GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The man convicted of the 1996 murder of a Kent County woman died from natural causes on Thursday while in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), according to an MDOC spokesperson. On Sept. 28, Gary Artman was found guilty of killing and sexually assaulting Sharon Hammack. The case had remained unsolved until DNA evidence from a separate murder in Maryland linked Artman to Hammack’s murder.
A Kent County Judge sentenced Garry Dean Artman to life without parole for the murder of 29-year-old Hammack, and a consecutive life sentence for rape. During the murder trial, Kent County Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blair Lachman emphasized the brutality of the crime, stating that when someone is strangled, it takes two to three minutes for death to occur. The jury was presented with a timer ticking down for two minutes as they saw Hammack’s autopsy photo, reinforcing the prosecutor’s argument that Artman’s intent was to kill.
Hammack’s family expressed relief and a sense of justice after the conviction, but they also voiced a desire for more closure, noting that Artman may still be holding back information. Artman was also facing a murder charge in Maryland, with advancements in forensic genetic genealogy leading to his arrest.
On Oct. 3, 1996, Hammack was found sexually assaulted and strangled to death in Caledonia Township. A probable cause affidavit from the Kent County 63rd District Court revealed Artman’s extensive history of criminal sexual assault crimes, including a prior 11-year sentence with the Michigan Department of Corrections. The circumstances of Hammack’s murder, combined with Artman’s criminal record, has left a lingering sense of unease in Kent County.
In conclusion, 64-year-old Artman, who was convicted of the murder of Sharon Hammack, has died from natural causes while incarcerated. His death brings some closure to the case, but the community still grapples with unsolved murders from the same time period. Hammack’s family finally has answers, but the impact of her tragic death continues to reverberate in the community.