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Published July 25 2012

Slain Fargo man’s sister: ‘We will never move on’

FARGO – Cherry Gannarelli finds it sad that the man who attacked her brother, Ronald Hammersmith, still hasn’t been charged with his death.

“We have a death certificate that says ‘cause of death: homicide,’ and here we are three years later,” she said Wednesday from her home in Rugby.

Three years ago today, Fargo police went to Hammersmith’s home around 2:30 a.m. after a friend reported that the 47-year-old had been hit on the head by a man between 20 and 30 years old.

Hammersmith’s injury didn’t appear to be life-threatening at first, but he died in a hospital the next night. An autopsy found his death was caused by injuries from an assault.

Police believe they know who attacked Hammersmith. Nine days after his death, they forwarded their reports to Cass County prosecutors, asking them to consider manslaughter charges against a 20-year-old suspect. Prosecutors declined, saying the case wasn’t strong enough to convict the suspect.

Lt. Joel Vettel said the police investigation is complete and there’s nothing new to report on the case. Barring any additional information, the case remains inactive.

“We feel we know who did it, and it’s really up to the state’s attorney’s office to determine if they have enough to file charges against the individual,” he said.

Gannarelli said she believes police and prosecutors want justice for her brother. But she said she’s come to understand that in the legal system, “sometimes hands are tied.”

Hammersmith’s family is offering a $5,000 reward, announced in February 2011, for tips that lead to a conviction. Gannarelli declined to discuss whether the reward has generated any tips, saying only that “there was some talk.”

“I do believe that there are people that kind of suspect something,” she said. “I’m not so sure that they witnessed anything, but they kind of suspect something. And I find that to be just as important.”

She said she hopes those people will talk to police or prosecutors “to maybe clear their conscience so that they can move on.

“We, as a family, will never move on,” she said.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528