GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Jurors on Wednesday were shown autopsy photos of a woman who was strangled to death in 1996 as the man accused of killing her stood trial.
Sitting in the gallery, Sharon Hammack’s sister covered her eyes when the photos were displayed. Tina DeYoung said she is determined to remember her sister in life, not death.
Wednesday marked the third day of Garry Artman’s trial for the Oct. 3, 1996, rape and murder of Hammack whose body was found wrapped along 76th Street between Kraft Avenue and Broadmoor.
Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle, who performed the autopsy in 1996, testified Wednesday that Hammack’s neck showed the imprint of the pearl necklace that she was wearing when she was strangled. Cohle also told the jury Hammack was alive when she was stabbed twice in the head.
Cohle told the jury that her body was found wrapped in a blanket and “extensively tied up” with electrical cord and shoelaces.
“We can see that she’s hogtied,” Cohle told jurors as they viewed images of Hammack’s body projected on a courtroom wall.
In one photo, Hammack still wore earrings and a stand of pearls. She was clad in only a bra.
DeYoung, Hammack’s sister, pressed a tissue against her eyes and fought to control her sobs as she listened to what her sister endured in her final moments. Hammack, 29, was a mother of two and was pregnant when she was killed.
Artman’s defense attorney, cross-examining Cohle, noted that the medical examiner could not determine who killed Hammack nor if the sexual encounter was consensual.
“You don’t know if the DNA was put there by force or not, correct?” defense attorney John Pyrski asked.
“Correct,” Cohle replied.
WOMAN RAPED BY ARTMAN TAKES STAND
The jury of 10 men and four women also heard Wednesday from one of Artman’s previous victims, who was 16 when Artman raped her and her friend in St. Clair, Michigan.
Dawn Dasharion, now 59, testified she and a friend were heading home late one night when they spotted Artman and decided to ask him if he had a joint.
Dasharion said Artman offered to help them find one.
Instead, he raped them both repeatedly for hours at knifepoint in one of the girls’ cars.
“I don’t remember the exact acts because I blocked them out,” Dasharion told the jury, explaining she’d learned the coping mechanism after suffering years of childhood sexual abuse. “My survival mode was to go into another zone so when something like that happened, I just went somewhere else. I don’t remember that part. I remember before. I remember right after. I remember running to the lady’s house. I remember going to the hospital, and I remember going to court to put him away.”
She testified the car in which Artman raped her and her friend had gotten stuck in a ditch, and when he was finished assaulting them, he threatened them before leaving.
“‘I’m going to go see if I can get help,'” Dasharion quoted Artman as saying in 1980. “‘If you tell anybody about this, I will find you. I will come back, and I will kill you.’ So, as soon as he got out of the car, we locked the doors, and we sat there crying and hugging, sat there scared to get out of the car because we didn’t know where he was. So, we waited for a while, a little while. I don’t know how long. It seemed like forever, but maybe not long enough. I don’t know. … We just took a chance and ran. That’s when we ran to the house and had (a lady) call police.”
Artman served 11 years for sexually assaulting the teens, as well as a third woman in a separate attack.
While incarcerated for the 1980 rape, Artman wrote letters to siblings, according to Kent County Detective Paul VanRhee, who testified Wednesday.
“‘I thought about why I raped all those girls,'” VanRhee said, quoting one of Artman’s jail letters. “‘I mean the real deep down, underlying motive. Every time I do that, I always come up with the same thing. I wanted to be loved, to be held, to be touched by someone.'”
VanRhee testified Artman also wrote that he wanted to “get back at all those girls in high school.”
“‘Between you and me, nobody else knows this,'” VanRhee said, continuing to read from Artman’s letter, “there has been 152 of those assaults by me as to this writing. Not anything I’m proud of, but I still did it, and that means it’s a part of me for the rest of my life.'”
DETECTIVE: ARTMAN CALLED SEX WORKERS ‘PIECES OF MEAT’
According to online records, Artman settled on Division Avenue in Grand Rapids upon his release from an Ionia prison in summer 1992. By the mid-1990s, the crack epidemic that hit cities nationwide had made its way to Grand Rapids commercial sex industry.
Hammack, described by her sister as a “beautiful soul” who was spirited and loved life, was among those caught in the drug’s vice grip.
DeYoung, Hammack’s sister, testified previously that Hammack’s addiction caused her to go down the “wrong path.”
Artman, according to VanRhee’s testimony, acknowledged using sex workers in an interview after his arrest in Hammack’s murder. VanRhee told jurors Wednesday that he’d asked Artman how he viewed women who did sex work.
“He replied, ‘You want the truth? A piece of meat. Business. It’s a piece of meat. Here’s the money. Get me off,'” VanRhee told jurors, again quoting Artman. “He later said, ‘They’re a commodity, a piece of meat.’ That’s what he used them as. ‘F—k them. Pay them. Get out.'”
Also testifying Wednesday were experts in the areas of DNA and forensic genealogy.
Katherine Merideth, a forensic DNA examiner with the Michigan State Police, told jurors that testing found evidence of Artman’s DNA inside Hammack’s vagina and rectum, in fingernail clippings taken at autopsy and on the blanket that was found with her body.
On cross-examination, Pyrski pointed out that analysts did not find Artman’s DNA on Hammack’s pearl necklace, nor on the electrical cords and shoelaces that bound her.
He’s also argued that, because Hammack was a sex worker, prosecutors cannot prove the contact was not consensual.
But prosecutors argued it was rape, saying Hammack had decided not to go with Artman after a previous encounter. They put a witness on the stand Tuesday who said that Hammack was afraid of Artman.
“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.
Prosecutors have also put forth journal entries they say Artman wrote in which he was unapologetic for committing rape, saying he hated women.
“Reviewing some of these journals and writings, you can tell there’s a general theme of a hatred of women, and he looked at women as slaves and that he was a master of slaves,” VanRhee testified, quoting from a journal allegedly authored by Artman.
The defense has said there’s no proof Artman was the person who wrote the journals.
Multiple journals were found in Artman’s storage unit in Florida after his arrest. Also in the unit: knives, ropes and more than a dozen pairs of women’s underwear. There was a hard drive containing downloaded videos depicting the torture and rape of a woman and documents with stories about violence against women.
Artman was arrested in August 2022 after a forensic genealogist used DNA from the crime scene and public ancestry databases to narrow the suspect pool to four brothers. Investigators say Garry Artman was the only one who had ties to Grand Rapids: He lived about 5 miles from where Hammack was last seen alive and worked only a few miles from where her body was found.
His murder trial began Monday. Prosecutors called the last of their witnesses Wednesday. The defense did not call any, instead working to point out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday, after which the case will go to the jury.
Artman, 65, is also accused of murdering 24-year-old Dusty Shuck, whose body was found in Maryland in 2006. He is slated to stand trial there, but whether that will happen will depend on his health — he has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.