Panhandler guilty of murdering passerby

A panhandler, Nicole Kish, has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a man from St. Catharines, Ont., on a downtown Toronto street in 2007.
Nicole Kish pleaded not guilty to stabbing Ross Hammond to death on Queen Street West in August 2007, but a Toronto judge has found her guilty. (Alex Tavshunsky/CBC)

Panhandler Nicole Kish has been convicted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a St. Catharines, Ont., man on a downtown Toronto street in August 2007.

Ross Hammond was stabbed repeatedly early on Aug. 9, 2007, after an encounter with a group of panhandlers, including Kish, on Queen Street West near Niagara Street.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer issued his ruling Tuesday afternoon and Ross Hammond’s wife and family applauded in court after the judge announced the verdict.

Hammond, 32, and his friend had been bar-hopping in the early morning on Queen Street West when Kish approached them at a bank machine and asked for $20. They responded rudely and a physical altercation ensued.

Kish and a group of other panhandlers attacked Hammond. He died three days after the attack.

"We couldn’t have asked for anything better in today’s outcome," Hammond's wife, Kara Hammond, told CBC News.

"But Ross is never coming back. And that’s a reality we have to face."

"We didn't win today," said Hammond's sister, Gina Air. "Winning would be bringing my brother back to us. But we did get a little bit of peace today I think."

Nordheimer had to sort through the conflicting testimony of more than 20 witnesses, but concluded it was Kish who delivered the knife blows that killed Hammond. Kish's lawyers, however, had argued that no one who witnessed the incident could definitively identify Kish as the person who stabbed Hammond. 

Kish wept as the verdict was read. Her lawyer, John Scarfe, said her family is "shocked and disappointed" by the verdict.

"It was unexpected and Ms. Kish will be launching an appeal," he said.

Kish has been out on bail for the last three years but on Tuesday was handcuffed and taken to jail. She will return to court for sentencing in early April.