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Fargo police detective calls scope of murder investigation "massive" as prosecution rests case

FARGO - After roughly three full days of testimony, the prosecution rested today in the Cass County murder conspiracy trial for Gene Kirkpatrick. Jurors were released for the day, with the defense set to begin mounting its case Wednesday morning....

FARGO - After roughly three full days of testimony, the prosecution rested today in the Cass County murder conspiracy trial for Gene Kirkpatrick.

Jurors were released for the day, with the defense set to begin mounting its case Wednesday morning.

Today's sole witness was Fargo Police Detective Paula Ternes, the case agent who headed up the investigation of Philip Gattuso's murder at the dentist's home.

Kirkpatrick, the father of Gattuso's late wife, stands accused of conspiring with Michael Nakvinda, a handyman, in the fatal beating. He told police he paid $3,000 to Nakvinda and recorded a video of Gattuso's home for Nakvinda, who a jury convicted of the Oct. 26, 2009, murder in December.

After telling the jury on Monday about the scope of the investigation - a probe she called "massive," unlike any other she's ever seen - Ternes filled in the blanks on a number of elements of the investigation.

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For instance, she told the jury a video camera found in Nakvinda's home had no tape inside it, and the video Kirkpatrick told detectives he shot was never found.

Neither did police, in a search of Kirkpatrick bank accounts, find transactions possibly related to paying Nakvinda. Interviewed by police five days after the murder, Kirkpatrick said he paid $3,000 for expenses to Nakvinda with a promise for at least $10,000 more.

The defense claims there was no agreement between Kirkpatrick and Nakvinda, saying the handyman went "rogue" in acting alone.

Defense attorney Mack Martin, in cross-examining Ternes, brought up testimony from the Nakvinda trial from both Kirkpatrick and Debbie Baker, a friend of Kirkpatrick's who said Nakvinda told her weeks before the murder he could kill the Fargo dentist with a hammer and Kirkpatrick would never know about it.

After Ternes said she did not recall Baker saying in the first trial that Nakvinda had said he could murder Gattuso without Kirkpatrick knowing. Baker's prior testimony did make reference to the handyman saying Kirkpatrick would not need to know.

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