WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 25, 2011, 09:53 PM

Emotional moments highlight third day of Kirkpatrick trial

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Emotional and at times tense moments today in the Gene Kirkpatrick trial.

Kirkpatrick is accused of hiring a hitman to kill his son in law Phillip Gattuso in order to gain custody of his granddaughter Kennedy. Among the 12 witnesses today was Phillip's brother Roy. But it was longtime friend of the Kirkpatricks, Debbie Baker who answered tough questions for more than 2 hours that became the star witness.

Debbie Baker was called by prosecutors to the stand. But both teams took their time questioning her trying to prove the intricate parts of their case.

Debbie Baker – Key Witness for Both Sides: "I pretended it was going to all go away. But I knew I was going to have to tell it."

Baker explains of a letter, written by Valerie Gattuso, Phillip's wife, Gene's Daughter before a surgery gone bad the ultimately claimed her life. She says Valerie wanted the best for her daughter Kennedy, and she wanted her sister, Reegan to raise her after her death. Not Phillip.

Debbie Baker: "She wanted her raised by her sister but Valerie knew there was nothing legal that could be done."

Prosecutors used her testimony as "motive" for Gene to do "anything" he could to get Kennedy. Baker had also known Michael Nakvinda. She testified Nakvinda told her he was going to, quote" Take care of Phillip" with a hammer for Gene. Because Gene had expressed his concern to Nakvinda about Kennedy's well being.

Debbie Baker: "I told Gene I could get rid of him and he'd never have the guts to do anything like that. And nobody would ever find out."

The defense used that to express how Nakvinda acted alone in Killing Gattuso. Emotion, ran high in the court room as Roy Gattuso, Phillips brother looked at pictures of his brother and his daughter Kennedy.

Roy Gattuso: "He loved her so much."

Roy also told the jury, Phillip felt the family ties were "severed" during Valerie's illness. And he didn't feel close with the Kirkpatricks.

The state expects to wrap up its case sometime tomorrow and it could be in the hands of the jury by the end of the week.