Prisoner Gary Artman accused of victim’s death dies of natural causes

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The man convicted of the 1996 murder of a Kent County woman died from natural causes while in custody with the Michigan Department of Corrections, a department spokesperson confirmed. Gary Artman was found guilty of the murder and sexual assault of Sharon Hammack, a case that had remained unsolved until DNA linked Artman to the crime.

Artman was sentenced to life without parole for Hammack’s murder, as well as a consecutive life sentence for rape. During the trial, Kent County Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blair Lachman emphasized the premeditated nature of the crime, stating that Artman’s intent was to kill. In contrast, Artman’s defense attorney, John Pyrski, suggested that Artman’s DNA was found on Hammack’s body because he had been a customer of hers.

Hammack’s family expressed relief and a sense of justice being served upon Artman’s conviction. However, the prosecution team noted that they still felt there was unfinished business, suspecting that Artman may have been withholding information about other unsolved murders in Kent County in 1996.

Advancements in forensic genetic genealogy led to Artman’s arrest earlier this year in Mississippi, where he was also charged with a 2006 murder. The case for the 1996 murder involved Hammack, who was found sexually assaulted and strangled to death in Caledonia Township. She was discovered in a field, and it was revealed that she was four weeks pregnant at the time of her death.

Artman had a history of criminal sexual assault crimes and had spent 11 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections prior to his arrest. He died of natural causes while incarcerated.

This case highlights the impact of advancements in forensic technology and the dedication of law enforcement in solving cold cases, bringing closure to victims’ families after years of uncertainty and pain.