Staff and Wire Reports

FARGO, North Dakota -- The sister-in-law of a slain Fargo dentist says she plans to fight for custody of Philip Gattuso's orphaned daughter.

Regan Williams, of Jones, Oklahoma, says she might be 3-year-old Kennedy Gattuso's aunt but she feels "like I'm her mother" because of their close relationship.

A judge earlier this week awarded temporary custody of the girl to her uncle, Roy Gattuso, of Gretna, La., and his wife.

The child's father, Philip Gattuso, was found beaten to death in his south Fargo home last month. His wife, Valerie, had died in March after an extended illness.

"The best place for her is where she has felt comfortable and where she has lived for the majority of her life," said Regan Williams. "She has lost her mother, father and now she's losing me."

Regan Williams says she didn't know about the murder plot by her father, Gene Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick allegedly hired a handyman to kill Phillip Gattuso because he didn't agree with the way his granddaughter was raised.

"I think everybody has different parenting styles," said Regan Williams. "Phillip had his own; we never said he was an unfit parent."

In a letter dated March 13 allegedly wrote and signed by Valerie Gattuso two weeks before she died stated she did not approve of the way Philip Gattuso raised his two sons. It says, "The bottom line is I do not (want) Kennedy raised by you." It also included reasons for wanting her sister, Regan Williams, to care for the child in Oklahoma.

"I just want her to have a mother who loves her like I love her," Regan Williams said.

Roy Gattuso, said the letter does not match Valerie Gattuso's writing style and it's hard to believe she criticized how Philip Gattuso raised his two sons especially when they both helped raised them.

A copy of a lie detector test showed Regan Williams passed the exam when asked if she knew, planned or was involved in Gattuso's murder. Her answers were "no." 

Regan Williams says she plans on staying in North Dakota to continue fighting for custody of her niece.