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Accused mastermind of Fargo dentist slaying pleads not guilty, case heading to trial

The man accused of plotting the beating death last fall of Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso pleaded not guilty today in Cass County District Court, and lawyers said the case is heading to trial.

Gene Carl Kirkpatrick entered his plea after waiving a preliminary hearing that would have required the state to show probable cause for the two charges Kirkpatrick faces: conspiracy to commit murder and criminal trespass.

A 10-day trial was set to begin Oct. 4. Judge Steven Marquart warned he would be averse to further delays, saying "the court does not look kindly" on granting a continuance for the trial.

Kirkpatrick is accused of paying $3,000 to his former handyman, Michael Allen Nakvinda, to kill Gattuso, who was Kirkpatrick's son-in-law until Gattuso's wife died a year ago. Police have said they think Kirkpatrick ordered the alleged hit to get custody of Gattuso's 3-year-old daughter.

Nakvinda is charged with murder and three other felonies in connection with the Oct. 26 killing and has already pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to start with jury selection on Aug. 10.