief, and yet it’s also uplifting because it’s clear she is loved and wanted by her family that remains.

In some ways, Kennedy’s ordeal is one repeated daily all over this world, though brought about by less sensational circumstances. It’s true that in most cities the story of her future and fate would not command front-page news. I’m proud that our community is different; that it cares enough to monitor and guard one child’s rights so no other injustices come her way.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579.