Person of interest in missing Georgia hiker case in custody

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Person of interest in missing Georgia hiker case in custody

Postby Todd » Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:32 am

Person of interest in missing hiker case in custody

BLAIRSVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- The person of interest in the disappearance of a hiker in the north Georgia mountains is in custody and is being questioned by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, police announced Friday evening.

Gary Michael Hilton, 61, was detained after a police officer spotted his van at a convenience store.

Investigators also have another piece of the puzzle: Meredith Emerson's black Labrador retriever, Ella, who walked into a grocery store Friday. The animal was positively identified through an embedded microchip.

The search for Emerson will continue Saturday.

A Georgia State Police helicopter and search dogs are helping in the effort to find 24-year-old Emerson.

She was last seen hiking in the area on New Year's Day.

Witnesses saw Hilton and his reddish dog with Emerson before she disappeared, Verdone said earlier.

She said he was seen with Emerson on "multiple occasions" on Tuesday along the Freeman Trail on Blood Mountain.

Friday, a spokeswoman for the Emerson family was asked what she'd like to say to Hilton, who police said was not considered a suspect.

"We need him to come forward. We need him so much to do that, to give us that missing link of information that we need," said Peggy Bailey.

"Please, please, if you could -- and I speak to him and to anyone that could contact him -- if you've been hesitant, please don't be hesitant. If you've been worried that you didn't want to share some information, please set that aside and have the courage to come forward. We need you," Bailey said.

Emerson, a University of Georgia alumna originally from Colorado, was hiking the trail with her black Labrador retriever, Ella, on Tuesday, Verdone said.

She was reported missing Wednesday. Watch what police know so far
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Postby Shade » Sat Jan 05, 2008 3:40 am

They need to take her dog out hiking in the same area and see what it can pick up or where it goes.
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Postby ~jeff~ » Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:59 am

Her dog had been with her but now has been found some 50 miles away from the search area. They probably should get her dog back in the area now.

Person of interest, dog found in case of missing hiker

updated: 1/4/2008 10:19:39 PM
UNION COUNTY, Ga. - Police announced Friday that the "person of interest" in the disappearance of a missing hiker originally from Colorado is in custody.

The Union County Police Department says 60-year-old Gary Michael Hilton was taken into custody in DeKalb County at about 8 p.m. Friday at a Chevron convenience store at the corner of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Johnson Ferry Road.

According to authorities, Hilton will be questioned by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about his knowledge of Meredith Emerson.

Hilton's white van was found near the car vacuum cleaners at the station. A passerby noticed the van, thought it seemed out of place, and called 911.

Hilton was reported to have been seen on the trail with Emerson, walking with a dog answering to the name Dandy. A dog was taken away from the investigation scene. It is not presently known if it is the same dog.

Officials said they had found Emerson's 1-year-old dog "Ella" at a Kroger store in Forsyth County on Friday, about 50 miles away from the search area. They said that the dog was positively identified by a microchip implant by a veterinarian.

"Meredith was not with him," Union County investigator Kimberly Verdone said.

"Late this afternoon we had a lady who located a dog that was wandering around in the parking lot. In an attempt to find shelter for the dog, she picked the dog up. There happens to be a veterinary office about two blocks from the Kroger store. She took the dog down to the veterinary office in an attempt to find it some shelter. Once inside the office, it's my understanding that somebody inside the office recognized that this dog was very similar in appearance to the one that has been in the news media with the missing hiker case. As a result, the veterinary office contacted Union County authorities. (They said) the dog had a computer chip to help locate it. The vet did have the capability and equipment to check that, and did in fact confirm that it was the dog that belonged to the missing hiker," said Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton.

Forsyth County investigators said that some of Emerson's personal effects were found in a dumpster outside a Quik Trip gas station across from the Kroger store, which is on Keith Bridge Road, just off Georgia 400.

Paxton said the area around the Kroger store has become a major investigative focus. Investigators have been combing the area, looking for surveillance tape and anyone who may have seen anything that may help the investigation.

"Six four-man search and rescue teams are in the woods right now searching for her," said Verdone.

Police said the search for Emerson will continue on Saturday morning.

Emerson, 24, from Gwinnett County, was last seen on Tuesday hiking with her dog on a trail on Blood Mountain in Vogel State Park in Union County. She is originally from Longmont.

Verdone said investigators want to know when Hilton last saw Emerson and what they talked about.

John Cagle, special agent in charge with the GBI's Field Division, declined to specify how investigators learned Hilton's name and other details about him.

Authorities say they have found a water bottle and a dog leash that belonged to Emerson.

On Friday, the ongoing search for Emerson expanded.

Fifteen teams of search and rescue experts rappelled into ravines and caves all day Friday - places that the volunteer searchers can not reach - while helicopters with infrared sensors continued to scan from above for body heat below, for some sign of Emerson.

"These are the guys that know these woods, and they know what they're looking for," said Emerson's roommate, Julia Karrenbauer. "It does comfort us, the fact that the best of the best are up there today, working for her."

The best of the best includes the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Rapid Response Team and their canines that Major Carl Sims commands. They spent the entire night in a grid search of Blood Mountain and beyond.

"As you can imagine, time is of the essence, to get as much as we can get done as quick as we can get done, especially with the temperatures as brutal as they were up there," said Sims.

Volunteers picked up armloads of fliers to post throughout north Georgia and western North Carolina.

Volunteers who wanted to help were asked to call Union County authorities first to be placed on a list. They were not being allowed on the trails, but were asked to post fliers in the area instead. Her friends have started a Web site where they post updates, www.helpfindmeredith.com.

Emerson left a note for her roommate to indicate she went hiking on Tuesday. When she failed to return home, friends reported her missing and, on Wednesday, found her car in a parking lot near a Blood Mountain trail.

"I'm still in shock every now and then. I get a free moment and I think about it and I expect to wake up and go, 'This isn't happening,'" roommate Julia Karrenbaum said.

While the fate of Emerson is not known, her godmother, speaking again Friday, said her parents remain hopeful. She also pleaded for Hilton to come forward and talk to authorities.

"I hope that if he realized that this would be helpful, that his heart would be softened and turned to coming forward with information for Meredith, for those of us that love her. We need him to come forward," said Peggy Bailey.

"Please, please if you could and I speak to him and anyone who can contact him, if you've been hesitant, please don't be hesitant ... have the courage to come forward. We need you and Dave and Susan [Emerson's parents] need you."

Hilton was identified as a person of interest after someone wrote down the license tag of his white van. Investigator Verdone did not know what prompted that person to become suspicious enough to take notes on his van.

"That is something that we're checking into," she said. "It's not that he is a suspect...we just want to know when was the last time he saw her."

A GBI official added later Friday, "We have confirmed that he was there."

GBI agents said they now have evidence - proof - that the person of interest, Hilton, is definitely the man hikers saw with a dog, talking with Emerson as she hiked the trail with her dog Tuesday. Investigators said they believe it was a chance encounter, and that Emerson did not know Hilton.

Anyone with information on Hilton is asked to call the Union County Sheriff's Office at 706-439-6038.
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Postby ~jeff~ » Sat Jan 05, 2008 8:17 am

This story offers an odd twist

Police trying to determine if yellow jacket links three hikers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/03/08
It may just be a coincidence, but investigators are curious whether a yellow jacket connects the presumed double murder of an elderly North Carolina couple to the disappearance of Meredith Emerson, last seen hiking in the North Georgia mountains on New Year's Day.

Like Emerson, John and Irene Bryant were avid hikers, hitting the trails up to three times a week, their son Bob Bryant said.

The couple was last sighted Oct. 20 in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest.

Three weeks later, Irene Bryant's body was discovered; she had been bludgeoned to death, authorities said. Her husband remains missing.

Police investigating Emerson's disappearance are looking for Gary Michael Hilton, 61, who was seen walking with the University of Georgia graduate on Tuesday. He was wearing a yellow jacket, witnesses said.

In the Bryant case, a surveillance video recorded someone wearing a yellow jacket using the couple's ATM card at a bank in Ducktown, Tenn.
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Postby 1stimestar » Sat Jan 05, 2008 11:00 am

Hmmm.
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Postby Todd » Sat Jan 05, 2008 10:48 pm

BLAIRSVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- Gary Michael Hilton has been charged with kidnapping in the case of missing hiker Meredith Emerson, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Saturday.


1 of 2 He was the last person seen with Emerson in the north Georgia mountains.

Hilton, 61, was detained Friday night after a police officer spotted his van at a convenience store in suburban Atlanta.

Hours earlier, Ella -- Emerson's black Labrador retriever that had been with her as she hiked through the north Georgia mountains -- was found when the dog walked into a Kroger grocery store about 50 miles from where she disappeared.

The animal was positively identified through an implanted microchip. Watch how the dog was discovered
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Postby Phil » Sun Jan 06, 2008 2:38 am

Not looking good for her. Glad they got the creap! :evil:
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Postby Todd » Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:08 am

BLAIRSVILLE, Georgia (CNN) -- Investigators found IDs belonging to missing hiker Meredith Emerson along with blood-stained clothes, leading authorities to charge Gary Michael Hilton with kidnapping with intent to cause bodily injury, according to a criminal warrant filed Saturday.

Hilton, 61, was the last person seen with Emerson, a 24-year-old University of Georgia grad and tae kwon do expert who disappeared from Blood Mountain in north Georgia on New Year's Day.

The items were found in a trash bin of a convenience store next to the grocery store where Emerson's dog was found wandering around in the parking lot Friday about 50 miles from where she disappeared.

"The clothing was found to contain substantial amounts of human blood," the warrant says.

The clothing is consistent with the type Emerson was believed to wear, the warrant said.

The items found include a black leather wallet that contained Emerson's Georgia driver's license and student ID from the University of Georgia.

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation also recovered a portion of a seat belt with "apparent blood transfer stains as well," according to the warrant.

Hilton made a phone call from a pay phone at the same convenience store Friday, the warrant also alleges.

Hilton was arrested later Friday at a different convenience store in metro Atlanta. When his 2001 minivan was searched, agents "determined that the rear seat belt had been cut out," according to the warrant.

"Hilton was attempting to vacuum the vehicle and wash portions of it with a bleach and water solution," the warrant says.

It also alleges that Hilton attempted to use one of Emerson's credit cards at a Regions Bank branch in Canton, Georgia.

Hilton arrived at the Union County jail dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit late Saturday. He did not make any comments to reporters as he was whisked into the facility.

Earlier, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said "a lot of evidence has been recovered" in the case, including some Saturday during extensive searches.

"There is considerable evidence based on the information that we received from the public," Bankhead said at a news conference from the mountain where Emerson disappeared. Watch Bankhead talk about the "public input"
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Postby Todd » Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:12 am

Phil wrote:Not looking good for her. Glad they got the creap! :evil:


There looking for a body at this point.

Hilton obviously killed her and with the MO of going to the ATM, that IMO increases the odds he killed the other couple.

This guy makes a good case for water boarding.....

:evil:
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Postby Todd » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:17 am

A body has been found that is believed to be the missing Georgia hiker...
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Postby ~jeff~ » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:54 am

And this is why we need to support the death penalty.

This type needs to be put to death before some politician has a vision from god and pardons him....
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Postby Todd » Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:05 am

Ladies, don't let this stop you from enjoying the outdoors. Creaps like this are few and far between, especially in a backcountry setting. Of course it's always best if someone can go with you, but if can't find someone to go, go. Let someone know where EXACTLY your going, and when you are going to be back.

With that being said, don't hesitate to arm yourself. Pistols are easy to learn to shoot, light to carry, and guaranteed to scare the crap out of anyone. To afraid of a gun, bear spray can serve as great dual purpose, and an easy to access pocket knife is always reliable. Taser are a good option also.

NONE of those items can be as useful as the head sitting on your shoulders. If something seems out of place, get out of there. Don't be afraid to ask a (different) passing hiker if you can walk out with them should you encounter someone you feel uncomfortable around. And NEVER leave the trail with somone unknown to you. Her going after that dog into the woods is a classic "stupid" moments in a Hollywood movie.
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Postby ~jeff~ » Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Good points to make. I'd push the bear spray for the most part. Keeps the victim from introducing a lethal weapon to the situation if there isn't one to start with. I'd hate to see a inexperienced person get shot with their own gun.
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Postby Todd » Tue Jan 08, 2008 8:39 pm

Investgators are now looking at the possibilty of a 4th victim

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Georgia officials also plan to meet with Florida investigators about the death of a woman there, Bankhead said Tuesday.

The body of Cheryl Hodges Dunlap was found Dec. 19 in the Apalachicola National Forest, southwest of Tallahassee. Authorities say a masked person suspected in Dunlap's death used her ATM card three times after her disappearance Dec. 1.

Sgt. Rob Reisinger, spokesman for Leon County, Fla., Sheriff's Office, said his agency has requested information about the Georgia case. But he said it is too early to determine whether there is a connection.
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Postby Shade » Tue Jan 08, 2008 11:38 pm

Has he confessed to the older couple that turned up missing in my neck of the woods? We were out in the forest Sunday and the Park Rangers had a road block and were checking licenses. One person asked why they were checking but one of the officers told them that they couldn't say. It looked like they were look for someone. This wasn't very far from where the couple turned up missing.
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Postby Todd » Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:21 am

Shade wrote:Has he confessed to the older couple that turned up missing in my neck of the woods? We were out in the forest Sunday and the Park Rangers had a road block and were checking licenses. One person asked why they were checking but one of the officers told them that they couldn't say. It looked like they were look for someone. This wasn't very far from where the couple turned up missing.


Not yet, but it's just a matter of time. The fact that Irene Bryant was killed by blunt force trauma to the head as well is just one more key to the puzzle.

To bad they haven't found her husband yet. Hopefully he will turn up now that the investigation has heated back up.
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Postby ~jeff~ » Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:46 pm

ABC NEWS wrote:Hilton agreed to lead investigators to a hiker's decapitated body in the woods of northern Georgia only after prosecutors pledged not to seek the death penalty against him, authorities said Tuesday..........

......Asked whether the family was told of the arrangement with Hilton before it was made, Bailey said, "We're just not discussing anything about that at all."


Great, so until Hilton's natural death occurs we will get to pay for his food and lodging, medical care and if he so desires, education if North Carolina or Florida can't pin him to one of the other killings.
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Postby Todd » Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:49 pm

~jeff~ wrote:
ABC NEWS wrote:Hilton agreed to lead investigators to a hiker's decapitated body in the woods of northern Georgia only after prosecutors pledged not to seek the death penalty against him, authorities said Tuesday..........

......Asked whether the family was told of the arrangement with Hilton before it was made, Bailey said, "We're just not discussing anything about that at all."


Great, so until Hilton's natural death occurs we will get to pay for his food and lodging, medical care and if he so desires, education if North Carolina or Florida can't pin him to one of the other killings.


I knew that was going to happen, and it makes me sick to my stomach! :evil:

Stupid, LAZY lawyers!!! :evil:

Does ANYONE think for one second that if it was the DA's daughter they would drop the death penalty from the options?

What other punishment could possibly be acceptable for murdering, raping and decapitaing a young woman who was just getting her life started?

This POS deserves to die a slow and VERY painful death......
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Postby ~jeff~ » Wed Jan 09, 2008 3:49 pm

I'm keepin' my fingers crossed that they know they already have enough evidence to prosecute him with one of the other murders.

Even though we tend to keep murders in our prisons quite a while before they are executed, I'm sure there is something special about waking up every morning on death row knowing the rest of the country no longer wants you to share the air they breath.
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Postby Todd » Wed Jan 09, 2008 11:03 pm

Hiker murder suspect focus of Florida investigation

Gary Michael Hilton, 61, may have been involved in the death of Cheryl Dunlap, whose body was found last month in Apalachicola National Forest southwest of Tallahassee, said Florida's Leon County Sheriff's Dept. Sgt. Rob Reisinger.

Reisinger said investigators know Hilton was in the area at the time of Dunlap's disappearance because he came in contact with a forestry agent who wrote down his vehicle's tag number.

Hilton is being held without bond in Georgia. This week he led authorities to Meredith Emerson's body in Dawson County.

Emerson, a 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate, was last seen with Hilton on a north Georgia mountain on New Year's Day.

An autopsy indicated she was probably alive for three days before she died from a blow to the head.

Emerson was decapitated after she died, according to the autopsy report.

Hilton agreed to lead investigators to the body in exchange for a Union County prosecutor's agreement to drop consideration of the death penalty against him, said Enotah District Attorney Stan Gunter.

But the district attorney for Hall and Dawson counties, Lee Darragh, said he was not involved in that deal.

He told CNN that he learned about it only after Emerson's body was found.

Darragh would not say if that meant he would put consideration of the death penalty back on the table. He said he would likely pursue indictment during the next Dawson County grand jury's term, which begins in March.

Darragh did say that authorities believe Emerson was killed January 4.

That's the same day Hilton allegedly made a phone call from a pay phone at a convenience store in Cumming, Georgia, where Emerson's black leather wallet containing her identification cards was discovered in a trash bin.

The bin is next to a grocery store parking lot where Ella, Emerson's Labrador mix, was found wandering Friday, according to a criminal warrant.

Hilton was charged with one count of malice murder at a Wednesday court appearance in Dawson County.

In addition to the Florida case, state and federal authorities are also trying to determine whether Hilton may have been involved in a North Carolina case.

In Transylvania County in North Carolina, investigators said Wednesday they were following up leads developed during a meeting with Georgia authorities earlier this week.

Sheriff David Mahoney said the disappearance and deaths of Irene and John Bryant have several similarities to the Emerson case.

The Bryants, an elderly couple, disappeared after going for a hike in the Pisgah National Forest a few months ago. Irene Bryant's body was found near the couple's car, but her husband's body has not been found.

As they grieved, Emerson's family members also expressed some relief that her body was discovered.

"We are glad she's found. This brings some sort of closure for us," Peggy Bailey, Emerson's godmother and spokeswoman for the family, said, according to CNN affiliate WXIA.

"It's crippling," Meredith Emerson's boyfriend, Steve Segars, told CNN's Nancy Grace.

"She is the single most brilliant thing I've ever known," he added. "She was the best thing this world had left to give and the fact that we are without her, and the world is without her, as a result of the flippant actions of somebody who was able to gain her trust is a pretty big deal."

On Wednesday, Hilton appeared in court in shackles and an orange prison jumpsuit. 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.

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.
[url=http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/01/09/georgia.hiker/index.html#cnnSTCOther1]Follow the case on an interactive map
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