Mystery on Blood Mountain


I'm Lester Holt tonight on dateline first thing that really got my attention is messing plug mountain and you have to be aware of surroundings all the time because just never know it started with a frightening horror flick from the Eighties Crimson. Movie is. We're GONNA take some women into the woods and then they're gonNA be hunted down decades later. It was happening for real strange vanishing in the forest we begin to to get disturbing news just broke. Another tire looked like it had been corpus Louis flat if someone has her she's afraid we have a in killer running around loose in the national forest. Could this old movie hold the key to these new cases. It's film where he's setting women out in the woods. Do you think that's the template for what he does. That's what's so chilling. Anybody could survive. It was aired and if anybody could fight it was meredith Here's Dennis Nice Murphy. With mystery on blood. Mountain national forests are places of refuge Our folks that WanNa get away from the city and have a sense of peace with nature but it now you have to be aware of your surroundings all the time because just never know the splendors. The Americas National Parks Forest Lands Poems. Just waiting to be written by inch new visit from the cathedrals of the rockies to the quiet glades old growth of the Appalachians. It's here in the parks. We have the promise of stepping out of the hubbub of our chattering daily routine. That was the kind of serenity Meredith Emerson sought on the Crisp New Year's Day in the north Georgia mountains. Not More than foothills really for a young woman who eloped trail climb her native rockies. It was two thousand eight. The young sales assistant set out from Buford Georgia with her dog L. A. Roomy Julia currently or from college days had slept in that morning she had left me a note just a little note on a chalkboard took Ella went hiking not wear not when not one. I'm going to be back back so it wasn't really anything out of the ordinary meredith like Rumi. Julia was a dog person. She doted on L.. Her black glad mixed since finding her the rescue shelter she had two dogs growing up and she wanted one of her own so she kind of talked about it and research. What she wanted hidden definitely wanted to rescue dog and finally found one went out loved her brought her home and it really was the light of her life Julia? The roommate didn't know that meredith an Ele- were heading forty miles. North to Blood Mountain chattahoochee national forest despite the creepy teen slasher remove name. Blood Mountain is one of the most popular places to hike in the southeast. The famous apple H.. In trail two main takes off from just south of here back in Beaufort. The roommate spent her New Year's Day with friends and did notice. That merited hadn't come home until the next morning a- back to work day. She would leave Ella in my room and I would take care of her in the morning And I'm like Oh L. is not here. It's that was a little strange to me. And I called her cell phone and went straight to voicemail and I thought maybe shows that work when when did you become anxious Jillian. When I got to work she worked with a good friend of ours and the friend called me and said Meredith stingiest for work and mayors always at work? She was the first one at work. Reliable Meredith wasn't where she was supposed to be. Julia called the sheriff socks then she and some of meredith other other friends assembled a search part. Maybe she'd twisted her ankle hiking and taken a tumble. They started with that note on the chalkboard where I'm going hiking would naturally be. We had a few ideas. We took some books that she had some places that she highlighted in kind of deserted driving the French poodle the car at trail heads. She'd mark in her hiking guides. There was four of us in the car and we were trying to tell me a call Park Rangers and anybody that may have seen her her car and then a friend of hers found her car called US and said I found it and there was snow on a car parking area at the base of blood now and we drove Casaus. We could there and just you know just that sinking feeling when you first see it up the blood mountain feeder path to the Appalachian Trail But no trace of meredith or so by nightfall. The search became all the more urgent as a cold. Front moved in temperatures on Blood Mountain plunged below zero at daybreak Thursday. Now the friends were joined by deputies from the local sheriff's Office John Caygill just shy of retirement. Was the agent charge for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation States. Top cops received a request from local agency to help with a missing hiker. The case of the hiker missing for two days didn't look good to the season detective because of some disturbing items that had been recovered on the trail. What were the things that were found? Addison trail area that you thought were alarming. A couple of water bottles dog leash and Police expandable baton. This is a piece of professional gear. It is it's just a metal pipe that is expandable. You see almost every uniform police officer in the nation carrying these things did those artifacts the water bottle the the baton found together. Tell you a story at all or suggests something ominous yes and we found those items in an area where the ground had appeared to have been undisturbed then we became concerned. Possibly a struggle took place there. Meredith water bottles ellas leash and signs of a struggle. Nothing about about the scene. Look good to the veteran law man especially that expandable police baton that was found he called in health. Aw eventually partnered with over eighteen or nineteen police agencies to help search from that. Her friends were naturally beside themselves. You know your heart just broke because you think something happened. Somebody had a weapon and stuff was there. She's been abducted and it was so hard because it wasn't something that we could talk about until we could actually prove that the cops commandeered a park building headquarters. We begin getting information pretty quickly. It from people who had hiked the trails at day right remembered her remembered her and we began to get Disturbing News of strange looking individual with meredith who also so had a dog some nail description. This other person. You hear strange looking Just a wiry kind of guy older guy older guy we even developed a vehicle description. White van the lead on the van came from this photo taken by a hiker in the blood mountain parking lot the night before Meredith Emerson Jason went missing a beyond. The lookout advisory went out for the guy driving a white van accompanied by his reddish dog. It is going to be a white male between the ages of fifty and sixty years old approximately one hundred and sixty pounds. It was described as he has bad dental. He had a dark reddish colored Retriever we put out that information through the media in Atlanta and actually got a call from someone who said I think coming to see it when we return. This mysterious stranger would prove to be stranger than anyone expected. I just turned. Wipe out the blood. Leave my face and Meredith. Emerson had not been the only one missing in the forest. If she's still alive and someone has her her she's Afraid Meredith Emerson and her lab L. A.. We're two days missing on Georgia's Blood Mountain early. In a freezing January of two two thousand eight her friend had alerted the authorities and people from all over greater Atlanta were scouring the hiking trails so many volunteered. They couldn't use all all people just showed up and just said I have a daughter who likes to hike. I have a sister who could have been meredith easily and they just volunteer onto their time. The search in the national forests had become something more ominous than a lost hiker incident. Meredith had been last seen in the company of an an unsavory looking. Stranger law enforcement was about to identify the tip came from John Taber Atlanta businessman. He was watching the continuing continuing news coverage of missing Merita during his morning workout when they started giving the description on the person of interest Myers really parked up. I think I just turned white. It one point. I felt the blood. Leave my face Taber. The businessman thought this has got to be Gary Hilton. Hilton was a guy who'd worked on and off for him for for years. I as a telemarketer then as an independent contractor in deciding business he even lived for a while and this little house that taper on. What was the thought? That was taking shape as you're listening to this. The first thing that really got my passion is is where the event happened where she wanted missing blood mountain. I knew that was a place. He liked to hang out that he had a dog with him and most importantly was the evidence that they had found the same Hilton. Always had expendable police Baton with him the tip and and a name quickly led to a Georgia driver's license for sixty one year old. Gary Michael Hilton. Investigators showed the photo to hikers. Who idead him as the scruffy mystery? Man Seen with meredith on blood mouth. The manhunt was on. We put that name and face out and that's plastered all over the Metro Atlanta area is the AP be went well beyond the Georgia border. Hilton's name and picture were all over the regional news. lightbulbs began going off to the south around Tallahassee Florida's capital when people there so his photo on TV the search for Gary Hilton was about to widen the mystery. Man Person of interest in the Meredith Emerson case looked familiar to people who thought they'd seen him just about the time they learned of the sad case of another woman who'd gone missing Shirl dunlap unearth and mother. WHEN CHERYL DIDN'T TURN UP FOR CHURCH ONE December Sunday in two thousand seven and then Mr Sunday school class red flags went up and next door neighbor and friend? Tanya Land Sunday morning at Church. I'd turned around and looked at her usual spot. She wasn't there and you didn't teach your class and immediately. We knew something was wrong. Because that's just not like her. Everyone who knew her agreed. Forty six year old Cheryl was reliable. A woman solid interfaith breath and set fellow nurse friend and prayer partner again. She always liked to hear What we call our praise reports like like something good that happened with a patient or a CO worker? When Monday morning rolled around in Tanya still hadn't been able to reach Cheryl? She walked next door. That went back down to our house and saw that the dog was at the House but the car was gone so I called her off several times and they hadn't seen her shoes daughter-in-law Tabitha called the sheriff's Office to report. Port Missing Wellingtonians. Such show for work. I knew there was a problem after that missing. Persons report was filed. The friends heard about a car. That looked like Cheryl's roles spotted on the side of the highway leading into Tallahassee. They headed up there a sheriff's car on and immediately they said deputy up there and just took over from that point apprehensive. Rancid you out. Yeah I was very uneasy. I knew that there was something wrong. Juries car was parked well off the highway. Florida Department of law enforcement agent. Any what it was pretty clear from the beginning that that's not someplace that she would parked it as well as the tire looked like it had been purposely flattened on the vehicle Michael and abandoned Kara slash tire searches law enforcement. Volunteers began fanning out into the adjacent fifty. Seven seven thousand Acre Appalachia Coal National Forest. All of them with dread in their hearts love will be devastated. If something like this happened to my family and so that's why I want to be up here for in. There were massive searches in town. Thousands of people showed up to comb the woods looking for her. It was clear very early on that. This was unusual for her. She would not have gotten in the car with someone who just was not the person who would have disappeared. Tallahassee Democrat senior writer. Jennifer Portman covered the story. We're talking about North Florida. In the panhandle area. People are found by their schools by their family by their churches and Sunday. School teachers with children and Grandchild. Don't go miss. That's exactly what her friends and family were as baffled as the police by Cheryl's disappearance law enforcement was trying to put the pieces together when they looked into Cheryl's background around nothing jumped out at two sons long-settled divorce no boyfriends then on Tuesday. Four days after she was last seen the cops got her bank records. Something was up. We found where some ATM activity had occurred in Leon County. That's big break. Yes Sir and then upon viewing in that video in Leon County It was clear it was not her. This was a male subject using her car. Use disguising his face so we knew at that point definitely that it's probably not going to be a good outcome from stunned. The disguised man made three separate withdrawals of seven hundred dollars. The ATM tap was was in downtown. Tallahassee near the campus of the State Youth Miles from where Cheryl's car was found so you and the team stakeout the ATM machine stay there. Several days is day and night watching the ATM and he never came back to that one. The search for Cheryl stretched on for weeks and a lot of us went out on our own and searched the woods and went to places. We thought you know she could possibly be the more time goes on inevitably. I just just. It's just because I'm thinking if she's still alive and someone has her she's afraid. Mid December two weeks after Cheryl disappeared some some hunters out training. Their dogs in the National Forest noticed a vulture circling in the sky above them went to check it out and discover the body a female email body missing its head in hands a grizzly fact not released at the time. I think this is someone trying to conceal the identity. It took a DNA sample from Her to th- brush to identify the remains. As those of Cheryl Dounreay someone called and said Laura. They found the body. We pulled with over on the side of the road. And just you know just there was it be wearing this was there. It was surreal You know the thing you hear about movies and it was so close to home that in our small community that something like this could happen now with cops in Florida looking hard at Gerry Hilton in the Dunlap murder and counterparts Georgia convinced that he'd taken Meredith Emerson Authority started hearing about yet another national forest homicide this one in North Carolina. Then you gotta be saying all your team investigators. What do we have you? That's right and so now. We're we're really wondering who who we have here and more importantly which made it coming up. We have a killer running around loose in the national national forest concern for Meredith deepens but her friends know something that man on the mountain. Couldn't Kato and Blue Belt in judo. The Dow if anybody could survive it was her death when dateline continues and we're was merit hope Emerson. Could she still be alive. Somewhere out there in Georgia's Chattahoochee National Channel Four's and did the twenty four year. Old hiker have a prayer if she were indeed in the clutches of mystery man. Gary help the search on blood mountain went into into a third day. We had the hope. I mean we were there from Sunup to sundown. Plus I mean we were there through the night in the cold and all the searchers and but if anybody could survive Evan Meredith and if anybody could fight somebody like that it was meredith. Merida's parents had flown in from Colorado joined. The searchers Peggy. Bailey a family. A friend was their spokeswoman. Let me tell you something. Meredith Emerson could do anything. She is feisty she is strong she's tiny and petite one hundred twenty pounds. But let me tell you. I have every hope that anybody could. She can run those mountains. She she's a strong person. If anybody can survive this she can. The missing woman was deceptively strong. Not just an experienced hiker but an accomplished martial arts enthusiast as well and Lavelle an Akito and blue belt in judo on apparel absolutely I mean she would fight you and chewed actually come home and tell me you know I threw this two hundred and twenty pound man man. I beat him up today in class by now with half of Georgia looking for this Gary Hilton authorities outside Tallahassee Florida to the south. We're we're wondering about his connections with the missing woman there. It was then at the detective. Scott solid information about another killing in a national forest. We're in our command post and detective walked in and said that They had a case took place in North Carolina Bobbing Husband and wife that the the wife had been been murdered in the Pisgah national forest. That detective was working an unsolved case. That had cops in North Carolina bewildered. David Mahoney is sheriff. Europe Transylvania County beautiful place with an ominous name that has nothing to do with fangs. Dripping blood we have wonderful attractions here. All those things along with a slower pace of life is what brings folks and keeps folks here folks like John and Irene. Brian do after raising a family retired here far from the brutal maybe winters of upstate. New York and close to the hiking trails they loved Holly. Bryant is the youngest of their four children. They love the outdoors when when they were first married. I used to go out hiking in the mountains. They would take us hiking and as they got older it take the grandchildren not hike into the. Bryant's had a lifetime of outdoors. Experience had hiked all over the world. My father completed the Appalachian trail. Oh which is two thousand miles from Georgia to Maine. They traveled extensively to a New Zealand and author here up author America America especially the southwestern and northwestern United States in late October. Two months before Meredith Emerson disappeared the couple set off on a day. A hike in the five hundred thousand Acre Pisgah National Forest. No one heard from them for two weeks. Always let us know if they were going on one of their many trips etfs so I was totally unlike them to just disappear their son. Bob Flew in from Texas. The newspapers were around the doorstep. He broke into the home And and founder breakfast was still out on the table but obviously many days old and he knew something was terribly wrong. My brother searched. He went up and down every little back road throughout the park. He found their car at a trail head in the national forest. By then Sheriff Mahoney's office was involved. Rescue squad began a search assuming that there had been some medical problem problem or something that had followed an opponent in my heart. I I knew that wasn't the case they there's just no way they would both be both be hurt like that. They were very very experienced. Fortunately it was not very long. After we began service that we discovered the body of Ms Brown was a sense of finality. I knew she was gone already. But that little glimmer particle hope was extinguished English when they found her body Irene. Bryant's remains were located thirty yards from where her son had come upon the car. She had been bludgeoned to death. But where was the husband. We began an even more extensive search for Mister Bri- that surge really involve the entire area of his national forest within hours of discovering Irene. Bryant's body detectives learn three hundred dollars had been withdrawn from the Brian Accounts using an ATM card in Ducks Town. Amount Tennessee had a picture from the machine. The man they had concealed his head and face that was able to successfully use the bronze ATM. Whoever was making the withdrawal it wasn't seventy nine year old John Bryant but time and geography were working against the law man? We spent weeks weeks everywhere in that entire area. We did everything from vehicle patrol ATV patrol horseback on foot everywhere Sir John Bryant had seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth the FBI posted a ten thousand dollar reward for Information Buck. The Bryant case went cold and until Meredith Emerson loomed on the LAUMAN's rate on our late investigator began following that case and immediately there were some mm-hmm similarities that we saw between the two cases. Both of these incidents occurred own for service land. We really felt like that. The two were you probably can make. We may go years without a homicide. This was very very different. Do we have a killer running around loose in the national forest in Georgia. The searchers looking for Meredith Emerson and her dog L.. On what mountain were hoping and praying that they weren't dealing with homicide do everything we can do to make. Sure that She saw if she's up there that we get out of there and get her out of there safely If he's not there to do everything we can do to eliminate that as okay Possibility and then continuing investigation in their Georgia authorities were composites. A profile of Gary Hilton was starting to look like a person of interest. Not only in the Meredith Emerson disappearance case but in at least two unsolved murders in the national forests. Their findings were deeply trump coming. It might a movie hold the key to this case. Prince movie is going to take some women into the woods and then put they're going to be hunted down. It's Gary Very involved in the scary. Throughout on blood mountain there was still no trace of meredith emerson her friend Julia. And the searchers found no news to be good news. It might be a good thing that you know. She might be somewhere warm their dog you know and and somebody might just have her or or something like that kind of makes me feel a little better Knowing that that we haven't found anything here yet well. Hundreds of volunteers and deputies deputies scoured the forest for clues. Detectives were trying to get a handle on Gary Hilton the suspect in her disappearance and who was by now L. A. person of interest in at least two murders John Taber Hilton's former boss gave investigators. What background he had on? His Eccentric Loner Employees I had known him for nearly a decade. The only interest that he had in life seemed to be his dog and going out camping with his dog. UGH for extended periods of time and in the Wilderness. Hilton's Dog Dandy had been at aside since he started working for Taylor. The former boss had come to regard Hilton. As a hair trigger triggered nutcase. He often tells stories of going to parks with his dog and he would end up in altercations with other pet owners. It was always the same story. He reprimand the other dog owners behavior. Then the other dog owner would get angry at him verbally or physically assault him so he was always the victim for the First Nine Years Hilton worked Eh citing business taper called him as a good employee then something seemed to snap. Things started to change quite dramatically starting in two thousand and seven and what happened that he just wasn't doing any work decided to go and just see what was going on over there. It was a very bizarre same house on his physical appearance. was quite different immediately smiled to show that he was missing several teeth and he went on to explain that he had actually taken a pair of pliers and removed some some of his teeth and he said he enjoyed doing that. Because it frightened people taber fired Hilton. Who then turned around and claim Taber owed him money by mid summer summer? Two thousand seven the citing guy said he feared for his safety finally threatened to kill me he made it tomato very clear. Jaber took those threats series. I immediately immediately are myself with the Glock nine millimeter and then a are fifteen. Assault rifle started driving rental car. So he wouldn't know what vehicle I was. He was your boogeyman absolutely. It was a terrifying ordeal not to know what was going to happen to point driveway. And have someone jump out of the bushes and maybe assassination win. The former boss finally went to the police with his story. It seemed to do the trick within a day or two. He had packed up all his belongings and moved on but all the stuff in the van into yes. John Table was relieved to see the Hilton in his rear view mirror but he was nonetheless puzzled by the change. That had come over the man around someone for nearly ten years and it's full there. There's there's nothing that ever happens. This suggests a demonic violent personality that that apparently materialize. Somehow Taber had hard hard to the Gary Hilton Picture veteran Atlanta criminal defense lawyer added more. Sam Rail had defended Hilton years back on some minor. Ish beefs wait. Did the jury trial on a drug case possession. He was accused on a misdemeanor of acting like A charity and he really wasn't a charity eight and he raise money to help the little children. Of course he pocketed it the job to speak of or anything that he did professionally. His job was Scamming gaming that's what he did. Mostly you knew him as conman basically right he was a little con when he got tripped up. Go call on you. He did real. The lawyer. Royer wears two hats. He's also a movie producer. Not Hollywood but more of the released direct to video school. This is his latest released. They don't do shooting gory. What's genre try not to make it? Gory but at the end of the day A little blood little sex little Little violence can't hurt as it turned out. COPS on the Meredith Emerson case were particularly interested in rails first movie deadly raw. He made it back in. Nineteen eighty-five the assistance of his scam. Artists Client Gary Hilton. Trump's the movie is That we're GONNA take some women into the woods. Then we're going to befriend those women and then put big can be hunted down. Is Gary involved in this sense of like a script writer. Anything that formal Gary Is. He's helping me throughout and then helping the star figure out how to be a serial killer. These ideas you guys are not going around. Gary has a dark dark side sometimes here and there he wants to get involved in the movie but he wants to make darker and more horrible meet like to have more blood more Gore have rape have have more killings things like that. I thought we toned it down and made a better movie. He suggested that we do it up. Woods it helped me find some of the locations. We found the cabin. That cabin used in the movie happened to be in the chattahoochee national forest. They just north of where Meredith Emerson went missing. He's around the table. Are you guys collaborate on this film house he behaving around Your Your Group of movie when the movie was being made. He's animated but interesting so he's not a loner. No He's a lunar. He's a psychopath. He say sociopath path he's always trying to get one step ahead of the law. He's always doing something a little bit wrong but all my clients they do that too. It sounds like you're talking about kind of a charming guy. He was charming. He was personable. He was a fellow that you'd WanNa meet which are all skills you need to be a successful con. Oh man if you're gonNA keep an edge but the lawyer in movie producer had a falling out with Hilton over of all things. Ah Dog dog seemed to be important to them. Dogs were very important to him. He wound up with my dog but I had Dog Look Nice little golden retriever. We had them in the backyard. All all of a sudden I come back one day. The dog has gone. Of course. I'm very upset about it. Then I find out that Gary took the dog you still as their profile of Hilton became clear and became more trouble. Investigators looking for him and Meredith. Were desperate for any lead on his whereabouts and they were about to get eh. I answer my cell phone and I heard his voice. Didn't believe it coming. A trap is set to lure Gary Hilton from the hiding spot. Trying to play a cold and a dramatic new league could lead police to meredith. She could be alive alive and we just can't let when dateline continues Police were convinced. The missing hiker Meredith Emerson was under the control of Gary Hilton. Somewhere in north Georgia. The more they learn about the survivalist oddball who was a person of interest in two murders national forests elsewhere. The more they feared for her. Uh a friend of Meredith family appealed directly to Hilton have that he realized that this would be helpful that this that his heart would be softened pendant turned to To come in for with information so please please have the courage to come forward. We we need you there next. Delete the big one came from an unlikely source. The suspect himself three days into meredith disappearance. Gary Hilton called his old boss. Taber I answer from my cell phone and I heard his voice couldn't believe it he pretended enacted as though nothing was wrong. So he didn't let on to you that he was the subject of a man. Oh absolutely not tape acted as though he knew nothing about it which apparently was the case. He apparently had no idea startled. But Thinking Fast Taber tried to Lure Hilton to an agreed upon location with the promise of money was trying to play cool so I didn't know anything about what was going on. I told him that I would give him a check for eight hundred dollars and we discussed place to leave the check. Were you at that place that he knew to come and show up and it was throwing my objective to get him to a place where authorities could apprehend him. The trap was set a building owned by Taber where Hilton had lived for awhile. The SWAT team was dispatched. What Hilton Fall for the pickup? Some money reuss and what about out the missing woman in your gut did you. Meredith was still alive. You know may snared hope Emerson and we all hoped that She was alive life. Has the manhunt continued. There was a glimmer of hope Friday morning. Four days after meredith vanished the US. Marshals Service traced activity city on Merit as bank cards. The card was used at a local bank fifteen miles from the abduction side and then again fifty miles south of the abduction abduction site. And then the next day eighty miles. These were attempts where no money was taken which suggests what suggested that wouldn't give them the right pen which also suggest S.. Maybe she's still alive that's right investigators. Meanwhile had been able to trace the phone. Gary Hilton used earlier to call his old boss. John Taber who'd set a trapper him. That call was made from a restaurant about fifty miles from Blood Mountain Hilton. It seemed was moving south towards Atlanta metropcs. PD Swat conceal themselves in a near Tabor's building. That was the drop point. Were old boss had promised Tilton he'd leave him. Eight hundred dollars stake at the location. You're surveilling it and they didn't show no show no show we're still looking and wondering where this guy but now we have fifty miles from blood mountain. The tip line line kept ringing with Leeds. Good and back then four days in a Friday afternoon a shopper called to say that she found a black lab mix wandering around a supermarket supermarket. Parking lot is surprised to see any dogs running loose in the parking lot and then to find out that it's the one that meredith Was was turned on. This has pretty big surprise in the shot. She took the dog to an animal clinic where the vet was able to read and identity chip implanted. Inner sure enough off it was ellen but where was her own merit now. Events were moving quickly right away. Came another tip or we get a call from a female acquaintance Long Hilton stating that. She just hung up the phone. He called her and Money and she commented that she said. Don't you know the world's looking for you any any hung up Hilton called from a payphone at a convenience store near where meredith dog had turned up. You have a living pet missing owner handphone which is somewhere in the vicinity of this. Yes guy you believe Israel while the agents are searching in an area that convenience store they look in the dumpster and and it was in the dumpster we found Mayor de identification or purse bags of bloody clothing. And at that point we felt liked it this this was not going to turn out his widow then around eight. That nine still Friday not far from where Taber had set the trap for Hilton more than one. eagle-eyed citizen noticed a man emptying a white van. Happy up here here. Here's a white van. Rodolphe wandering around coals lit up nine one one. This one lasted for twelve minutes back. I had the person of interest in missing woman case. Is that this Chevron Gasping on Nascar done manage their van is here her dog dog and I saw the man's face and I've been watching the news and I know I'm being all this stuff other than getting around. Like he is guilty of I take him down if you aren't there right there. Also copped the back of the got him now here careers. Gary Hilton was under arrest. Detective swarmed over the Filthy Astro van Dan and inventoried his possessions looking for any clue to Merida's fate. GB spokesman updated the media. It's a missing person's investigation right now and that's how we're pursuing it Imported key might be Any knowledge that Mr Hilton has take me inside your situation room when you get the news. Atlanta's got him. We're very pleased with the fact that now we have this man But we we can't lose sight of the fact we don't have meredith yet and and the possibility that she she it could be alive and we can't let up and so we attempt to interview him. He refuses to take your questions cops had. They're mad but not meredith. Could they crack him get from him. The story of what had happened in the national forest. ooh and your decades a law enforcement agent if you ever had a session of interviews like this one he was very straightforward and was very nonchalant Saturday morning. Five days after Meredith Emerson vanished on Blood Mountain. Gary Hilton was charged with a crime against her kidnapping with bodily injury. Hilton soon was in custody. But he was uncooperative. SIPTAH giving his interrogators nothing on Meredith whereabouts. And what he'd done with neared its middle name is is hope. And that's exactly what the Lord gives us for her so we are hoping that we're talking meredith in the present tense and that we will. We'll be finding her and that she will say come home to us. The searchers in the field meanwhile shifted their focus from blood mountain to these woods. Called Dawson forks. About thirty minds to the south it was from around here that milkmaid made those phone calls to his ex-boss remember by then Merida's bloody clothing had been retrieved from a dumpster. It's not a good sign at all. But as long as there was the most remote chance that she was still alive. The search was going to continue but lead agent. John Caygill new. These vast woodland's very very well and he knew the odds of finding needles and haystacks as he saw it he had only one option repugnant as it was and that was to cut a deal with Gary Hilton Sunday morning we got him a lawyer and how went up and had a had a talk with her lawyer and essentially laid out our case. Hilton's lawyer then then conferred with his client. The district attorney was brought into the loop ended. Deal went down. Hilton would plead guilty to murder. Because that is what it had been. And then he said he'd lead investigators to Meredith's body in exchange for taking the death penalty off the tape. Nobody in law enforcement likes to make deals without holding their her nose. We had to do it and you know we. We needed to find meredith And given the circumstances I would do the same thing now. Now some guessing agent the situation in your interview room is Gary. You told us what you did to her. Now where'd you put her yes and He told us a manacles. Hilton was loaded into vehicle and he led lawmen down a trail in Dawson forest. Down there on the road that I will be approximately forty yards or a hundred twenty covered by leaves and brush ahead. We'll be missing. Where's the only reason? By the way was renewed Morenz equally clearly shaken agent. Cable told hold it Lanta about the tragic outcome at approximately seven thirty this evening. The body of Meredith Emerson was discovered wooded area the specific information and given as to the location of the body was given to me by Gary. Hilton the kidnapping charge was antidote. Mitch Hilton is being charged. Wouldn't count murder of Meredith Emerson. He has been taken into custody and brought to our attention center where he's being held in your decades a law enforcement agent if you ever had a session of interviews like this one no no. He was very straightforward and was very nonchalant about the whole time. So you get avenue point. Were well like Meredith. I forty dollars mine and kill a lion and after his initial confession Gary Hilton. The man of stony silence became a chatterbox spilling out a story. That it's sicken detectives who thought they'd heard everything. He began with Meredith abduction here on a hiking trail on blood mountain. He said that he ambush meredith and her dog gala. She came down the trail. It was a struggle and meredith with her martial arts skills. Hilton tells it very nearly got the better of him twice. She disarmed him first taking away a knife and then his police baton control above though not into that he's real good with their hands and had no hesitation about Ryan with everything and we had and Hilton said they scrap so hard. They tumbled off the trail separated by a few yards from that drop police baton Merida's water bottles dog's leash objects importantly very soon to be recovered. Meredith meanwhile meanwhile kept right on Hilton and again and her got me I've been back into the crashing Just a few minutes. I would be people that now that I would have picked it up. You talked about fighting with meredith that she almost took him. I don't really believe everything. And he says but that part I believe. There's no doubt that she fought and and you know. Maybe it's a little bit that kind of gives you a little smirk to know that you know she almost. She almost got him. She gave him a run for his money. And I'm sure that he may have thought I should have maybe chosen somebody else else eventually. Hilton War Meredith down by then they were way off. The main trail Hilton tied his captive to a tree and then double back to that site site where he'd been stripped of his weapons. The bayonet was gone lost on the forest floor and a hiker had already picked up the police Baton Hilton returned to meredith pill and now skirting. The main trail Hilton led meredith back to his van a trail head parking there. He secured her with chains in the back of his vehicle and then proceeded to steal her bankcards from beneath the front seat of her car. Hilton drove off heading gold miles north to an ATM in Blair's Ville Georgia. He told Detectives Meredith had given him or pin numbers. Back on Black Mountain. Did Meredith suspect. It would be all over for her if she gave him the correct numbers in any case she'd given him that information and more. She's you still follow me. It'll be welfare. Hilton next. Tried to use MARANISS cards at a bank fifty fifty miles south in Gainesville Georgia again. No dice he made camp that night with his captive in a remote spot in the forest. The next morning Hilton attempted to use Merida's Bankcard still again at an ATM. In canton Georgia nothing. They returned to his hidden campsite. He held meredith all together in the woods for four days. And what nature of Man. Is Gary Hilton. Well listen to the confession tapes to what he says about Merida's dog Ella. Hilden says he knew. The PAT had that identifying chip when he let the dog go in the supermarket parking lot. If I want to ensure that no one would associate the a dog with her. I would have killed the doll. But there's no way I can do that. He was too much of a softie that. Kill the dog as he explained it. But poor. Meredith Ellis owner never never had a chance beginning. Yes you dodged told you. Once you've done it you gotta kill her get call. Then there's no the solution and that now. He was in his unbelievably cold. Recollection of the crime. Hilton said he told Meredith. He was going to let her go after four days of captivity wig packing up and down taking her Releaser Instead Hilton. Went to the van came back with a tire iron and bludgeoned into Meredith Emerson to death in an attempt to thwart investigators. He decapitated and poured bleach over the body. This gruesome beyond belief. We've Yes for what reason I don't know Hilton had confessed to killing Meredith Emerson. But what about those other cases in the national forests a woman in in Florida the elderly couple in North Carolina. He would not talk about anybody to us because you have to wonder when the switch was thrown because man oh I know how many decades does this go back. I don't know do people just wake up. When they're sixty one is starting to do these kinds of crimes? The way he did you know I would think not coming up how a terrifying movie fantasy morphed into real light do you think that's the template what he does decades later. That's what's so chilling dateline continues. Willie geist here this week. On the Sunday sit down. PODCAST I sit down with rapper. Actress Comedian Aquafina to talk about her huge year with roles in crazy rich Asians and oceans. Ocean's eight get the podcast now for free wherever you download yours continuing with our story meredith. Amerson went for a hike with her dog. On Blood Mountain in the chattahoochee national national forest then suddenly vanished just browse. We became concerned that possibly struggle took place days later a survivalist named aimed Gary Hilton confessed to her murder. He talks about fighting with meredith that she almost took him shallow Scott Him. She gave him a run for his money. Investigators investigators fear. There are more victims. Could this old movie hold the key. To these. Other cases there scenes were reenacted. Their staff talk a lot of similarities. That's what's so chilling here again. Is Dennis Murphy. Marriage Emerson went missing New Year's Day less less than a month later Gary Michael Hilton appeared in a Georgia courtroom and pleaded guilty to her murder. Merida's parents were there for mother. Susan Addressed Hilton. Believe he has nothing more than a bully. And a weak minded coward prey on others fancies himself or survivalist. Well anyone can see experimental man on the run. The state honored the deal. It made with the killer no death penalty and he was sentenced to life in prison. Hilton admitted nothing beyond beyond the Emerson murder. First Time anything like this alert nine turning answering by now investigators from a half dozen southeastern states beats as well as FBI profile owners were rummaging through Hilton's passed by the time he was captured he wasn't much more than vagrant and a van but his past was more complex complex as an army veteran. Hilton at earned an associate's college degree gotten a private pilot's license on the GI bill and been married three times before the wheels apparently came off true crime author. Fred Rosen has written more than twenty five books including trails of about. Hilt underestimate him foolish. This is a very dangerous. Purcell according to Rosen. He was shaped by a number of factors Hilton. Who never knew his is biological? Father was raised by his mother and stepfather. A Horse trainer from Argentina. Do Juvenile authorities run into young Gary Hilton along the way when Gary is fourteen years old he takes a gun and he shoots his stepfather. He doesn't kill him but he wounded wounded very severely and he's institutionalized. They put him in a mental hospital out in Miami Hilton went to High School in Hialeah Florida late in a rock band and eventually joined. The Army Akaki Hill made sure that the cops who arrested him knew of his army service back in the sixties with a unit armed with tactical nuclear weapons. I had not handled nine and Hilton Brag to the officers about his conman criminal past anyway in my life except for the US. Army okay. On Wall Terry from seventy three ninety three okay for twenty years. He's collecting money for charities scam artist. He's a scam artist. Exactly and what about Hilton's dip into the movie business that semi slasher flick deadly run that he helped make in the nineteen eighty s in this where he's setting women out in the woods and killing him hunting. If you like your little outfit I picked up for your Barbara. It has definitely you. Do you think that's the template for what he does decades later. Yes I do. And that's what's so chilling to me about the the whole thing because in the millennium he'll make he'll make art into reality. You can hear the echoes of this. You're already beginning to see the lack of conscience. It's in his interview with the Georgia. Bureau of Investigation. Hilton put forth a grandiose sense of himself a renaissance man of many hats on builder and minority. Hours my heart is my lie and my art. If we're these kind of a philosopher lawsuit king isn't he. I'm an artist and you poor dumb cops don't have the luxury of being able to think the big cosmic thoughts that I do. He almost feel sorry for them. That they can't keep keep up with him when he starts going about this. That and the other thing hoping for crumbs of clues in those other open cases murders in the national forests the agents. I wanted to keep Hilton talking where you where did all of these days. I know what you're getting out of the unsolved murders. Gary Hilton. Thinks he's smart. He Gary has an I q of One hundred twenty and that's considered to be way above average or even though they mainly eligible origin. Is that I alone up. Donald anyone including you do have to actually started. He'll rattle on as long to someone. Listen to him on any topic under the Sun. Virtually yes pick a topic any topic. How about vulcanology a donkey? No the superbowl kaneohe under yellow. Seventy people volcano when eruption basically wind it become the the Holy See more of the US under several bash and destroy the air. The fast talking Flimflam man was on display display. Hilton's home videos found in his band. Here's Hilton giving a cop. That stopped him some live. You tell me what you're the law man. You are the law. I'm going to check it out and if that ain't the law and you're wrong I'm not talking to nobody. I'm falling and I'm suing because you're interrupting my work. You hear Gary Bragging about how smart Mardi is how well He. He does his job but at the same time. What you hear is an incredible narcissistic personality? Which is typical of serial killers killers? He sets up the camera. And there's Gary going hundred seventy-one pounds starts pumping up his biceps. Like he's Arnold Schwarzenegger. I mean he's very narcissistic. So why word. Detectives Enduring Hilton self-centered ramblings clearly. They were hoping he'd blurred out something about his involvement in the other unsolved cases in the national forests but Hilton was admitting to nothing. You basically telling me that you know Twain Nine Ninety he escaped the death penalty in Georgia. But despite his denials Al's Hilton remains the prime suspect in the murder of that elderly couple Irene and John Bryant. Mr Brian's remains had been found in January in the North Carolina align forest as a result of the investigation in Georgia. I was absolutely convinced at that. Point that Gary Hilton was our suspect but there was another open homicide case that seemed to fit Gary Hilton. Like a custom made suit down in Florida. The body of Cheryl Dunlap had been found in a national forest her. ATM card stole the remains decapitating. Detectives thought that Fit Hilton's M. O.. Two T and Gary Hill still applying. The smartest kid in the class defied Florida to come after all that time. All that money they spend A million dollars uncleaner independent there may and then Then another two million get there and then another eight million to the death penalty and get around and get around to executing seventeen years from now when a seventy eight years old decrepit anything. They too tough Laura. Prosecutors at turned out would be the match of his defiant Tong. My belief is this is an evil bad person in there ought to be a consequence in life to evil acts. Coming up justice for Cheryl the hunt for evidence begins. She took the floors up the seats out. She dismantled that Van Suspected serial killer Gary Helton had already pleaded guilty to the murder of Meredith Emerson in the Georgia mountains but he cheated the executioner there with a plea deal that that led police to his victim's body to the south authorities in Florida were convinced he had murdered. Nurse and mother Cheryl Dunlap who's partial remains have been recovered. Two weeks before Meredith Emerson went missing Hilton was defying the authorities in Florida to make charges stick. been a million dollars. The man then Then another billion to get death Leon County Florida. State's attorney Willie megs had had heard enough and indicted Hilton for the murder of Cheryl dunlap. Willie he's gone away for life he's going to be leaving Georgia corrections in a pine box. Why does Florida even need to to go to the expense of a capital murder trial? My belief is is. This is an evil bad person and there ought to be a consequence in alive to evil acts. I don't think murderers ought to be cheaper. The more you do with the Dunlap case looking like a carbon copy of the Meredith Emerson Murder Order you might think the case would be Gimme for the prosecutors. But far from it they would not be allowed to introduce Hilton conviction in the Emerson murder despite its similarity Cheryl's nor his connection with horror movie deadly run or the fact that he was the prime suspect in the murders of two elderly hikers in North Carolina. Florida Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent. Any White was part of the team charged with making the case months earlier the cops had developed a partial chronology for Cheryl dunlap dunlap. While the Saturday she back we started receiving calls. People saying we saw our Walmart we seller here. And so we started backtrack those just trying to get the time on. The investigators knew that Cheryl's morning had included some shopping in Tallahassee cashing a check at the bank and using a library computer to send some e mail to her son in the army they even had a last site. Witnesses identified Cheryl as the woman peacefully reading book here at a Popular Spot called Leon sinks in in the national forest the couple that I interviewed that saw her there at the sink. Holes was very adamant that that was her but the trial had gone cold at the Tallahassee the ATM or a disguised man had withdrawn money using Dunlop's bankcards. A month after Cheryl went the be on the lookout for Gary Hilton during the Meredith Emerson. Listen investigation had the phones in Florida lighting up again when he started hitting the news media are citizens here started seeing him and immediately recognized him and started calling and that tip line Catholic one caller remembered an odd guy with a handsome red dawn. That site led investigators go down another national forest path and to another discovering more remains positive. It was Mr Hilton described. The Dog The van and So that was one of the camps where the bones were found deep in the national forest. Five miles from where Cheryl dunlap's torso had been and found. Investigators came upon a charred piece of skull the Bony Fragments of human hand in the ashes of a campfire. They were badly burned camp firepit kind of thing he'd actually done a pretty good job of covering it up as well. It covered it with strong measures to to tidy trax. The fire had. I've been so thorough. It was impossible to extract DNA from the bones. Whoever killed Cheryl Dunlop had gone to extraordinary lengths to eliminate any physical evidence? So you think that this is someone trying to conceal the identity chills must have gone up your spine when you heard the details of what had happened to yes meredith. And how closely match Cheryl yes. Yes sir both taken out of the woods abducted her. Both decapitated assist. You know early similar. There was one thing about tracking the guy with the red dog that they had going doing for them. States assistant prosecutor Georgia Koppelman. Fortunately for the investigation. If somebody saw Gary Michael Hilton they remembered him. He's Scott that kind of a face or presence that you don't forget once we had the description. We had tons of witnesses coming forward while doing the legwork that was turning up more witnesses says putting Hilton in the area aging white screened deadly run the horror thriller about tracking down and killing women. The forest that Gary Hilton had worked on years before there are scenes that you see in the movie that were reenacted in his actual spree of crimes not in every detail but there's definitely a lot of similarities and investigators has had those home videos of Hilton to screen as well last time he was gone he that was out here. I don't think here. Let's followed you now. Watching the videos was very Educational because I saw him by himself. I saw him with other people. People like this restaurant manager suffering a ramp from Hilton about his delivery Uber. Drivers you tell these guys with terror driving. Has He received any driving safety education. I saw him With law enforcement in many different sides leaving I'm getting Outta here. God Almighty thought he was the smartest bear in the woods. Definitely smarter than the officers. Apprehending definitely definitely they now had numerous Hilton sightings around where Cheryl dunlap vanished but despite all the investigative work by multiple sheriff's offices and the FDLE. No witness came forward to put him together with Gerald on the nurses remains were in such poor condition they told investigators nothing about how how she died. But the thousands of other pieces in the puzzle. Investigators were trying to song. Hilton's Van Jammed to the roof. With hundreds of items was trucked worked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Lab our crime scene analyst spent day and night literally weeks a mess. Right she she lived in that van for weeks. She dismantled that van. Every item that was in it was taken out And then the van itself was dismantled. She took the floors up the the headline or out the seats out every scrap of paper every piece of hair. All that evidence from the van was added to items recovered from the dumpster route side Atlanta where Hilton had been captured. A Georgia cop on blood mountain with a metal detector had found the Bayonet Meredith Emerson had wrestled away from Gary Hilton now. Now investigators in Florida theory. What was interesting about that? Knife is before we knew of Mr Hilton before he had killed Miss Emerson and been quite our analysts in our lab showed us. This is the style this what the knife is GonNa look on cameras and memory cards were found inside the van the techie detectives in the FDLE computer lab working overtime trying to unscramble deleted material from the evidence and deepen in their DNA lab more than seven hundred samples. Were being analysed in an attempt to find some link between Gary Hilton. And the late Cheryl Dunlap had Gary Hilton can manage to outsmart them all wood floor to be able to make the case against four years after Cheryl dunlap's death it was finally going to try coming up sweaty and your heart. Speeding dramatic case begins. How would it? You can just see the jurors so there is a new. When Dateline Continues Gary Hilton's trial for the Florida Murderer Cheryl dunlap began in February? Two thousand eleven a little more than four. We're years after he pleaded and skated the death penalty in Georgia. But there was no chance of a plea deal in this tallahassee. He might be doing life in Georgia but this. This was a capital murder case. If convicted Hilton could die. I- lethal injection remember lead prosecutor Georgia. Koppelman couldn't tell the jury about Hilton's conviction in the Meredith Emerson murder or mentioned it was the prime suspect in North Carolina. Double Homicide Nortel the jury anything about that Slasher laforest movie deadly run. That he helped me MS dunlap found herself in a situation and ultimately came to to an end. That is something that we only think about nightmares. The state built the brick and masonry of story on the time line investigators had so painstakingly painstakingly assembled an attorney hiking with her husband in the national forest. Leon sinks that Saturday morning remembered seeing Cheryl. I looked at her and I said it's peaceful as full out here isn't it and she looked at me and she nodded and she smiled and then she exited warlock then a parade of witnesses testified to seeing Hilton out and about out in the national forest. There was the motorists to notice demand near Cheryl's car with a flat tire. How confident are you that Mr Hilton was the man that you saw at that vehicle? Oh very confident. Others remembered dent man's good looking reddish. retriever mix states. The picture of Hilton's Dog Dandy Exhibit thirty-seven was looking to be the state's key piece of evidence quite sure that's the dog. Another witness recounted a creepy conversation with Hilton country store. And then he said it. Isn't that bad about that. Girl that was murdered an asset. Yes it is he said well you look like her and I said well I don't think so hunters to identified the old guy with the Nice doll ruler flagging his emergency yourself. What the prosecution couldn't tell? The jury was exactly how Cheryl had a county medical examiner had to work with severed remains that had been exposed to the elements. He thought for at least a week or more. Are you able to tell this jury how this woman died died November not a cause of death but what the prosecution did have was forensic evidence Galore hundreds of items recovered from his van from Hilton suspected campsites deep in the woods of two items here duct tape with hair and another piece of duct tape Or masking tape. Prepare one of the items crime scene. Techs recovered was Hilton's video camera. He tried to delete the images on. It are unable to see the entire device. So I'm able to recover those previously as lead files department of law enforcement lab experts had been able to salvage the Audio Hilton did not want the world to hear and with good reason. This is Gary Hilton. Two days after Cheryl dunlap's disappearance singing into the camera microphone and gassing with his dog. Dan Dan mm-hmm when it sounded as though he was confessing to the dog. A hushed courtroom listened to Hilton's is model. The Bar I gotta go the states. Forensic people introduced evidence about Cheryl slash tire a tool mark. Experts said the bayonet recovered on blood mountain up in Georgia was an exact match for the sharp object that caused the puncture down in Florida. But the state say good night evidence was without question the DNA work genetic expert. Joe Ellen Brown spent two years testing more than seven hundred and fifty pieces of evidence in the case Brown told the jury she was able to match Cheryl dunlap's DNA. Hey To blood on two of Hilton sleeping bags and on the shoelaces of his hiking boots. The major donor does match share on the frequency of occurrence. So this major contributor Dini profile is one in twenty nine Quadrille in Cook Asians twenty nine with how many's yours fifteen zeros and with that after six days of testimony the prosecution rested now. The defense holding a very poor hand would have to a fight for Gary Hilton's life it's case was brief. Lead attorney says Super Cold One witness an expert on to mark identification who testified by videotape. Arguing that the bayonet and evidence could not in her opinion be determined to be what had been used to slash victims tire subjective. Yeah it's based on the Individual Examiners training inexperience. He defense was trying to impeach the testimony of the State's expert. Who you said Hilton's bayonet had slash Cheryl dunlap's tire and that was it for the defense? Gary Hilton declined to take the stand. Do you wish to testify one. In sixty three million. In her closing argument the prosecutor reminded the jury of those big number DNA matches. What are the odds that somebody else's DNA is on that sleeping bag? Other than Cheryl dunlap won an eleven trillion Caucasians. I need Subaru's closed for the the defense was far more vigorous than her limited witness list might have suggested we have absolutely no evidence not direct evidence. The Mr Hilton come in murder. The jurors began their deliberations Koppelman and her boss waited for them to return there. You've done a lot of trials. Is this just another day at the office. No no it's never when you're waiting for a verdict or palms are sweaty and your Heart's beaten and you're very nervous Harris and I can tell you I've been doing thirty five years now. It's never gone away from me. There's this It really liked. Throw a while. You're waiting on them to do you until you hear it read. It's it is tents coming up. What would they decide with? The jury found his. This follows the Virgin A. Hey it's Craz you know. Sometimes it's good to just take a step back back from the day to day onslaught of news and take our broader. Look the issues. That's what I'm doing each week on my podcast. Why is this happening? Were exploring topics ranging from school segregation. The climate change. Well the way that I think it is. Climate Change will be to the twenty first century. What modernity west of the nineteenth century it'll be the central subject of questions about economic justice us? Everything that you care about in the world will be affected by climate and digging deep with guests uniquely qualified to analyze issues from mass incarceration to race relations. As you know for the first time in our our history at the national level whites are on the verge of losing their majority status in twenty years and I think it's no coincidence that our politics are getting more tribal. Join me for why. Why is this happening? New episodes every Tuesday. Wherever you get your podcasts the trial of Gary Hilt for the murder of Cheryl Dunloy had taken seven days? The six-man six woman jury needed less than three and a half hours to reach its verdict on multiple counts state of Florida versus Gary. Michael Hilton we the jury find as follows as to count one of the indictment. The defendant offended Gary Hilton is guilty of first degree murder count. Two of them Diary Hilton was found. Guilty of first degree murder of Cheryl dunlap guilty on all counts except car theft. The same jurors would soon reconvene to decide if Hilton would die by lethal injection. He dodged death and George and now it was time to see if he could do it again. You might think that capital punishment but Florida's active death row would have been a given Gary Hilton but not so says Tallahassee Democrat Democrats senior writer Jennifer Portman and Leon County. We had not even sent anyone to death row in twenty years. So it's not a foregone conclusion that this is going to be hanging jury absolutely absolutely not. We've had our share of horrendous crimes. Don't get me wrong but the jurors here are just very uneasy about sending people to death. Row this man Mr Hilton Assistant. State's attorney Georgia Koppelman got the initial conviction of Hilton. What are the words used to describe this guy? He's a psychopath. And you know there's crazy sick and there's crazy mean he's just crazy mean. He's intelligence a college graduate. He was a member of our armed forces. He's probably smarter than everybody sitting in this room. There were different rules in this. The penalty phase unlike in the trial prosecutors were now now able to disclose to jurors that Hilton murdered Meredith Emerson on Blood Mountain and state's attorney Willie megs did just that calling to the stand Georgia Bureau of Investigation allegation agents. Who'd worked on the Emerson case? You indicated that Ms Nelson Body was nude Did Gary Michael Hilton. Tell you why it was. I knew he did he. He basically stated that he had Removed the head and stripped the clothing for forensic purposes makes was able cool to introduce portions of those chilling interviews. That Hilton gave the authorities in Georgia in pain. You're GONNA kill them. You don't think phase was one of the more interesting parts of the trial. That's where you started getting this information about Emerson Emerson because I I saw Georgia information was allowed into the correct. So that is when you really start seeing the jurors taking in the enormity then you really see the impact of all this coming coming through Robert. Freedman was the defenses lead attorney in the penalty phase. His strategy was to present Hilton as so mentally damaged as to be incapable of responsibility for his actions. Friedman began with a pet scan expert who testified about traumatic brain damage Hilton. It suffered as a ten year old. When Murphy bed accidentally fell on him a nearly scalped him he was taken to Saint Joseph Hospital on campaign given two hundred stitches? And this is an example of Murphy perfect bad and jurors. That's not all the defense's expert continued. Hilton was abused as a child and he lashed out as a teenager. The doctor testified that Hilton was so diluted that he believed he had worked on a movie about killing women in the forest. That of course was a slip up. Hilton had done just that and the defense error opened the door for the prosecution to tell the story about the movie deadly run or would that be delusional. If it's the truth I know a defense neuropsychologist tested Hilton to it. Turns out is as bright as he thinks he is. The wechsler intelligence scale. He scored an overall overall verbal. I Q of One hundred twenty which puts them in the upper ten percent or so of the population another psychiatrist diagnosed him with Schizo affective and antisocial personality disorder compounded by an old fashioned edible complex. We call it an unresolved oedipus complex and a child can grow up with this emptiness inside of them to top it off. The defense continued Hilton was self medicating with prescription drugs. Ritalin and effectual axel basically push you over that line. The defense then treated jurors to Gary Hilton. This is your life a saga of abuse neglect and injury it included an audiotape. Hilton's late mother talking about how as a teenager Hilton had wounded his stepfather and he said Chevy shipping the camera shot in the legs or in the stomach lower part of his junior high girlfriend testified that Gary it wasn't a bad guy back in the day. He was funny and outgoing and smart. The defense rash once the defense rested Willie megs called his rebuttal. Witness a a clinical psychologist to revisit the essential issues the mystery Hilton. Did he know right from wrong. My opinion is that yes. He clearly knew right from wrong and clearly he knew the criminal nature of his conduct in my opinion is that he is a psychopath. And that's that's what generated the murders and nothing else the attorneys. He's made their final appeal to the jurors. I'm going to ask everyone of you individually to go back in that jury room and vote to recommend end the Gary Hilton be put today on behalf of Mr Hilton. I'm asking all of you collectively and individually to recommend a life sentence in this case the jurors then retired to deliberate nothing less than whether Gary Hilton should live or die. Hi coming up another haunting question. Were there more victims out in the forest personally believed there and Dan a legacy. She's really the hero. It was through her efforts that we were able to catch her killer remembering meredith. Hope Amerson When dateline continues the same jurors who found Gary Hilton guilty of murdering Cheryl dunlap? We're now trying to decide if they should recommend Hilton. Spend life keep in prison or be put to death by lethal injection. Their life or death debate lasted an hour and twenty minutes of majority of the jury by a vote of twelve to nothing. Advise recommend to the court as the death penalty on Gary. Michael Hilton Hilton Sat expressionless as the results were read and where two weeks later and equally emotionless Hilton listened as the judge pronounced his sentence. Is that you gary. Michael Hilton contest to death. For the murder Cheryl dunlap Meta God. Have mercy on your soul. Gary Michael Hilton was sent to Florida's death row for the murder of Cheryl dumb three months later he was shackled and transported to western North Carolina and indicted in federal court there for the murders of John and Irene Arena Bryant the government alleged. The serial killer murdered the elderly couple in October of two thousand seven shortly before killing Cheryl Dunlap and Meredith Emerson. James Hilton pleaded not guilty. The forensic team from Florida that helped convict there was all set to testify in the federal trial. And all that evidence stored in the FDLE's basement just across the hall from the Boxes Containing Evidence Against Florida's more infamous serial killer. Ted Bundy was ready to get truck. Milk Hilton was facing another death sentence in the federal trial and David Mahoney. The local. Sheriff was certain jury would provide justice for the. Bryant's we have a good case Tremendous number of man hours spent an investigation tremendous cooperation between all of the local state and federal agencies as it were involved in all three states but a trial wouldn't be necessary in March two thousand Twelve Hilton pleaded guilty to killing John and Irene Bryant and got another another life sentence. Law enforcement officials from across the South East have met with golden on Florida's death row attempting to find out how many more of his victims might be out there. You think there are others. I think they're certainly the potential to be others. I don't know that we'll ever know for sure. And unless he tells us so. Far Hilton is sticking to his store. That and he started hunting as he describes it in October of two thousand seven that there were no murders before them like most of the other officers who've investigated Helton mm-hmm agent. Any white isn't buying. She says they have a lot of work ahead. Is it your belief Anne that there are more out there more victims of Gary Hilton. I personally believe there. Aw He's just been to many places so it just makes me think that there's probably more we're going to continue to look at every case that we can compare profiles and look for evidence the pain and suffering of the families of Hilton's victims and suspected victims dolls but never ends. He's taken so much for me and my family really. What can you say to someone who had murdered two wonderful people for three hundred dollars and Meredith Komo beautiful young lady Cheryl Dunlop and and very possibly many more. The man is not even what I think of is human. He is something else a true psychopath who needs to be put where he can never harm anyone else again for Shirl Dunlap's friends and family and Florida Hilton's conviction provoked conflicting feelings and I think believe it. No not that Cheryl would want us to forgive and when I went into the courtroom and I actually saw him. My thought was not that They put him to death or so that I was glad he was off the street. But I have to forgive Gary Hilton. I I have to be in the family. It was a death penalty case and the jury recommended the death penalty and that was the sentence. Does it matter to you clearer. Pleased with the outcome. Yes and like Laura said he's off the streets He's not hurt anyone again Yes I think it matters and there are regrets on the part of the officers who investigated the Hilton cases. Could there have been one tip line that come in sooner. Could've been one fragment information we could have put together more quickly and spared her. That hasn't been a day go by since I haven't thought about mad at them or so and what we could've should've done differently but see. She's really the hero she did the best. She could in hopes that we could catch up. It was through her efforts that we were able to catch her killer but also the killer. That was responsible for the killing of Sheldon. You're in Georgia for Meredith Emerson's closest friends. It's time to forget about Gary Hilton and remember her. He took our friend. He took a daughter a sister but he can't take her memory. He can't take the things we love about her away us. The important didn't work to be done. We started an organization in her memory. Julia Karen Bow or Meredith. Emerson's one time roommate. Georgia has founded along with others. Something called old right to hike advocating hiker safety. We didn't want anybody to go through this again. Either to bring awareness of what happened and how it happened and maybe make you think about going hiking by yourself twice. Take a friend you know to to be a little safer. The organization founded by Meredith. Emerson's friends has sponsored offense with a huge turnout of people and dogs. Meredith's dog Ella went to live with her parents in Colorado any event that we ever have for a hike just seen people come and say I never met Meredith but I feel like I know her and I wanted to come out and support and that was the biggest thing the community outreach after everything a happened right to hike aided humane societies educated hikers on safe practices and put Cell Towers on trail heads. One of the big things things that we realized very quickly on these trails that our cell phones didn't work and Meredith. Had Her cell phone with her and that didn't help her ever hike blood mountain. You just might notice a little sticker there as you head out. Remember me and the Meredith Emerson she most of all would like you to enjoy your day in the outdoors. Talk just really enjoyed being out with nature and watching a run through the forest and play with other dogs. I think it was a really peaceful a place for her to be people. Go to these places to relax and get away from everyday life and enjoy the outdoors and then they should continue to do that. These are some of the safest safest places there until the monster shows up. Yeah Gary Hilton has been on death row since April two thousand eleven. His appeals continue. You the average stay on Florida's death row is twelve and a half years. And that's all for this edition of Dateline. We'll see you again next Friday at nine eight central and of course I'll see you each weeknight for N._B._C.. Nightly news I'm Lester Holt for all of us at N._B._C.. News good night.

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