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Who is Gary Michael Hilton? *UPDATED*


The first entry about the disappearance of Meredith Emerson can be read here.

Gary Hilton led the GBI to Meredith Emerson’s body in the Dawson Forest on Monday night. The same forest where Levi Frady was found a decade ago.

Frady, age 11, was last seen alive on October 22, 1997.

Levi was murdered after he disappeared from Forsyth County, GA. His body was found the day after he vanished in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area in Dawson County.

Levi’s killer has never been caught.

However, a look at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s page about Levi’s unsolved homicide reveals two sketches. One is a man the GBI calls a potential witness in the case. He looks like the classic hobo or tramp, wearing a slouchy ball cap.

The other sketch is the one seen above, beside a photo of Gary Hilton, whom authorities believe may have kidnapped and killed 24-year-old Meredith Emerson as she was hiking with her dog Ella on January 1, 2008, on Blood Mountain in Union County, GA. According to the GBI, the ‘potential witness’ on the right was in the Dawson Forest around the same time Levi vanished. From the GBI web page:

He is described as a white male, 45 to 55 years of age, clean shaven, 6′ 0″ to 6′ 1″ tall, slim build with white or gray hair. He was driving a 1980 to 1985 medium blue Toyota, 2 wheel drive, pick-up truck with a white camper shell over the bed of the vehicle…

Perhaps it is pure coincidence that Gary Hilton looks so much like Frady witness number 2. Perhaps it is a coincidence that Hilton is about the age witness number 2 was said to be. And it may be a coincidence that Hilton is near the height given for the mysterious man sought in connection with Levi’s murder.

Then there’s this, from the Gainesville, (GA) Times: “GBI: Emerson’s body found in Dawson Forest.”

A quote from the article, written by Harris Blackwood:

The prime suspect in the case of a missing Buford woman led investigators from Dawson County and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to the woman’s remains in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, south of Dawsonville, Monday night.

John Cagle, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Cleveland office, announced the discovery of Meredith Hope Emerson’s body Monday at a 10 p.m. news conference at a Dawson County middle school…

Authorities already want to know about any connection Gary Hilton might have to other cases. Two of those still-unsolved mysteries are listed below:

John and Irene Bryant — the elderly couple were hiking in the mountains in North Carolina when they disappeared last October. Irene was found dead later. John has never been found. A mysterious figure in a yellow slicker on an ATM surveillance video is all investigators have to go on where suspects in the Bryant case are concerned.

Patrice Endres — Hairdresser Patrice Endres disappeared from Forsyth County in April, 2004. She was abducted from her beauty salon in Cumming. The search for Endres lasted more than a year. Her body was recovered in Dawsonville in December, 2005. Serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones has long been a suspect in the Endres case (AMW.com pages on Patrice Endres).

Another young woman who, like Meredith Emerson, had connections to the University of Georgia has also been missing from Athens since December 29, 2007. Cayle Bywater, age 29, left the door to her residence standing open, her dog running free. Bywater’s car, wallet, and cell phone were all still in her home. There is some suspicion that Gary Hilton may have had something to do with Bywater’s disappearance, but Bywater’s past struggles with bipolar disorder have clouded the investigation into her vanishing. Her family insists she would never leave with no contact whatsoever.

Is Gary Michael Hilton an aging petty criminal who finally stopped caring whether or not his victims lived or died? Or is he a crafty serial killer?

Were it not for the locations in the Frady murder and the apparent resemblance between Hilton and the second witness sketch, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to suspect that Hilton had anything to do with the little boy’s murder. Serial criminals do tend to go for a certain type of victim, and too often that type is a young female.

Then again, the same type of reasoning would also lead one to believe Hilton had nothing to do with the Bryants’ disappearance in North Carolina last fall.

So it may be time to leave that line of reasoning.

This blog post was titled “Who is Gary Michael Hilton?”

At this point it might be appropriate to ask just what he is, as well.

Many thanks to commentator “Tammy” for pointing out Hilton’s resemblance to the sketch related to the Frady case.

UPDATE, 1/08/08, 3:45 p.m. ET

CNN has an update on this case. It is not recommended reading for the faint-of-heart. Meredith Emerson died of blunt force trauma, and her head was removed after her death.

Just as chilling: Hilton held Meredith Emerson hostage for three days after he allegedly kidnapped her.

In a comment left on this post, “thefirstdiane” stated that a Florida crime possibly tied to Hilton, the murder and robbery of Cheryl Hodges Dunlap, involved the removal of body parts as well.

I can’t believe a first-time killer would remove a victim’s head after death. That seems like the work of a person who is quite comfortable with death. Few first time killers would hold an intelligent, alert, physically fit young woman captive for 3 days.

Local news outlets here in the Atlanta area report that the charges against Gary Hilton have been upgraded to first-degree murder. The AP has reported that Hilton said he’d help investigators so long as they agreed to not seek the death penalty against him.

What was Gary Michael Hilton? At the moment, it appears as though he was pure evil.

UPDATE, 1/09/08

Gary Hilton is now officially a suspect in the murder of Cheryl Hodges Dunlap. Dunlap was slain and her body found in December in a North Florida national forest.

Like Meredith Emerson, Cheryl Dunlap was decapitated.