Tag Archives: murder

The Trial of Gary Michael Hilton…and His Dog

Hilton is now on trial in Tallahassee for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap, a 46 year-old nurse and Sunday School teacher who was reported missing when she didn’t show up to teach her Sunday School class on Sunday, December 2, 2007.  The day before, she went hiking alone in the Apalachicola National Forest.  In broad daylight. 

At that time, Hilton was 60 years old, gray-haired, and deceptively harmless looking.  Plus–he had a dog.  Among the many chilling pieces of evidence presented is a video of Hilton squatting down beside his dog, petting her and saying, “That’s my baby”.  In another, which is mostly audio, because it’s unclear whether he knew the camera was stiil recording, he says “I killed those bitches.  Now we will go to the park, but first I have to get rid of some stuff”.  Good job.  Make sure you feed your dog and take her to the park after the hard work of killing and dismembering  innocent people. 

I don’t know where he was at that time, but he was either driving north from Tallahassee to Georgia, or back.  From Tallahassee, he drove to another forest in north Georgia, where another woman was hiking alone (in broad daylight) with her dog Ella.  This was Meredith Emerson, who was 24 years old.  Age and sex don’t seem to matter to this guy.  It isn’t like a TV show, where serial killers have a “type”.  This guy was looking for someone to kill, and an opportunity to do it in a remote setting where he thought his chances of getting caught were nil.  And we know he killed Meredith Emerson, because he admitted it, in exchange for not getting the death penalty in Georgia. 

If you watch enough Law And Order, you know that a confession is not really enough.   In this case, he took them to the location of Meredith’s body.  No one but the killer could have known where that was.  They had been searching for weeks. 

He killed Meredith Emerson and beheaded her, whatever good he thought that would do him, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill her dog Ella.  So he let Ella go, and she eventually turned up at a convenience store in the area.  That “weakness” on his part was part of his undoing. 

Which brings me back to the dogs.  When I watched the video of him with his dog, I felt that he came across as an extreme example of the kind of person who says “I like dogs better than I like people”.  Well, me too, quite often, but I don’t want to kill anybody.  And in reality, his dog was just a lure.  A tool. 

One of the people I work with is very unglued by the trial, because he hunts in the same general area where Cheryl Dunlap’s body was discovered.  Her body was in fact discovered by hunters, even though again, the authorities had been searching for some time.  (I thought that’s what Bloodhounds were for.)  It could have been him who discovered her body, or, he might have encountered Hilton himself.  It seems very personal to him.  My response: you’re hunting.  At least you have a gun. 

Thinking that through, I think Hilton would have been less likely to try to approach someone with a gun.  But as the hunter with a gun, you aren’t there to shoot people.  Could you do it?  Would you even be able to think fast enough to switch gears and say” I need to do it”?

There are barely words for the cynicism, or sociopathy, or pathology it takes to use a dog in the fashion GMH did.  As my coworker pointed out, it would be so natural to encounter a stranger with dog and engage in conversation and get close. (Close enough to get dragged into a van.)  What a pretty dog.  What’s her name?  Can I pet her?  How old is she?  What kind of dog is she?  Sure you can walk this trail with me! 

I wonder what has happened to Hilton’s dog.  I don’t like to think about what she may have witnessed…or participated in.