He killed but Alabama won’t kill him

Artez Hammonds sits on death row, where the killer has been waiting for 24 years.
Artez Hammonds during his 1997 murder trial in Houston County, Alabama.
Artez Hammonds during his 1997 murder trial in Houston County, Alabama.(WTVY)
Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 9:56 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Artez Hammonds sits on death row, where the killer has been waiting for 24 years. After all this time, no execution date is set.

On May 15, 1990 Marylin Mitchell prepared to bake a cake for her mother’s birthday. The future could not have been brighter for the 22-year-old who had, only days earlier, graduated college.

With a nursing degree, she began work at a what is now Southeast Health, moved into her new Dothan home, and prepared to marry her high school sweetheart.

A bright future and beautiful dreams, though, quickly turned into a horrid nightmare.

On a spring afternoon 31 years ago Hammonds, who had delivered furniture to Ms. Mitchell a day or so earlier, returned to her home. He brutally stabbed her 38 times and sexually assaulted her.

Within a few minutes. he had showered, smoked a cigarette, and flipped the ashes on Ms. Mitchell’s body. In broad daylight he walked out of her Chapelwood home unnoticed.

It took Dothan police six years to track down Hammonds, finally linked to the crime scene by DNA.

Given his violent history that included the attempted murder of another woman—he almost drowned her in a toilet---a jury wasted no time convicting Hammonds. Houston County Circuit Judge Larry Anderson gave him a death sentence.

Years went by as Hammond continued to fight his conviction through the courts.

However, by 2017, he had exhausted all his appeals and it appeared his death sentence would be carried out soon.

But, not only is he still alive, there still has been no execution date set.

The reason is a 2018 bill passed by Alabama lawmakers that allowed the use of nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative to lethal injection and inmates were given a choice of how they wanted to be executed.

Artez Hammonds and a few dozen others on death row chose nitrogen hypoxia.

But, three years later, the Alabama Department of Corrections still has not approved protocols for using nitrogen gas. Those will, one day, be developed by ADOC in consultation with the Alabama Attorney General’s office, per AG spokesperson Mike Lewis in an email to WTVY.

Until that matter is settled Hammonds, who turns 51 in June, will do what Marylin Michell couldn’t do---live.

Ken Curtis is an investigative and crime reporter whose broadcasting career spans 51 years. Reach him at ken@wtvy.com

Copyright 2021 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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