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Dave Roepke, Published April 06 2010

Kirkpatrick trial set for October in Gattuso slaying case

Both men accused in the hammer beating that killed Philip Gattuso last fall are scheduled to stand trial.

A two-week trial starting Oct. 4 was set Monday for Gene Carl Kirkpatrick, 63, of Jones, Okla., who police suspect in the alleged murder-for-hire of Gattuso, his former son-in-law.

If no plea deal is cut, the trial date is unlikely to be moved. Cass County District Court Judge Steven Marquart said in a hearing on Monday he would “not look kindly” on any further requests for delays.

Michael Allen Nakvinda, the former handyman who police believe Kirkpatrick paid $3,000 to kill the Fargo dentist, is set for a nine-day trial leading off with jury selection on Aug. 10.

Nakvinda, 41, of Oklahoma City, is charged with murder, robbery, burglary and theft in the Oct. 26 killing. Kirkpatrick faces charges of conspiracy to commit murder and to commit burglary. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Kirkpatrick gave his plea on Monday, five months after his Nov. 2 arrest.

The plea came after Kirkpatrick’s new attorney, Mack Martin of Oklahoma, told Marquart that his client waived a hearing to show probable cause. The hearing had been set for Monday, initially requested by an attorney who Kirkpatrick later fired.

Martin wouldn’t say after the hearing why he decided not to force prosecutors to conduct the probable cause hearing, a technicality that is waived in most cases.

Cass County authorities think that Kirkpatrick got Nakvinda to kill Gattuso so he could gain custody of the dentist’s 3-year-old girl. Gattuso had been raising her alone after the March 2009 death of his wife, Kirkpatrick’s daughter.

Kirkpatrick is out of jail and living in Oklahoma, having posted a $1 million cashier’s check on Feb. 11 to make bail. Nakvinda is in the Cass County Jail, also on $1 million bail.

Prosecutors will be back in court on Wednesday to seek approval to use an 85-question survey in selecting jurors for Nakvinda’s trial. The defense attorney also wants the judge to OK using the questionnaire.

Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said a similar request may be made in Kirkpatrick’s trial.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535