Family maintains innocence of man convicted of murder
It was a case that grabbed national headlines, a metro man convicted of hiring his handyman to travel more than 1,000 miles to kill his ex son-in-law.
Gene Kirkpatrick’s family never spoke to the media through the whole ordeal but now they’re speaking out.
They said despite the conviction, they believe in Kirkpatrick’s innocence.
At his sentencing last summer, the judge said he had a dark side that his family was not aware of.
But Kirkpatrick’s wife and daughter said there’s no way he could’ve hidden such a sinister nature and said he doesn’t deserve life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“My husband is up in South Dakota in prison for something he didn’t do,” Sharon Kirkpatrick said.
She staunchly defends her husband’s innocence.
Four years ago, Sharon would have described her life as perfect.
But March of 2009, everything began to unravel.
“The surgery completely altered everything,” Kirkpatrick said.
After a botched heart surgery, her daughter, Valerie Gattuso, died leaving behind her 3-year-old daughter, Kennedy, who went to live in Fargo, North Dakota with her dad, Phillip Gattuso.
Six months later, Phillip was beaten to death in his Fargo condominium.
Back in Oklahoma, Kirkpatrick’s handyman, Mike Nakvinda, was arrested.
Then her husband, Gene Kirkpatrick, was arrested for paying the handyman to murder Gattuso.
“Never had anything but a traffic ticket. He’d never had a known argument. He’s a very quiet, easygoing person,” Kirkpatrick said.
It took a North Dakota jury only four hours to convict Kirkpatrick of masterminding the murder but his family continues to stand behind him.
“My dad is the best man I know. He would never do this and he did not do this,” Kirkpatrick’s daughter, Regan Williams said.
Williams said her sister, Valerie, wanted her to raise Kennedy after her death.
But after Kirkpatrick’s conviction, a judge awarded custody to Phillip Gattuso’s brother, Roy, in Louisiana.
Now, the Kirkpatrick’s are not allowed to have any contact with the little girl.
“Gene is a smart man. He’s very open, friendly and gullible. Even in the prisons, they said, ‘Gene, don’t be so friendly with everybody,’” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick said her husband confided in her handyman about concerns over the way Phillip was raising Kennedy.
But she said he would’ve never told the man to kill him.
She believes their handyman was motivated by greed.
He didn’t just kill Phillip.
He also stole his Porsche and dozens of other items from his home.
Nakvinda is also serving life in prison.