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Where is the National Forest Serial Killer Today?


Gary Hilton stands out as one of the most notorious serial killers in history, primarily due to his distinct lack of remorse and the absence of clear motives for his heinous crimes. His demeanor exhibited a sense of superiority, devoid of any compassion or empathy for his victims. Proven guilty in the murder of four individuals, Hilton is suspected to have been involved in numerous other killings. The details surrounding his capture and his current whereabouts, which have been the highlight in Hulu’s ‘Wild Crime: Blood Mountain,’ provide insight into the methods employed to bring this infamous serial killer to justice.

Gary Hilton’s Criminal History

Gary Hilton hailed from the Atlanta, Georgia region and was born on November 2, 1946. Details about his early life are scarce, with Hilton claiming to have had a challenging childhood marked by traumatic experiences to the head. He served in the Army as a paratrooper but faced an honorable discharge in 1967 following a schizophrenic episode. While Hilton had minor offenses on his record, such as charges related to drunk driving and drug possession, there were no significant criminal incidents. His association with businessman John Tabor came to an end when Hilton displayed violent and aggressive behavior, made threats, and continually sought financial assistance.

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In October 2007, Irene and John Bryant embarked on a hiking trip in the Pisgah National Forest. It is believed that Hilton encountered them during their hike and launched an attack. He killed Irene on the spot and took John hostage, intending to use his ATM to withdraw money. Irene’s body was discovered on November 10, 2008, while John was considered abducted by the authorities. With no leads, Hilton remained unidentified. On December 3, 2007, Hilton targeted 46-year-old Cheryl Hodges Dunlap, who was also on a hiking expedition. A hunter found a body on December 16, 2007, in the Apalachicola National Forest and it was identified as that of Cheryl’s with her DNA as she had been decapitated. Some individuals reported seeing a man with a dog resembling Hilton and his retriever, Dandy, but the police were unable to apprehend him at that time.

Hilton entered the public eye at a later date. In January 2008, the disappearance of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson near Blood Mountain in Georgia brought attention to him. He had attacked her while she was on a hike and abducted her for four days. He wanted her ATM PIN and she kept giving him the wrong one to give the police more time to find her. When he killed her, he had promised that he would let her go but he later told the police that he had no intention of doing so. Eyewitnesses described a man resembling Hilton who had been following and acting suspiciously around Meredith. His former employer, Tabor, verified his identity to the police, prompting law enforcement to release his image to the public. Many people reported sightings of Hilton, and he was spotted at a QuikTrip in Cumming. Aware of his pictures in the newspaper, Hilton was observed cleaning his truck of potential evidence and planning to use bleach on his vehicle. Responding swiftly, the police arrested him at the scene.

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Gary Hilton is on Death Row Today

In exchange for revealing information about Meredith’s body, Hilton struck a deal with the police to eliminate the possibility of a death sentence. He guided them to the location where he had killed and decapitated Meredith. Hilton pleaded guilty to her murder and received a life sentence with the chance of parole in 30 years. However, the police had opportunities to impose harsher penalties. Hilton refused to acknowledge the charges related to the attacks on John and Irene Bryant, and despite John’s body being found in February 2008 by a hunter, Hilton withheld information about his involvement in the murders. A month later, Florida authorities charged him with the murder of Cheryl and extradited him to Leon County.

At Cheryl’s trial, the police presented video footage found in Hilton’s car along with all the forensic evidence. The video showed him singing while disposing of Cheryl’s body and speaking about his victims in a highly derogatory manner. In February 2011, he was convicted of Cheryl’s murder and received a death sentence. In 2012, Hilton faced charges for the murder of Irene and John Bryant, reaching a plea deal with the authorities. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, admitting to killing Irene and kidnapping John to wring money out of him. Hilton had used John’s card to withdraw $300 before fatally shooting him in the head with a .22 Magnum.

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Gary Hilton has been labeled a serial killer by numerous criminal experts and law enforcement agencies. He claimed that he committed the crimes because he wanted money but people who have examined him allege that he continued with the crimes and was extremely violent due to psychopathic tendencies and the desire for control. Most of them have suspicions that he did not begin his killing spree so late in life and has been attacking people since a very young age. He is suspected in the disappearance and killing of numerous individuals, including women and children. Despite appealing against his death sentence in 2018, his appeal was denied. Presently, he is serving his sentences at the Georgia Diag Class Prison and is awaiting his execution.

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