Joseph Gatto autopsy investigation

Investigators were scouring a Silver Lake neighborhood on Thursday, November 14, 2013, where Joseph Gatto, 78, the father of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, was found shot to death in the family's home the night before, an autopsy confirmed Friday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 14, 2013)

Former teacher and artist Joseph Gatto, who is also the father of a state assemblyman, died from a single gunshot wound to his abdomen, an autopsy confirmed Friday.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials said the 78-year-old's death had been classified as a homicide. The time of death was listed as the time Gatto's daughter found his body at his Silver Lake home: Wednesday at 8:12 p.m., the Los Angeles Times reported.

The investigation into the slaying -- the first in Silver Lake since May 2012 -- stretched into Friday as detectives continued their search for Gatto's killer. Gatto was found slumped over a desk. He was shot with a small-caliber handgun and his home had been ransacked, Los Angeles Police Lt. Richard Parks said.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said Friday that police were investigating "a number of different avenues," including whether the slaying was linked to an aggravated assault and vehicle theft reported Tuesday night not far from Gatto's home.

"We're obviously looking at it," Albanese said.

Albanese said detectives had "no information whatsoever" that Gatto's death "has anything to do with his son's politics." Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) represents a district that includes Silver Lake, the neighborhood where his father lived.

Albanese declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

Those who knew Joseph Gatto -- remembered as a valued mentor by former students and a fixture in the community he had longed called home -- 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," 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."

One of Joseph 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."

Marianna Gatto and her fiance ate dinner with her father every Wednesday night, 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."

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