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Published April 29 2010

Trial set for Aug. 23 in Gattuso custody case

GRETNA, La. – A trial date has been set in the custody dispute over the orphaned daughter of slain Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso.

In a court hearing Wednesday in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish, a five-day trial to determine who will raise Kennedy Gattuso was set to begin Aug. 23, said Regan Williams, the girl’s maternal aunt.

The father of the 4-year-old was beaten to death Oct. 26 in Fargo, seven months after her mother died from complications of heart surgery.

The dentist’s family and his in-laws have waged a custody battle for the girl since her maternal grandfather was charged in Cass County with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with Gattuso’s death.

Police believe that Gene Kirkpatrick, the grandfather, paid his handyman to kill Gattuso because he did not approve of how his ex-son-in-law was raising the girl. Michael Nakvinda, the handyman, is charged with murder, accused of slaying the dentist with a hammer.

Williams and Gattuso’s brother, Roy Gattuso, are seeking permanent custody of Kennedy. The Gattusos, who live in Gretna, have temporary custody.