Weather Forecast


Suspect in Fargo dentist murder case held in Oklahoma City

Philip Mario Gattuso Jr.

Relatives of Michael Allen Nakvinda, arrested Saturday in the death of a Fargo dentist, are taking the news hard, a sister of Nakvinda says.

Nakvinda, of Oklahoma City, is in jail there and may face a number of charges in connection with the Oct. 26 death of Philip Gattuso in Fargo.

Most of Nakvinda's relatives live in Oklahoma, a Forum records search shows.

Denise Nakvinda, Michael's sister and a Dover, Okla., resident, was reached by The Forum on Sunday.

She said family members are struggling with news of his arrest, and she declined to pass on The Forum's request to speak with them.

Telephone numbers for most immediate family members weren't available.

She said she's had little to do with her brother for many years and that she couldn't provide insight on his current situation.

A woman who is apparently Michael Nakvinda's ex-wife posted several entries on her Facebook page that seem to relate to his arrest.

"I just don't believe it's true. We need answers. I pray that the truth will be revealed," Carrell Dee Hutchinson Hawkins posted Sunday on the popular social networking site.

Michael Nakvinda was divorced from his wife Carrell in 1988, according to a search of the Oklahoma State Courts Network.

A Carrell Dee Hawkins, also known as Carrell Nakvinda, shows up on the The Forum's records search.

Carrell Dee Hutchinson Hawkins lists on her Facebook page at least two daughters whose last name in Nakvinda.

"Please pray for my girls, their dad and all of their family. My girls are such a mess right now. It's just so hard to understand ... why, why, why?," Hawkins posted Sunday on Facebook.

Hawkins did not respond to a message sent by The Forum Sunday to her Facebook account.

Repeated attempts to reach a phone listing for Carrell Hawkins in Yukon, Okla., were unsuccessful, and it was impossible to leave a message.

Phone listings for the daughters mentioned on Hawkin's Facebook account couldn't be located.

Gattuso, 49, was found dead in his condo at 2536 S. University on Monday of last week.

The home was ransacked, and his Porsche was missing.

Fargo police, who described the death as a homicide, said Gattuso died of a head injury but wouldn't say if a weapon was used.

Police said that finding the Porsche would be a key to solving the case.

Tips from the public and video surveillance from a rest area along the North Dakota-South Dakota border led police to focus their search on the Oklahoma City area and ultimately to arrest Michael Nakvinda, who has a criminal history dating back to the 1980s.

Fargo police said Saturday night that the Porsche hadn't been found yet. It was unclear Sunday if the car had been located.

Police also aren't saying if there was a previous relationship between Nakvinda and Gattuso, who once had a practice in Oklahoma City.

In earlier developments:

Technology, public tips and good police work led to the arrest Saturday of an Oklahoma City man for the death of a Fargo dentist who once had a practice there, police said.

The man, Michael Allen Nakvinda, 41, is in an Oklahoma City jail. He may face a number of charges for Philip Gattuso's death, Fargo police said at a Saturday night news conference.

Gattuso's brother, Roy, said the arrest "provides some sort of closure" to the family.

Philip Gattuso, 49, was found dead Monday night in his condo, 2536 S. University Drive, after he didn't pick up his 3-year-old daughter, Kennedy, at day care. The home was ransacked, and his Porsche was gone.

Previously, police -- who described the death as a homicide - 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.

No details of how Gattuso died were released Saturday.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes and Lt. Pat Claus wouldn't say Saturday if there was any previous relationship between Gattuso and Nakvinda.

But they did say they were aware that Gattuso once had a practice in Oklahoma City and that knowledge was a factor in their investigation. Gattuso also had met his deceased wife, Valerie, while she worked as a restaurant waitress in Oklahoma City.

Police said previously that they believed locating the Porsche would be a key to solving the crime.

The Porsche still hasn't been found, police said Saturday.

Witnesses in Fargo 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 Monday morning on a flatbed trailer with straps to hold the vehicle.

One tipster told police Wednesday that a pickup pulling a trailer with a car, covered by a tarp, was at a rest area about two miles south of the North Dakota/South Dakota border.

Fargo police said Saturday that video from a surveillance camera at the rest area showed an Oklahoma license plate on the trailer.

Police contacted the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation, and Oklahoma authorities were able to identify the person who rented the trailer.

Two Fargo investigators went to Oklahoma to coordinate the investigation with officials there and back in Fargo.

At about 7 a.m. Saturday, Nakvinda was arrested at his home without incident, and investigators conducted a search of the house.

Claus said Nakvinda has an extensive criminal history, which includes felonies dating back into the 1980s.

According to the Oklahoma City Oklahoman newspaper, Nakvinda was among several people of an organized gang that were convicted for a rash of brutal 1993 home invasions.

The case, prosecuted under Oklahoma's racketeering laws, outlined 100 counts for such crimes as armed robbery, rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

Prosecutors claim the gang leaders targeted victims known to have large amounts of jewelry and money, enlisting robbers to carry out the invasions.

Nakvinda pleaded guilty to numerous robbery charges and received a 10-year prison term for his role in the home invasions.

A search of the Oklahoma State Courts Network also showed Nakvinda was convicted of a 1992 firearms charge. The court granted a divorce to his wife, Carrell, in 1998.

Claus wouldn't say whether anyone else is being investigated in connection with either the theft or Gattuso's death.

"An arrest is not always the end of an investigation," he said.

Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick said he anticipates charging documents to be filed Monday in Cass County District Court.

"There are a variety of charges we're looking at," he said.

Authorities will then begin the extradition process, which if challenged, could delay Nakvinda's return to Fargo.

Nakvinda must first appear in Oklahoma.

If he waives extradition, he will be transported to North Dakota within 10 days. If he challenges extradition, which requires a request by Gov. John Hoeven, the process could take up to 60 days.

Ternes and Claus said Fargo officers remain in Oklahoma as they continue to investigate whether anyone else was involved.

"This is a complex case," Claus said. "It's stretched halfway across the country."

"We have a number of video clips and video leads still to go through that we believe may build on or enhance this case," Claus said.

Fargo officials acknowledged the public's help on the case, and thanked officers for their work around the clock.

Claus described the case as one "of inches. An inch here, an inch there. It's a combination of the great support the chief referred to from the public, the use of technology, the use of good legwork by detectives and patrol officers - a culmination of a number of small things that's led us to this point, the midpoint of the investigation."

Police said they still want to be contacted by anyone with information that may be relevant.

Roy Gattuso spoke briefly with the media and praised Fargo police and other officials.

He said he had never heard of Nakvinda and has no reason to think there was any connection between him and his brother.

Roy Gattuso said this has been an extremely difficult time for his brother's family and friends.

Valerie Gattuso died in March after living on an artificial heart for 18 months.

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

A funeral is planned Wednesday in Gattuso's home state of Louisiana. A memorial service will be held in Fargo at 2 p.m. Nov. 7 at Bethel Evangelical Free Church, where Gattuso was a member.