GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It took investigators about 26 years to arrest a suspect after Sharon Hammack was raped, murdered and left along the side of a road near Grand Rapids. It took a jury about half an hour to convict him.
Garry Artman was found guilty Thursday of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree felony murder and first-degree premeditated murder in the death of Sharon Hammack.
Artman showed no emotion at the verdict was read.
Hammack’s sisters had waited nearly three decades for someone to be held accountable for her murder. After the verdict was read, they struggled to contain tears of relief.
“Justice was served,” Terri Navitskas said.
“She finally gets to be laid to rest in peace,” Tina DeYoung added. “She deserves that after all this time, what that monster took.”
Minutes later, outside the courthouse, Hammack’s sisters hugged two of the jurors.
“Garry Artman, to me, after everything I saw and heard, is truly proof to me that evil can exist on earth,” juror Jacqueline Campbell told Target 8. “Unfortunately, that came at the cost of a young mother’s life, and that’s tragic and heartbreaking. And I don’t think justice came soon enough, but at least it came.”
Hammack’s body was found on Oct. 3, 1996, along 76th Street near Kraft Avenue, north of Caledonia. The 29-year-old mother of two, who was pregnant, had been raped, stabbed, strangled and hogtied. Her body was wrapped in a blanket bound with electrical cords.
“She was beautiful. She didn’t deserve that,” DeYoung said.
In closing arguments Thursday morning, Kent County prosecutors reiterated that Artman hated women and said he decided Hammack’s “life wasn’t worth living” because she was a sex worker.
“Mr. Artman has decided he is judge and executioner. He’s deciding who he wants to kill,” Senior Assistant Prosecutor Blair Lachman told jurors. “Prostitutes are an easy target because, No. 1, he thinks they’re sinners, and No. 2, nobody cares — they’re prostitutes. That’s his thinking.”
“Mr. Artman, 27 years later, thinks there are no consequences,” Lachman concluded. “There are consequences. Today is the day he needs to face those consequences.”
The juror, Campbell, told Target 8 that it took almost exactly 30 minutes of deliberations to reach a verdict, saying there was a “outstanding amount of circumstantial evidence” that Artman was “the only viable person who could have done this.” His DNA was under Hammack’s fingernails, she noted, and on the blanket her body was wrapped in.
The trial began Monday. Over the course of it, jurors heard about the DNA from the crime scene that a forensic genealogist used to point investigators toward Artman; the knives, ropes, women’s underwear and torture videos found in his Florida storage unit after his August 2022 arrest; and the disturbing things investigators say he wrote in journals. They saw photos of Hammack’s autopsy and heard from the medical examiner who conducted it.
On Wednesday, a woman who was raped by Artman in 1980 when she was 16 took the stand, saying that after she and a friend were attacked, Artman threatened to kill them if they told anyone what happened. They did report it and Artman served prison time as a result.
“A lot of it was graphic and hard to look at, but I think that’s part of the process and that’s what had to be done to get this verdict,” Campbell said. “It was challenging and it was very uncomfortable but that’s what the role of a juror is.”
The defense did not call any of its own witnesses, instead working to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. It tried to stress that the prosecution could not prove Artman wrote the journals or that the sexual contact with Hammack was not consensual.
“There wasn’t much (the defense) could do. The evidence was pretty overwhelming. I mean, it was circumstantial, but it was overwhelming,” Senior Assistant Prosecutor Lachman said.
In Michigan, a first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“He will never see the free world again. He will never be a risk to another woman out there,” Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Bartlett said.
Artman, 65, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. If his health holds up, he is set to stand trial in Maryland for the murder of 24-year-old Dusty Shuck, whose body was found along I-70 in 2006.
“We still feel a little bit unfinished because I think there’s more out there, and right now, he’s not telling us,” Lachman said.