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Fargo murder victim's family has 'no peace right now'

"It's totally, totally baffling to me," says Roy Gattuso, Philip's brother, who was in Fargo on Friday. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Roy Gattuso struggles to express the grief, the unreal empty feelings the family is grappling with in the wake of his brother's bloody murder.

They simply can't figure how anyone would want to harm Philip Gattuso, the Fargo periodontist killed in his home on Monday. The disbelief leaves little room for anger, Roy Gattuso said Friday. But the search for answers means everything.

"That's the closure our family is looking for, to have that peace. Because there is no peace right now, until whoever did this is put where they're supposed to be placed," said Roy, the older brother of the 49-year-old murder victim.

No new information was disclosed in the investigation Friday, though police did finish the 80-hour process of collecting evidence at Gattuso's condominium at 2536 S. University Drive.

Authorities opened the home to family and friends, an experience Roy Gattuso said was difficult.

"It was upsetting just to walk through the door," he said.

Family members took a few personal effects and some clothes for a funeral Wednesday in Gattuso's home state of Louisiana. A memorial service will be held in Fargo at 2 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Bethel Evangelical Free Church, where Gattuso was a member.

Gattuso was found dead in the condo Monday night after he didn't pick up his 3-year-old daughter, Kennedy, at day care. The home was ransacked, and his Porsche was gone.

Police have said Gattuso died of a head injury but won't say if a weapon was used. The neighbor who found the body said Gattuso was covered in blood.

So far, a wide-open police investigation has focused on the car. Witnesses saw an extended-cab mid- to late-1990s GMC or Chevrolet pickup, dark-colored or black with tinted windows, pulling the car away from the area on Monday morning on a flatbed trailer with straps to hold the vehicle.

Police urge anyone who saw the 1999 silver Porsche Boxter convertible being taken away by trailer to call them at (701) 241-1405.

Capt. Tod Dahle said Thursday that there's no "definite focus point" yet to the investigation, and Roy Gattuso said the family has been told little more about the crime than the public.

His elder brother said Philip bought the Porsche in August in Texas. It was immaculate, with less than 30,000 miles on it. Still, it's hard to believe that the killing could be exclusively about the car, he said.

"It's totally, totally baffling to me," Roy Gattuso said, adding that Philip was financially secure and had no substance abuse problems.

Gattuso said his brother's low-key manner makes the slaying all the more difficult to grasp. He described Philip as nonconfrontational, the type to cool down a heated situation instead of enflaming it.

His brother was religious and kept a Bible by his bed and desk. He played golf and poker, and relished the time spent with Kennedy. Her mother, Gattuso's wife, Valerie, died in March after living on an artificial heart for 18 months.

Gattuso said he did not think his brother had any appointments Monday. He was working part time after selling his practice. Kennedy was in day care weekdays even when Gattuso wasn't working because it was also a school, he said.

Kennedy, who because of her age doesn't know yet that her father died, will likely end up in the custody of Valerie's sister, who lives in Oklahoma and also has a daughter Kennedy's age.

"You can't help but love her. She's just a sweet little heart," Gattuso said of Kennedy. "She keeps you going."