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By Dave Kolpack, Associated Press, Published December 28 2010

North Dakota saw 10 homicides in 2010

Unofficial reports compiled by the North Dakota attorney general’s office show 10 homicides in the state this year. In each case, the accused killers appear to have known their victims.

Four of the killings could be traced to domestic violence. Prosecutors believe two women were killed by their husbands, one woman by her ex-husband and one woman by her ex-boyfriend.

Historically, about half the homicides in the state are related to domestic issues, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.

“People who find themselves in situations of domestic violence need to know there are places to go for help,” Stenehjem said. “It doesn’t have to happen.”

One of the 2010 cases involves two brothers in Manvel. Rodney Chisholm, 45, is accused of killing his 59-year-old brother, Donald, by hitting him in the head with a metal pipe, strangling him or a combination of the two. Trial in the case is set for March.

Rodney Chisholm has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and to five felony theft counts linked to stolen farm equipment that authorities say they found in his possession.

Stenehjem said it’s difficult to draw conclusions from the homicide total, which is down five from 2009.

“I always caution people to remember that when you have a relatively low homicide rate like North Dakota does, the figures can go all over the port,” Stenehjem said.

There were four killings reported in 2008 and a decade high of 17 in 2007, he said.

No homicides have been reported this year in Fargo, the state’s largest city, but trial was held in 2010 for a man accused in one of the city’s most peculiar killings. Michael Nakvinda of Oklahoma City was convicted for the 2009 murder of Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme.

Authorities believe that Nakvinda was hired by Gattuso’s former father-in-law, Gene Kirkpatrick, because Kirkpatrick was unhappy that Gattuso was raising his granddaughter. Nakvinda, who was Kirkpatrick’s handyman, beat Gattuso to death with a hammer, police said.

“The murder-for-hire aspect is very unusual,” prominent Fargo attorney and former prosecutor Bruce Quick said before the trial. “I can’t think of any in the 30-plus years I’ve been around doing this. Usually the motive tends to be anger.”

Fargo averages one homicide every two or three years, police Sgt. Mark Lykken said.

“In most cases, they know their victims,” Lykken said. “We normally start investigating small in inner circles and work our way out.”