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Joseph Gatto autopsy scheduled as homicide investigation continues

November 15, 2013|By Kate Mather and Ari Bloomekatz
  • Campaign manager Stacey Brenner, candidate Mike Gatto and Ken Ahern and father Joseph Gatto listen to early returns on other races and propositions at an election party in Burbank on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. (Roger Wilson/NewsPress)
Campaign manager Stacey Brenner, candidate Mike Gatto…

An autopsy was scheduled Friday for Joseph Gatto, a beloved teacher, artist and the father of a state assemblyman who was found shot to death in his Silver Lake home.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office said the autopsy was scheduled for sometime Friday, two days after the 78-year-old's daughter found him slumped over a desk with a gunshot wound.

Gatto was shot at least once in the abdomen with a small-caliber handgun and his home had been ransacked, Los Angeles Police Lt. Richard Parks told the Los Angeles Times. Investigators spent Thursday combing the home for evidence and talking to neighbors, asking anyone who might have information to contact police.

Those who knew Gatto said they were stunned by his death. Two of his three children echoed those sentiments to reporters late Thursday.

"I think a lot of people are still in a state of disbelief, including me," Assemblyman Mike Gatto said. "There’s a number of different theories -- I’ve seen some printed. None of them quite sound right to me, but I’ll leave that up to the pro."

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One of Gatto's daughters, Marianna Gatto, the head of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, said her father was "loved by all. He had no enemies."

Gatto's daughter and her fiance ate dinner every Wednesday night with her father, a family friend said. When she didn't hear from him, she went to check on him and found his body, Mike Gatto told The Times.

"We are very close-knit family," Marianna Gatto told reporters Thursday. "I just can’t imagine life without him."

City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area and knows the Gatto family, said tips were already coming in that could help the investigation. He spoke to residents and LAPD officials outside Gatto's home Thursday morning.

"I've been to crime scenes before, but when you know the people, it's worse," LaBonge said.

As news spread of Gatto's death, condolences poured in from former students, fellow artists, politicians and neighbors. Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife offered their "deepest sympathies and condolences" to the family, as did fellow artists and neighbors. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the LAPD had started an "aggressive investigation" into Gatto's death.

Former students recalled Gatto as a teacher with a tough-love approach, whose honesty and guidance made him a valued mentor. He taught for decades at schools across Los Angeles.

One former student, Malaika Zweig Latty, followed in his footsteps. She's now chairwoman of visual arts department at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, the job Gatto held when the school was founded in 1985.

"I can't even imagine how many thousands of people are affected by coming into contact with him as a teacher and as an advocate of the arts," she said. "He was someone that opened the door for us to realize that it's a possible life."

The homicide was a rarity for Silver Lake. It was the first in the neighborhood since May 2012, according to the Times' Homicide Report.

-- �¿Kate Mather and Ari Bloomekatz, The Los Angeles Times

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