Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Gary Hilton Charged in Meredith Emerson Death... Is He a Serial Killer? Update 3-15-08
Georgia Bureau of Investigation's fear came to pass. Gary Michael Hilton (age 61) led authorities to the body of Meredith Emerson. Hilton has been charged with Kidnapping with Bodily Injury. Charges will likely be upgraded to murder. Investigators found Emerson's body Monday evening in a forest about 60 miles north of Atlanta. The body was found in the 25,000 acre Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area which is about 30 miles south of the state park where Meredith went hiking on New Year's Day. Meredith was 24. Authorities are trying to determine whether Hilton may have been involved in at least three other killings in two neighboring states.
Gary Hilton was caught after surveillance video captured Hilton's image as he tried to use one of Emerson's credit cards at a bank in Canton, Georgia. On the day Hilton was seen with Meredith, it is believed that he was wearing a yellow jacket believed to belong to another murder victim. (John Bryant)
Update 1-9-08: Meredith was found decapitated after her death. According to the autopsy, she was likely killed January 4, said Lee Darragh, district attorney for Hall and Dawson counties. That is when Gary Michael Hilton apparently made a phone call from a pay phone at a convenience store in Cumming, Georgia. (Emerson's black leather wallet containing her identification cards were found in a trash bin outside that store. Ella, Emerson's Labrador mix, was found wandering near that same store. Charges against Hilton were upgraded to murder. Hilton led investigators to her body in exchange for prosecutors' agreeing to not pursue the death penalty according to Union County District Attorney Stan Gunter.
Update 1-10-08: Gary Michael Hilton is a "prime suspect" in the slaying of Cheryl Dunlap, say investigators in Leon County, Florida. Her decapitated body was found December 19 in Apalachicola National Forest. Hilton was in the area at the time of Dunlap's disappearance.
Update 2-1-08: Hilton plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison for Meredith's death. He will not be eligible for parole until he is 91 years old. "He will most likely die in prison and most certainly never see the light of day again," said Prosecutor Lee Darragh. Emerson's family apparently agrees with the sentence.
Update 3-15-08: Hilton is also charged with the death of hiker Cheryl Dunlap in Florida. He was indicted on charges of murder, kidnapping, and two counts of grand theft. Hilton, 61, is already serving life in prison for the murder of Georgia hiker Meredith Emerson. He would be elgible for parole at age 91. Florida will seek the death penalty for Hilton
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