GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Detectives testifying in a Grand Rapids murder trial listed a number of unsettling items found after the arrest of a long-haul trucker charged with the 1996 killing of Sharon Hammack.
Hammack, 29, was pregnant and the mother of two young children when a delivery driver discovered her body on the side of a road in southern Kent County. She’d been raped, strangled, stabbed, hogtied and wrapped in an electric blanket.
Kent County Sheriff’s Office Detective Tanner Day testified Tuesday that when investigators searched the commercial truck Garry Artman, now 65, was driving upon his arrest in August 2022, they found a giant stuffed bear in the front passenger seat. Day told jurors one of the bear’s ears had earrings in it, and there was a hole in the bear’s “rear end” with stuffing come out of it.
Day also testified that when police searched Artman’s storage unit in Lake City, Florida, they found more than a dozen pairs of women’s underwear, along with bras and lingerie. Many had the tags cut off. All were stuffed in a cooler at the back of the storage unit. Also discovered in the unit, according to Day, were six to eight knives, multiple ropes, shoelaces with knots, condoms and journals.
On cross-examination, defense attorney John Pyrski pointed out that investigators could not determine the owners of the items.
“When you catalogued, documented all these items found in the storage unit, you weren’t able to identify who they belonged to, were you?” Pyrski asked Day.
“No,” Day replied.
“No further questions,” Pyrski said.
Computer analyst Gerald McCarthy testified that when he searched a hard drive found in Artman’s storage unit, he discovered “very graphic” videos that had been downloaded from the internet. Four videos, McCarthy said, showed a woman being beaten, tortured, bound and raped while she screamed and pleaded for help.
McCarthy testified he also found a folder on a hard drive titled “My stories.”
In the folder, McCarthy told jurors he discovered several documents that contained stories —one of which was about “rape, sex, blood and violence against women.”
“It was eight pages long and ends with the word misogynist, hatred of women,” McCarthy said.
According to McCarthy, one of the documents talked about “masters, slaves and sex,” and another referenced an abduction.
“In this story, it talks about a laundromat in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” McCarthy testified. “The content is sexual in nature, and there are references to the kidnapping of a mother and her daughter in that document.”
A jury was seated, opening statements were given and testimony began Monday as Artman stands trial for the rape and murder of Sharon Hammack.
Her body was found Oct. 3, 1996, along 76th Street near Kraft Avenue. Crime scene specialist Jeffrey Gregus testified Tuesday that her body was wrapped up in an electric blanket, which was bound with the blanket’s electrical cords. He said her arms were tied behind her back with shoelaces.
In court Tuesday, a man who became friends with Hammack after they met at a party in 1995 testified that Hammack was afraid of Artman, whom he’d known only as “Garry the truck driver.”
Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Bartlett established that it had been the man’s girlfriend who’d contacted detectives working Hammack’s murder.
The witness is currently serving time in a Michigan prison and asked that media not identify him by name.
“She said (Artman) was a creep, and that he would get rough and force the girls to do things they didn’t want to do,” Hammack’s friend testified.
The man told jurors about an incident that occurred between him, Hammack, Artman and another man at a hotel in 1995.
“Sharon asked me if I’d go to Garry’s room (with her),” the man recalled. “He keeps bothering her, says he’s got a gift for her. I guess it’s like the third time he’s seen her and said he had this gift for her. She said now that he knows what room she’s in, she just wants to go over there to see what he’s got so he has no excuse to come over to her room because she wanted nothing to do with him.”
The witness recalled that when they arrived at Artman’s room, they discovered a second man was there too.
“Garry and the other guy whispered something to each other,” Hammack’s friend recalled. “And then Garry went, ‘It’s over here, Sharon. Come over here.’ And then the other guy come over to me and wanted me to run to the store to get something to drink, to get some alcohol. I told him I was fine, I had my drink right here. … The other guy was trying to get me to leave the room, and I said, ‘I’m not leaving the room.’ … And I said, ‘C’mon, Sharon, let’s go.’ And I held the door open with my foot, and she came over, and we left.”
Artman was arrested after a forensic genealogist, using crime scene DNA and public ancestry databases, narrowed the pool of possible suspects to one of four sons of Wilfred and Donna Artman. Investigators said Garry Artman was the only son who had ties to Grand Rapids, and a DNA sample obtained upon his arrest matched semen left inside Hammack and on the blanket in which her body was discarded. Artman served time in a Michigan prison in the 1980s for rape. According to online records, upon his release from prison in 1992, Artman moved to an apartment building along Grand Rapids’ Division Avenue South. In the mid-1990s, Division Avenue was the center of the city’s commercial sex industry.
In an opening statement Monday, prosecutors said Artman hated women and that he had written in journals that he never felt guilty for committing rape.
But Pyrski, the defense attorney, said the prosecution can’t prove Artman wrote the journals. He also said that because Hammack was a sex worker, the prosecution can’t prove sexual contact between her and Artman was not consensual.
Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Bartlett said the evidence will point to rape: Hammack, she said, had decided not to go with Artman again after a previous encounter. She also pointed out that Hammack was bound hand and foot.
Hammack struggled with drug abuse, her family said, which led her to sex work. But she was a loving sister, mother and daughter, her sister told jurors Monday.
DNA also tied Artman, 65, to the murder of 24-year-old Dusty Shuck, whose body was found on the shoulder of I-70 in Maryland in 2006. Whether he will stand trial in that case may be dependent on his health — he has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.