Tory Zimmerman/torstar news service


Yesterday in St. Catharines, hundreds of mourners joined the Hammond family to pay their respects at the George Darte Funeral Home for the death of Ross Hammond.

The sole Canadian panhandler charged in the attack of a St. Catharines man who died last weekend had her charge upgraded to second-degree murder yesterday morning.

But homicide Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux wouldn’t comment on whether the other three accused panhandlers, each charged with aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm, could expect the same. “I have certainly no obligation to charge anyone with murder unless I feel comfortable in doing so,” Giroux said a few hours before Nicole Kish, 21, appeared in court.

Ross Hammond, the 32-year-old man buried in St. Catharines yesterday, was stabbed several times following a verbal argument between him and his friend, George Dranichak of Mississauga, and a group of four panhandlers who asked them for money early last Thursday morning, Giroux said. “It was a heated exchange. It wasn’t, ‘I’m not interested in giving you any money,’” he said.

Kish’s murder charge came after several eyewitnesses gave accounts of the incident near Trinity Bellwoods Park, Giroux said.

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