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Dawson News and Advertiser

Emerson was easy prey for Hilton
By CHARLES DUNCAN

DAWSONVILLE - Gary Michael Hilton's only motive for choosing Meredith Emerson: she was a female and hiking alone on Blood Mountain, the confessed killer told authorities.

The 24-year-old avid hiker from Buford wasn't Hilton's first choice to kidnap from the Apalachian Trail in Union County. On Dec. 31, he had been closely watching another woman along the trail, authorities revealed Thursday.

He abandoned that potential victim because he couldn't catch the woman in a situation where she was alone on the popular hiking trail in mountainous Union County.


"He actually talked with her, but she was with other people," Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said during Hilton's sentencing hearing in the Dawson County Courthouse.

Unfortunately at 1 p.m. on New Year's Day, Meredith Hope Emerson arrived alone with her dog Ella at the Byron Herbert Reece Memorial Trailhead. She was looking forward to a day hike on her favorite mountain trail, Darragh said.

Darragh sized up the case. He said Hilton's home amounted to sleeping in his van in national and state parks. On Dec. 31, Hilton was seen hiking on the same trail that he kidnapped Meredith Emerson from and he confronted a female hiker on that day. However, that hiker had company and eliminated Hilton's criminal window of opportunity.

On the next day, Hilton spotted Emerson, hiking with her Labrador mix named Ella. Darragh said witnesses noticed Hilton following Emerson along the trail. One witness, a former law enforcement officer, said Hilton had a large knife and a police-style baton attached to his belt.

Later that afternoon, that witness found two water bottles, a dog leash and some dog treats along with a police-style baton at the edge of the hiking trail, Darragh said.

"(The witness) believed that the baton was dropped by this defendant and became concerned for Miss Emerson's well being," Darragh said. "He suspected a struggle at that location.

"Evidence has shown that in fact, there was a struggle at that location between Miss Emerson and this defendant," Darragh said. "The defendant, however, was able to place her under his control eventually."

After Hilton subdued Emerson, he took her back down the trail to where her car and his van were located. Hilton took her purse from her car and took ATM cards, other cards and other identifying information, Darragh said.

At that time "Miss Emerson was placed into his van," Darragh said.

Throughout the next couple of days Hilton drove Emerson from bank-to-bank and various locations throughout North Georgia attempting to secure money from ATMs, Darragh said.

"At those times, Miss Emerson gave him incorrect PIN numbers," Darragh said. "He was unsuccessful (at getting money from her bank account)."

"I like to think that she was doing everything she could in hopes that perhaps he would get caught at these ATMs," Darragh said.

On Jan. 4, witnesses placed Hilton driving along the Dawson Forest Road area. Later that day, Hilton was captured in DeKalb County attempting to sanitize his white, Chevrolet Astro van.

"He was disposing of evidence from his van," Darragh said. "Evidence included blood evidence that was connected to Miss Emerson through DNA testing.

"He was arrested on a warrant that was issued out of the Northern District of Georgia," Darragh said. "He was taken into custody by the United States Marshals' Service."

On Saturday, Jan. 5, Hilton was charged with kidnapping with bodily injury and subsequently on Monday, Jan. 7, he was denied bond by a Union County magistrate judge.

"Following those court proceedings some plea negotiations took place between the district attorney in Union County and the person who had been representing him," Darragh said.

"As a result of those negotiations, the defendant Hilton agreed to tell the GBI where to find the body of Meredith Emerson," Darragh said. "He took them there (Shoal Creek Road, in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area).

"During the statements that he gave, he stated that he unlawfully abducted Meredith Emerson on the Freeman Trail on Jan. 1. He chose her because she was a female and alone.

"His sole purpose was to acquire her ATM card and PIN number," Darragh said. "He mentioned at one point during the interview that he knew eventually, he would take her life."

"As I mentioned before, there was a struggle. Eventually, he was able to get her to be compliant. At various locations, at Gainesville and other places, he tried to get money from her account. He didn't get one dime."

On Jan. 4, he told Emerson he was going to let her go. He tied her to a tree at a location in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. The two conversed no more. He walked to his van to secure an instrument of death - his van's tire tool.

"When he came back, he turned with a jack handle and struck Miss Emerson in the head several times," Darragh said. "He struck her until she was deceased."

Hilton then took steps to try to confuse the evidence, Darragh said.

"He used the phrase 'for forensic purposes.' As mentioned before, there was a decapitation of Miss Emerson, however, that was after her death. The evidence is clear that the homicide occurred in Dawson County in Dawson Forest Management Area," Darragh said.

When the day was done, Darragh stood in his office, numb from his day's work. He smiled as he remembered Meredith Hope Emerson.

"She was a hero," he said. "She was smart and resourceful. Gary Hilton had a expandable baton and a knife. Due to Meredith's physical prowess, Mr. Hilton was forced to leave those items behind on the Apalachian Trail.

"Still, he was able to control her. Through her resourcefulness, she was able to extend her life for three days, eventually, charting a course that would lead to Hilton's capture," Darragh said. "Unfortunately, she would lose her life on that desperate journey.


"Our thoughts and prayers will always be with the family of Meredith Hope Emerson.

"We'll always remember that for a short while in January 2008, she brought a nation together in humble prayer," he said. "Now, she will spend an eternity with the angels in Heaven."
 

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Life in prison is way to good for this POS. I hope they get him on the NC or FL murders and give him what he deserves.
 

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I hope more comes out on this guy's lifestyle so that LEO's have a better database or at least serious suspicions of this type person. Encounters, even short of a formal arrest, with these types need to be documented and shared across state lines. Looks like he had several rough talk encounters with LEO's and they just told him to move along.

Apparently at one time, for a long time, he delivered door-to-door advertising sheets for a siding company and the owner let him live at the office. I wonder if the "no soliciting" signs you see in some neighborhoods have any real teeth in them ?

How in the world can a violent, partly or mostly crazy, convicted felon support himself for years ? And well enough to own and keep a van running and travel to and hang around parks in several states and sliding by in his LEO encounters ? It costs real money to live and drive.

This guy must have been a big time burglar / robber for a long long time.

Wonder if he has any history of standing in intersections begging ?

Maybe there will be more answers to come before a fellow prisoner or some states lethal injection takes him away.
 

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Needs Love

Gary Michael Hilton obviously needs love. I hope he gets lots of love from his fellow inmates. In the prison shower. The biggest love from the biggest inmates!
 

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Re: Needs Love

gunsmoker said:
Gary Michael Hilton obviously needs love. I hope he gets lots of love from his fellow inmates. In the prison shower. The biggest love from the biggest inmates!
amen, brother
 

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New2Atlanta said:
I hope more comes out on this guy's lifestyle so that LEO's have a better database or at least serious suspicions of this type person. Encounters, even short of a formal arrest, with these types need to be documented and shared across state lines. Looks like he had several rough talk encounters with LEO's and they just told him to move along.
I'm sick about what this animal did to Emerson and at least several other victims. But we need to be careful. This is still the United States. We have a Bill of Rights. Freedom involves risks. If we remove the risks, we won't be free anymore.

I'd rather teach every woman in my life to carry and use a handgun than start government surveilance on anyone who "seems" a bit strange.
 

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Watch the Nuts?

I agree in principle that when the police encounter somebody who is suspicious, they should try to identify the person and check to see if there are any active warrants for that persons arrest, any restraining orders or trespass notices banning them from the property the cop finds them on, etc.

But in practice, this would require the cops to write a report every time they talk to a civilian. That would slow them down and interfere with their job.

And I don't want people forced to give their indentifying information to a cop, when the cop doesn't have a good reason to suspect the individual of being involved in a crime.

If cops added people's names and photos to a "suspicious person" database every time the cops talked to the subject of a complaint or call, even involving conduct that was not criminal with no arrest, I would have my "mug shot" and name on that list for my wearing an orange GeorgiaCarry.Org button and asking a simple question to one of the protestors at that "Protest Easy Guns" die-in the other day.
 

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I'll be on a plane in the morning. In the same country that will check me against a no fly list and take away my toothpaste. Well back to the topic:

It seems many of the wackos (Va Tech, the city council last week) signal their intentions long before they bust. These are the ones that need special attention.
 

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Re: Watch the Nuts?

gunsmoker said:
I agree in principle that when the police encounter somebody who is suspicious, . . .

And I don't want people forced to give their indentifying information to a cop, when the cop doesn't have a good reason to suspect the individual of being involved in a crime.
Suspicion of a crime, not just "suspicious." :wink:
 

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Sharky said:
This is just another reason I am slowly getting my fiance into the idea of getting her GFL!

She is very close to wanting it herself!
+1... My wife last week said, "well, it looks like I need to learn how to shoot your guns" :woohoo:

Over the years, (and through NO prodding from me) she has transformed from "I don't like those things; I don't know why you need those things" to "if you're going to wear that thing, I don't want to know about it" to "do you have your gun on you?" to "you do have your gun, don't you" to "well, it looks like I need to learn how to shoot your guns". She has never HELD a pistol, to the best of my knowledge.... I am in the process of lining up some training with Scott - Centerfire Training right now.

She has agreed to get her GFL. Will post the results from the Cobb County Probate Court (aka "THE DEVIL") but first things first....... she has to join GCO! :shoot:
 

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GooberTim said:
Sharky said:
This is just another reason I am slowly getting my fiance into the idea of getting her GFL!

She is very close to wanting it herself!
+1... My wife last week said, "well, it looks like I need to learn how to shoot your guns" :woohoo:

Over the years, (and through NO prodding from me) she has transformed from "I don't like those things; I don't know why you need those things" to "if you're going to wear that thing, I don't want to know about it" to "do you have your gun on you?" to "you do have your gun, don't you" to "well, it looks like I need to learn how to shoot your guns". She has never HELD a pistol, to the best of my knowledge.... I am in the process of lining up some training with Scott - Centerfire Training right now.

She has agreed to get her GFL. Will post the results from the Cobb County Probate Court (aka "THE DEVIL") but first things first....... she has to join GCO! :shoot:
That's a very familiar conversation. My wife got her license a few months ago.
 

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What happened to Meredith is beyond comprehension, I still cannot take in the fact that some twisted psychotic scumbag pile of feces could do this to another human being....Though, in reality, I know these animals exist...

My thoughts and prayers are with the Emerson family, I know they will be trying to cope with this their entire lives...

But knowing the reality exists for psychotic monsters to wander aimlessly seeking victims , I sure as heck wish my Wife would consdier getting her GFL renwed..She let it expire last year because she doesn't feel comfortable carrying....

And nothing I do or say will convice her that carrying is the #1 method of self-defense. At least she has pepper spray...

Again , I hope Meredith has found peace where she is now..
 

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Taurus said:
What happened to Meredith is beyond comprehension....
:evil:

On Jan. 4, he told Emerson he was going to let her go. He tied her to a tree at a location in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. The two conversed no more. He walked to his van to secure an instrument of death - his van's tire tool.

"When he came back, he turned with a jack handle and struck Miss Emerson in the head several times," Darragh said. "He struck her until she was deceased."
 

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I'm having a lot of trouble getting her death out of my head. Every time I put a gun in my pocket or on my belt, I think to myself, if she had been able and willing to carry, she might be alive today.

It's making my blood boil.
 

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rbstern said:
I'm having a lot of trouble getting her death out of my head. Every time I put a gun in my pocket or on my belt, I think to myself, if she had been able and willing to carry, she might be alive today.

It's making my blood boil.
I've actually met her parents and escorted them around the park and pet Meredith's dog during the SAR effort. I still keep up on the trial and further details of what this p.o.s. did to his other victims. I go hiking in those mtns and I will think of her everytime I go there.
 
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