Suspect arrested in murder of UGA hiker - also suspected in other hiking murders

  1. BLAIRSVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- The body of a young woman missing since New Year's Day has been found, and the man charged with her disappearance led investigators to her body Monday evening, officials said.
    [​IMG] Meredith Emerson was last seen hiking with her dog on Blood Mountain in Georgia on New Year's Day.

    Gary Michael Hilton told authorities where to find the body of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson, the University of Georgia alumna who went missing New Year's Day while hiking in the north Georgia mountains, said John Cagle of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
    Meanwhile, state and federal authorities said they are trying to determine whether Hilton may have been involved in at least three other killings in two neighboring states.
    Investigators found Emerson's body about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Cagle said, in the 25,000-acre Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area -- about 30 miles south of the Union County, Georgia, state park where she went hiking.
    Investigators have charged Hilton, 61, with kidnapping with intent to cause bodily injury. She vanished after venturing into the mountains with her dog, Ella. Ella was found Thursday in nearby Forsyth County.
    Several witnesses told authorities they saw Hilton and Emerson together, letting their dogs play along a hiking trail in Vogel State Park.
    Director Vernon Keenan of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement officials declined to say Monday night whether murder charges are pending against Hilton. They also withheld virtually all details about what Hilton said to authorities and the scene where they found Emerson's body.
    "There's a lot going on in the case right now -- the investigation is still going on," said Union County District Attorney Stan Gunter. "A lot of decisions have to be made."
    Hilton remained in jail Monday night.
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    Several hours earlier, he appeared in court in shackles and an orange prison jump suit. He did not speak as Judge Johnie Garmon read the charges against him. Garmon said surveillance video had identified Hilton as he tried to use one of Emerson's credit cards at a bank in Canton, Georgia on January 5.
    Authorities arrested Hilton after finding bloodstained clothes consistent with what Emerson had been wearing when she went missing, according to a criminal warrant filed Saturday.

    Investigators also found Emerson's black leather wallet containing her identification cards in a convenience store trash bin in the Forsyth County city of Cumming, Georgia.
    The warrant alleges that Hilton made a phone call Friday from a pay phone at that convenience store.

    The bin is next to a grocery store parking lot where Emerson's Labrador mix was found wandering Friday, the warrant said.
    The animal was positively identified through an implanted microchip, according to officials.

    When Hilton's 2001 minivan was searched, agents "determined that the rear seat belt had been cut out," the warrant said. "Hilton was attempting to vacuum the vehicle and wash portions of it with a bleach and water solution."
    Hilton was taken into custody Friday at a convenience store in suburban Atlanta.
    Also Monday, federal, Georgia and North Carolina investigators met in nearby Cleveland, Georgia, to "compare notes" on the Emerson case and a similar case from a few months ago in North Carolina, according to FBI special Agent Greg Jones.
    In the North Carolina case, an elderly couple -- John and Irene Bryant -- disappeared after going for a hike in Mount Pigsah National Forest. Her body was found near the couple's car. John Bryant's body has not been found, but Keenan referred to the case Monday night as a "double homicide."
    Investigators have a bank video of a man wearing a yellow jacket -- believed to have belonged to John Bryant -- while using the Bryant's ATM card.
    Witnesses who saw Hilton on the trail with Emerson on the day she disappeared said he was wearing a yellow jacket.
    On Monday night, Keenan said Georgia authorities also plan to meet with law enforcement officials from Florida to share details about a similar killing there.

  2. I just read this. How awful for this girl's family!
  3. This story has made a lot of local news in Atlanta and Athens and has even garnered some national press, like the CNN article above. The reason I posted it, though, is that I knew this girl. It took me a little while to realize it, but I was in an ecology lab with her 2 years ago. The lab was small, maybe 10 or 12 people, so we all got to know each other. I had been kind of ignoring the story since they had said it was a former UGA student - I forget that since I'm a senior, I know PLENTY of people that are former students. I hadn't read anything about it, but when they took a news break from the college football championship tonight, I saw the picture associated with it for the first time and absolutely GASPED. Even though it had been two years, i recognized her immediately.

    The thing is, though, and this is going to sound totally odd...i DID NOT like her. she was a know-it-all and i used to complain to my friends in the lab about having to work with her. and now that i know she's been murdered...i feel kind of oddly terrible for that. also, to my knowledge, i've never met anyone that ended up murdered. you never imagine that the girl in your class is going to end up dead. i also feel oddly terrible for the fact that my feelings toward her were the first thing that popped into my head. i guess everyone deals with a shock like that differently, though.

    the good news appears to be, though, that the man who killed her is someone that would have certainly killed again if not caught, so at least her case lead to his capture and the saving of an untold number of lives in the future.
  4. Wow amanda, that's crazy. When this happens to someone that you know even peripherally, it is very unnerving. Something similar happened to me many years ago. A woman that everyone knew in my hometown disappeared. She worked as a checker in the local Safeway and everyone loved her. She was an attractive blonde woman named Sandi with a very bubbly personality. Many months later they discovered her body stuffed inside an old freezer on property that once belonged to her boyfriend. I felt awful for her kids.
  5. I've been following this story since she first went missing on New Years Day, it's been all over the news. When I saw the picture of Gary Hilton, the man who was arrested, I knew he'd killed her. Just call it a hunch, but the second they showed his pic as a person of interest, I got these awful feelings.

    Amanda, I have no words... I know what it's like to know someone who's in the news and it is the weirdest feeling. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

    I hope he fries. Something tells me this isn't his first victim, and I think they'll be able to close several other missing/dead people's cases in and around that area.
  6. Just when I was questioning whether I believe in the Death penalty! I definitely am in favor of it for this scum sucker! Wow, what a disturbed man....
    They gave the details on Nancy Grace( who I never watch, normally), it's bizarre because he kept her for three days before he killed her. I can't imagine how scared she was!
    They did some sort of bargain to avoid death penalty, but maybe they can still fight that!
  7. Georgia made a deal with him, no DP if he showed them where the body was, but SC is looking at him for two unsolved murders.. MO was simular, yellow jacket, tried to use a credit card belonging to one of the victims, hikers... they think the yellow jacket he was seen wearing when Emerson went missing is the same jacket that belonged to the murdered man in SC.

    SC has said if they can tie him to the murders there, they will ask for the death oenalty.
  8. he apparently kept her for 3-4 days, beat her to death, and then decapitated her. they found her remains in two different crime scenes. they're awaiting the results of a rape kit to see if she was sexually assaulted.

    more details here:

    there's also another girl from Athens that went missing after going on a walk with her dog, and this one was last seen in a park that is LITERALLY 30 seconds from my apartment:

    they still haven't found her.

    all this is VERY disconcerting in such a small place - we're a college town of MAYBE 100,000 people, and crimes of this sort are extremely rare, particularly against members of the University population. my roommate walks by herself REGULARLY in the places that they're still searching for the second girl, and has never thought twice about it until now. it's rare that we see news trucks from the Atlanta stations here (unless it's football season), and they've been in my neck of the woods a lot lately.
  9. That is so sickening. I remember when the story broke they were only looking for this guy to talk to him, but did not consider him a suspect.

    And to think what he did to her.. just awful
  10. This is just a terrible story. My heart goes out to her family and friends. The story has garnered a lot of news time here in Georgia. The alleged assailant seems to frequent parks and remote areas. One of the parks he's been known to be at is about 1.5 miles from where I live. He was arrested at the gas station that is about 3/4 miles from my home. I know that there are probably criminals everywhere but this has really bothered me a lot.
  11. Florida ia also looking at him as possible suspect in another unsolved murder.
  12. i know what you mean...i remember sitting and talking to this girl about her major and studying abroad and her being from Colorado as clear as day...and now CNN is telling me that someone kept her captive for days, beat her, and cut off her head.
  13. Apparently there have been several states (NC, SC, GA, FL) that are looking at him on open cases they have. At his age, he just didn't pick this little habit up recently.

    Sick mofo.
  14. Me too. :sad:

    It will be interesting to see what else comes to light.

    I'm so sorry for this young gals family and those who loved her.
  15. Agreed. Like I said, I don't think he just started doing this... for him to hold her for three days alive like they said, and for as skilled as she was at martial arts, he had some form of plan that had worked for him before. Once an attack like this has been successful, they seldom change their MO. Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dalmer are perfect examples of this.

    I wonder if he's been arrested before. Most serial killers have already had brushes with the law, usually for something not quite as bad as this, something like being a Peeping Tom or a flasher in parks. He may also have a rape or attempted rape conviction as well.

    I can't stand to see him on the news... he looks so freakin' evil.