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Published March 27 2010

Aunt granted visitation rights for daughter of slain dentist

A judge Friday granted the former sister-in-law of slain Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso the right to speak with his orphaned daughter for seven minutes every third Sunday.

Gattuso’s family and in-laws have been fighting for custody of 3-year-old Kennedy since shortly after Gattuso was found beaten to death in his south Fargo condo Oct. 26.

The judge agreed to the phone contact by her aunt, Regan Williams, during a custody hearing Friday in Louisiana, where Kennedy is in the temporary custody of Gattuso’s brother, Roy.

Williams’ father, Gene Kirkpatrick, is accused of paying his former handyman to kill Philip Gattuso. Williams has denied she knew anything about her father’s alleged actions.

Williams said the limited phone contact will be better than nothing. She said she hasn’t spoken to Kennedy since Feb. 6, and the Gattusos haven’t allowed her to see the girl.

“I just want to be able to talk to her and know that we haven’t abandoned her and that we love her,” she said.

Roy Gattuso said that despite Friday’s settlement, the Gattusos are “still very, very concerned how disruptive this may be for Kennedy.”

“When you go to court, you never know what the judge may rule, so this was an offer and a compromise,” he said.

Roy Gattuso said the judge granted an injunction barring Kirkpatrick’s wife, Sharon, from having any contact with Kennedy. Williams also is enjoined from having physical contact with the girl, he said.

Williams has asked the court to appoint a custody evaluator to independently represent Kennedy’s interests in the case. A judge will hear arguments on that request Tuesday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528