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Fargo police: Missing Porsche key to solving dentist's murder

Philip Mario Gattuso Jr.

FARGO - A missing Porsche is the focus of a police investigation into the suspicious death of a 49-year-old periodontist found dead in his south Fargo home Monday, police Chief Keith Ternes said today.

"Again, I know I'm overemphasizing this to some degree, but we want to find that car," Ternes said at a news conference. "That's where we want to start. We want to find that car."

Philip Mario Gattuso Jr. appears to have sustained significant injury to his head, but the cause of death has yet to be determined, Ternes said.

An autopsy is scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday at the state medical examiner's office in Bismarck.

"At this particular point, our initial investigation certainly leads us to believe that this is a homicide," Ternes said.

Investigators were still on the scene this afternoon and will likely be there for several more hours, Ternes said. He wouldn't comment on what evidence has been collected or if Gattuso had been shot.

Police are asking for help in locating Gattuso's missing vehicle, a silver 1999 Porsche Boxster with the license plate 2KRYSIS.

"That, I think, will give us the first major step toward solving this," Ternes said.

Ternes asked that anyone who sees the car, or anyone who saw Gattuso on Monday, call police at (701) 241-1405.

Gattuso dropped his 3-year-old daughter off at day care at 8:30 a.m. Monday, but his coworkers didn't see him that day, Ternes said.

When Gattuso didn't show up to pick up his daughter, the day care provider called a family friend listed as an alternate point of contact.

The friend called Gattuso's neighbor, who checked on his condo and discovered the scene and called police about 7:20 p.m., according to Ternes and the dispatch log.

The condo, Unit A in the Upper 9 Condominium Court at 2536 S. University Drive, had been ransacked, with drawers opened and furniture overturned, Ternes said.

"The residence is in a significant state of disarray. It appears that somebody or some bodies had gone through the apartment pretty thoroughly looking for something," he said.

The 3-year-old girl is in the care of a family friend, Ternes said. Out-of-state family members of Gattuso and his wife, Valerie, who died in March, were on their way to Fargo, he said.

Neighbors canvassed by police were in a "state of shock," he said.

"In fact, I'm not surprised that maybe even the city in general is somewhat surprised," he said. "This is the first homicide investigation that we've conducted now for quite some time."

Capt. Tod Dahle earlier today said no weapons were found in the home, although Ternes wouldn't say whether or not any weapons were recovered.