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Hunter: Highway Trucker Serial Killer Probe Arrests Sex Maniac.

Florida truck driver Garry Dean Artman was previously sentenced to 11 years in prison for rape

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The US interstate highway system meanders from the Canadian border through the Great Plains to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

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Thousands of miles are regularly punctuated by lone truck stops, cue gas, cheap food, places to rest, and perhaps jaw-shaking places.

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Big Joe and its ilk also attract another element: sex workers and drugs.

Sharron Kay Hammock was a 29-year-old mother of two and a desperately addicted sex worker who ran her trade at a truck stop near Grand Rapids on Interstate 96.

On October 3, 1996, her body was found by a truck driver wrapped in a blanket in a field outside a small village in Michigan, Caledonia. She had been murdered hours earlier.

Sharon Kay Hammock was murdered in 1996. Police say someone killed her.Handout
Sharon Kay Hammock was murdered in 1996. Police say someone killed her.Handout

Young moms were raped, stabbed and tied up. She was also pregnant with her third child.

Now, nearly 26 years later, detectives have announced that they have been arrested. They believe the accused is a serial killer who was an interstate truck driver who preyed on sex workers.

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Hammack’s sister, Tina DeYoung, told WOOD-TV that she was stunned when a detective showed up at her front door last week and said, “I got him.”

“It’s just a flood of emotions. I’m happy, but I’m also sad,” she told the outlet, adding that her parents passed away.

She said to the sky I’m sorry it didn’t happen before the good Lord took you, but her justice will be served, where she can celebrate with her.

Each red dot symbolizes the murder of a woman along the US interstate highway system. FBI
Each red dot symbolizes the murder of a woman along the US interstate highway system. FBI

Police arrested 64-year-old Florida truck driver Garry Dean Atman in Mississippi. Investigators say Atman left them a gift in his 1996: his DNA.

And investigators were able to locate a convicted rapist in Michigan at the time.

On the Eastern Seaboard, DNA was linked to Artman, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for rape and the sexual murder of a prostitute in Maryland in 2006.

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“Further investigation revealed that she was in Ontario, California just before the murder victim was found in Maryland. He was found to be within a mile (approximately 20 miles) and was summoned to local authorities,” the affidavit reads.

It wasn’t until the 2000s that investigators in Oklahoma and Texas noticed a chilling pattern. Hundreds of frequently vulnerable women were murdered along the country’s interstate highway network.

Postillion's keen memory holds the key to cross-country serial killer Bruce Mendenhall. Postiglione is on the right.nashville police
Postillion’s keen memory holds the key to cross-country serial killer Bruce Mendenhall. Postiglione is on the right.nashville police

In 2009, the FBI launched the Highway Serial Murders Initiative, coordinating an investigation into a staggering roster of murdered women.

“The victims of these incidents are primarily women living high-risk, temporary lifestyles involving substance abuse and prostitution,” the agency said in a release.

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“They are frequently picked up at truck stops and service stations, sexually assaulted, killed and dumped on highways.”

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The suspects were “mainly long-haul truck drivers,” according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And because of their mobility, the multi-jurisdictional nature of their heinous crimes made them difficult to catch.

FBI ViCAP analysts estimate that in 2009 there were at least 500 murder victims found on or near the interstate highway system. They also made a list of 200 suspects.

Now detectives are trying to answer a riddle about whether accused murderer Gary Dean Artman is fit for more than one case.

But somewhere far away, while tumbling down one of the country’s many interstates, other serial killers are still hunting prey.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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Hunter: Highway Trucker Serial Killer Probe Arrests Sex Maniac.

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