Confessed killer transferred to face Fla. charge

Gary Michael Hilton admitted to killing a hiker in Georgia. He could be executed if he's convicted of killing another woman in Florida.Ben Gray / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The confessed killer of a Georgia hiker was turned over to Florida officials Friday to face a murder charge in the killing and decapitation of a nurse in that state.

Gary Michael Hilton was indicted in the death of 46-year-old Cheryl Hodges Dunlap, a nurse from Crawfordville, Fla., whose headless body was found Dec. 19 in the Apalachicola National Forest.

Hilton admitted to the January killing of 24-year-old hiker Meredith Emerson of Athens and was sentenced to life in prison. Emerson disappeared near Blood Mountain in Union County and was beaten to death and then beheaded three days later, as searchers continued to scour the woods looking for her. He led authorities to her body and confessed on condition that he not receive the death penalty.

Hilton, 61, faces execution in Florida if he is convicted of Dunlap's killing.

Florida authorities picked him up at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison outside of Jackson Friday morning and took him to Tallahassee.

Leon County, Fla., prosecutor Willie Meggs said Hilton most likely will have his first court appearance to have charges against him read on Saturday. Meggs said a trial is likely in the next year.

At the time of Emerson's kidnapping and murder, Leon County authorities were investigating Dunlap's killing. Hilton was indicted in the Dunlap case in late February.

He is considered a suspect in the killing in North Carolina of an elderly couple in October. John Bryant, 79, and his wife, Irene, 84, vanished while hiking in the Pisgah National Forest. Her beaten body was found three weeks later, and her husband was found in early February.