GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A man accused of raping and killing a Grand Rapids-area woman in 1996 appeared before a Kent County judge Monday afternoon to be formally charged.

Garry Artman, 64, was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, felony murder and open murder. As is protocol, a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. He answered the judge’s questions with brief responses.

The charges stem from the death of Sharon Hammack, whose body was found along 76th Street near Kraft Avenue in Caledonia Township on Oct. 3, 1996. She had been raped, strangled and stabbed.

If convicted, Artman could spend the rest of his life in prison.  

At one point in the brief hearing, 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski asked Artman if he had any questions.

“What’s gonna happen?” asked Artman.

“What’s gonna happen?” said Smolenski, repeating Artman’s question.   

‘You’re doing everything you can to get rid of me,” said Artman.

He did not elaborate on his statement.  

“I hope he rots in hell for what he did,” one of Hammack’s sisters told Target 8 last week. “He’s a monster.”

Hammack was a 29-year-old mother of two who family says was pregnant with a third when she died. She struggled with addiction and turned to sex work to fund the drug abuse.

Authorities recovered DNA in her case, but for years it was a dead end. Then, recently, they passed the DNA off to a California-based forensic genealogy firm. Genealogists used public databases to track down the parents of the attacker. The parents had four sons, but only Garry Artman had ties to the murder scene. Artman said he now lives with friends in Florida but he lived in Grand Rapids when Hammack died.

Artman told Smolenski he’d been driving a flatbed trailer for a trucking company out of Birmingham, Alabama.

He was behind the wheel in Mississippi when the highway patrol there pulled him over and arrested him on behalf of the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.

When Target 8 called the Birmingham trucking company, the woman who answered the phone said, “let me get my boss for you.” 

The man who got on the phone said Artman had been driving for them for four months and did nothing to raise any suspicion. 

“We were just as surprised as anyone else. Dumbfounded,” said the man, regarding Artman’s arrest.  

“Artman was no odder than any other over-the-road trucker. Some of them are quirky,” said the man, who did not want to share his name. 

Before driving for the Alabama company, Artman worked for a trucking company out of Florida.

When he lived in the Grand Rapids area, he drove for a transportation company in Walker.

DNA also made Artman a suspect in the murder of another woman, Dusty Shuck, 24, who was last seen alive in California but whose body was found near a highway truck stop in Maryland on May 4, 2006. Artman is a long-haul trucker who authorities can prove was within 20 miles of Shuck in California.

Artman previously served 11 years in a Michigan prison for criminal sexual assault convictions in the 1980s.

“He went to gladiator school and refined his technique,” Shuck’s mother told Target 8 last week. “Then he got out and unleashed it on the world.”

Artman was arrested in Mississippi earlier this month and brought back to Kent County over the weekend. His bond was set at $1 million cash. He is expected back in court for hearings on Sept. 12 and Sept. 19.