Gary Michael Hilton Is the Suspected Murderer of Meredith Emerson

Gary Michael Hilton picture

Gary Michael Hilton, pictured left, is the "person of interests" in Meredith Emerson's disappearance, according to the police. It was reported that Michael Hilton, 61, of DeKalb County (near Atlanta), who was seen by other hikers in Vogel State Park as he and Emerson walked with their dogs up Freeman Trail on Blood Mountain.

Gary Michael Hilton was once convicted of two felonies: one for the possession and distribution of marijuana, another for theft by taking. According to public records, his last known address was on 11th Street in Atlanta in 1999.

Kimberly Verdone, an investigator for the Union County Sheriff's Office, said Hilton is a "person of interest" in Meredith Emerson's disappearance because he was the last person seen with her.

Police said he was last spotted driving a white Chevrolet Astro van with license plate number 76APZ. He also has a 2001 white van with plate number AFQ1310; both vehicles are registered in DeKalb County, police said.

Gary Michael Hilton mugshotGary Michael Hilton Mugshot

Before Hilton was connected to the case, several people told investigators they saw her with a gray- or silver-haired man who had a backpack and wore a yellow jacket with black elbow patches and stripes, Verdone said. Police say Hilton is about 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds.

As Hiking Trip Reports said, Gary Michael Hilton could be anywhere and may know something about the disappearance of Meredith Emerson. If you know where to find Gary Michael Hilton please call the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 706-439-6066.

Update (January 5): Gary Michael Hilton, was picked up at a convenience store in an Atlanta suburb by DeKalb County police and currently was questioned at a Georgia Bureau of Investigation office for the missing hiker's disappearance.

Update (Janurary 6): Missing hiker Meredith Emerson was believed dead. And Gary Michael Hilton was officially charged with kidnapping with bodily injury in the disappearance of Meredith Emerson. Authorities were serving the warrant signed by Union County Superior Court Judge David Barrett on Hilton Saturday evening. The warrant was issued "based on evidence recovered in various locations," said Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead.

Update (Janurary 6, CNN). Meredith Emerson's missing ID and blood-stained clothes found.

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.

Update: Gary Michael Hilton may be connected to the disappearance and presumed slayings last October of John and Irene Bryant, an elderly couple from North Carolina.

On Sunday, officials for the first time acknowledged there could be a connection between the Emerson case and the disappearance and presumed slayings last October of John and Irene Bryant, an elderly couple from North Carolina.

In the still-unsolved case of the Bryants, who also were avid hikers, the couple were last sighted Oct. 20 in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest. Three weeks later, Irene Bryant's bludgeoned body was discovered. Her husband remains missing.

Bob Bryant, the couple's son, said in a telephone interview Sunday night that he, too, saw similarities between the cases involving Emerson and his parents. He noted a man fitting Hilton's build and wearing a yellow jacket was recorded using his parent's bank card at a North Carolina ATM machine in October.

Authorities in the Emerson case had been looking for a man in a yellow jacket before Hilton's arrest. And in the suspect's arrest warrant, police said surveillance photos taken at a Regions Bank in Canton showed him attempting use a credit card belonging to Emerson.

Bryant also said his mother was killed with a blunt instrument. According to Hilton's arrest warrant, a police-style baton was found in the mountains, the same kind "Hilton was known to carry" during hikes.

"The more I learn about this guy, the more similarities I see," said Bryant, of Austin, Texas.

Update (January 8 CNN): After Gary Michael Hilton told the authorities where to find Emerson's body in exchange for prosecutors' agreeing to drop consideration of the death penalty, her corpse was found about 7:30 p.m. Monday January 7 in the 25,000-acre Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area -- about 30 miles south of the Union County, Georgia, state park where she went hiking. Other than Hilton might be involved the murdering in North Carolina, he may be also connected to a similar hiking killing in Florida.

Update (January 9 CNN): Gary Michael Hilton was believed to have inflicted blunt force trauma to Meredith Emerson's head before he finally decapitated her.

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