Garry Dean Artman's Murder Trial: Jury Selection Commences


Grand Rapid, MICHIGAN- The murder trial of Garry Dean Artman, a long-haul trucker charged with two separate killings spanning a decade, is set to begin with jury selection on Monday morning.

Artman's initial trial in Kent County pertains to the rape and murder of Sharon Hammack, a pregnant mother of two, on October 3, 1996. Hammack's lifeless body, bearing signs of strangulation and stab wounds, was discovered near 76th Street close to Kraft Avenue.

In a separate case, Artman faces charges in Maryland for the murder of Dusty Shuck, 24, whose body was found on May 4, 2006, along eastbound I-70 near Mount Airy, Maryland. Shuck had suffered injuries from both beatings and stab wounds.

Artman's health is reportedly in decline, as he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer over the summer. He will require oxygen support during the trial proceedings, which are slated to take place in a downtown Grand Rapids courtroom.

While Artman called Grand Rapids his home for over two decades starting in 1992, it appears he spent much of that time residing in the commercial truck he operated across the nation.

Online records indicate Artman's arrival in Grand Rapids following his release from a Michigan prison in the summer of 1992. This followed an 11-year incarceration for assaulting three women in two separate incidents in his hometown of Port Huron.

Between late 1994 and late 1996, more than a dozen women in the Grand Rapids area, including Hammack, were either found murdered or went missing. Presently, four of the victims remain unaccounted for.

Many of the victims were entangled in addiction, which led them to Division Avenue South in Grand Rapids, a hub for the commercial sex industry.

Rev. Barry Petrucci, who worked in urban ministry at Burton Heights United Methodist Church, recalls the atmosphere of fear during that time. He stated, "We kept reading in the news, another death, another body found… But there was also this sense of discounting it, because ‘I’m not a streetwalker.’ I think people at the time really thought it was one (killer), and that ‘this guy is not coming for me, so I don’t have to worry.'"

Petrucci and his church took action by advocating for the victims and their families, raising reward money from the faith community and organizing a vigil in November 1996.

The trial serves as a poignant moment for the families of the victims, including Sharon Hammack's two sisters, who will be present in court. Tina DeYoung, Hammack's sister, reminisced about her, saying, "She was a beautiful soul who didn’t deserve to have what was done to her… We had a lot of fun with her, just being goofy, being sisters, spending time together. I miss that."

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office cracked the Hammack case after submitting DNA from the 1996 crime scene for analysis by a forensic genetic genealogist at Identifinders International, LLC. The genealogist identified Artman as the alleged perpetrator by comparing DNA from Hammack's body and a rope used in the crime against public DNA databases.

According to Identifinders, the genealogist narrowed down the possible contributor to one of four sons of Wilfred and Donna Artman. Garry Artman was the only one with geographical ties to the Hammack and Shuck murders, according to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.