Gary Michael Hilton confessed to the GBI that he killed and decapitated the 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate on a hiking trial. He gave details of the four days between the time he abducted her on the trail and when he killed her four days later.
Meredith Emerson's Last Days
According to Keenan, Hilton gave the following account of Emerson's last days:
Hilton said he targeted Emerson because she was a woman. They hiked together on Jan. 1 on the mountain trail, but Hilton, 61, could not keep up with Emerson. He waited for her to head back down the trail before he attacked her with a military-style knife.
Hilton demanded that Emerson give him her ATM card, but she immediately fought back, grabbing the knife blade and a baton Hilton had. "She wouldn't stop," Hilton told investigators. "She wouldn't stop fighting. And yelling at the same time. So I needed to both control her and silence her."
Hilton punched her hard. Blackening both of her eyes and probably breaking her nose, but Emerson continued to fight back. He said he calmed her down by telling her that all he wanted was her credit card and PIN number.
He finally managed to get her back down the trail and he put her and her dog Ella into his van. For the next three days, Emerson bought herself time over the next three days by giving Hilton the wrong PIN numbers.
We Didn't Get There in Time
"That's the one thing that broke my heart in this case," GBI agent Clay Bridges told the newspaper. "She was doing everything she was supposed to do to stay alive, and we didn't get there in time."
On the day he killed Emerson, he told her she was going home, but instead he tied her to tree. He went back to his van to make coffee then returned to her location. "I was afraid you weren't coming back," Emerson told Hilton.
He walked around behind her and hit her over the head several times with a car jack handle. Hilton said he couldn't bring himself to kill her dog.
"It was hard," Hilton told Agent Bridges. "You gotta remember we had spent several good days together."