Where is Meredith Emerson?

Update – January 9h 10:15PM Gary Michael Hilton is a suspect in the murder of a 46 yar old Florida State University nurse who went missing on December 1st. More information in my post here.

Update January 8th 6:15 PM – The autopsy is complete and the results have been released. I have posted them here in the updated entry along with the rest of the updated information

Update – 11:07 PM I just got home from work and saw the news that Meredith Emerson’s body has been located. You can find more updates here as I post them this evening and tomorrow morning.

Update 5:04 PM 1-7-08 According to the Atlanta Journal/Constitution a Union County Georgia magistrate has denied bond for Gary Michael Hilton during and arraignment hearing for the 61 year old charged in the kidnapping of Meredith Emerson.

The Union County District Attorney will be taking the case to the Grand Jury at an unspecified date and time. The grand jury convenes Tuesday but they will not likely turn the case over to them then. The Union County DA said that they will turn it over to them within 90 days. Police have also mentioned that they will continue the search for Meredith Emerson until Wednesday when they will have to go back to normal operations.


Hilton made the court appearance around 2PM this afternoon and didn’t speak during the hearing. The hearing only lasted about ten minutes and Assistant Public Defender Neil Smith answered the judge’s questions to Hilton. Smith is the court appointed attorney for Hilton. District Attorney Stan Gunter said that based on Smith’s limited answers during the hearing he expects Smith to enter an insanity plea for the man. After reading the charge against Hilton Judge Johnie Garmon asked whether the defendant had any questions. Neil Smith answered “not at this time”.

Also according to Gunter he plans on prosecuting Hilton with or without a body. He said that “it’s been done before. We do have blood evidence. If we can match it to Emerson’s DNA, essentially we do have a body”. If only the prosecutor’s in Aruba had those kind of balls two years ago we might have gotten a few answers by now in the Natalee Holloway case.

Update – 3:56 PM Monday January 7th – Police are apparently trying to determine now whether the suspect in the disappearance of Meredith Emerson might be linked to the presumed killings of an older North Carolina couple. I read several different reports about this over the weekend but nothing concrete, which is why I initially left it out of my post. The GBI is apparently comparing case notes with North Carolina investigators looking into the case of Irene and John Bryant. John and Irene are an elderly couple who were found dead after going for a hike in the NC mountains back in late October 2007.

Georgia and North Carolina law enforcement officials are supposed to be meeting at some point today in Cleveland, Georgia to discuss the case according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead.

Irene Bryant’s body was found on November 9th near their car in the Pisgah National Forest and her husband is still missing. According to newspaper reports in the Asheville Citizen-Times a person wearing a yellow jacket was shown on surveillance video trying to use the Bryant’s credit card at a Tennessee bank. Some of the witnesses in the Emerson case reported seeing a man wearing a yellow jacket with her before she disappeared on New Year’s Day while hiking in Vogel State Park at Blood Mountain. Hilton attempted to use one of Emerson’s credit cards at the Regions Bank in Canton Georgia according to the warrant for his arrest.

There are similarities that we’re certainly wanting to look more closely at — nothing that we can release at this point.
Sherrif David Maloney, Transylvania County, NC

Law enforcement officers are supposed to be conducting a ‘target-specific search’ for more evidence in the Emerson case today, whatever the heck that means. Yesterday (Sunday) they were searching for her in Forsyth County near where her dog Ella was found in a grocery store parking lot last week. CNN is reporting that they are also making it a point to look behind churches, mainly as a result of a 2004 case where someone kidnapped and killed a hairdresser in Forsyth County. Her remains were found behind a church. There isn’t any evidence of a connection but Captain Frank Huggins of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said that they look behind churches out of an abundance of caution.

Update – 11:02PM Breaking news from CNN is reporting that along with her ID investigators have found blood-stained clothing in the dumpster. According to the authorities it contains a substantial amount of blood and the clothing was consistent with what Meredith Emerson was wearing at the time of her disappearance.

The GBI also recovered a portion of a seat belt with blood transfer stains as well. Hilton made a phone call from a pay phone Friday at the convenience store where they have recovered these items. His 2001 minivan has had the rear seat belt cut out and when agents arrested him on Friday he was attempting to vacuum the vehicle and wash portions of it with a bleach and water solution. The van (and Hilton) was located at a Chevron station at the corner of Peachtree-Dunwoody RD and Johnson Ferry Rd in Dekalb County. Pretty close to the area of Sandy Springs where I grew up actually.

They are also reporting that Hilton attempted to use one of Emerson’s credit cards at a Regions Bank branch in Canton, GA. Officials have pictures of him trying to use her credit card in the ATM.


Photo Courtesy of 11Alive.Com – Missing persons photos posted on the door of the Vogel State Park welcome center.

Update – Sunday 5:06AM As of Sunday morning (the 6th) 11Alive is reporting that Hilton was transported back to Union county to face the kidnapping charges and that he is being uncooperative. Gayle Bachelor, an officer at the Union County jail, declined to allow The Associated Press to speak with Hilton by phone. He is expected to make a court appearance on Monday. From Yahoo’s news report this morning the warrant on Hilton stated that in addition to Emerson’s ID the bloodstained clothing that was found in the dumpster outside the convenience store was three fleece tops.

The search has changed from rescue to recovery, based on the evidence we’ve uncovered so far
GBI Spokesman John Bankhead

The search will continue this morning after daybreak but an Emerson family spokesperson, Peggy Bailey stated that “the chances are slim to none that she’s alive” She said that the family was devastated by Saturday’s developments but that “They still want to find her. They’re not going to have any closure until she’s found.”

From the Atlanta Journal/Constitution:

In a dumpster beside the QuikTrip convenience store, near Kroger at Ga. Highway 306 and Freedom Parkway, they also made four key discoveries, according to the arrest warrant:

• A portion of an automobile seat belt “with apparent blood transfer stains.” According to the warrant, the rear seat belt in Hilton’s 2001 Chevrolet Astro van had been cut out. The warrant also stated, “Hilton was attempting to vacuum the vehicle and wash portions of it with a bleach and water solution.”

• Emerson’s black leather wallet, which included her driver’s license and University of Georgia student ID card.

• Agents determined Hilton had placed a call from a pay phone at the QuikTrip on Friday.

• Three fleece tops, “found to contain substantial amounts of human blood.”

It was a cold day when Emerson, known for her love of the outdoors, went hiking. Snow had fallen. Friends said she’d been wearing warm clothes, including a fleece jacket.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said it won’t be known for certain whether the garments found in the dumpster belong to Emerson until blood tests come back from the GBI. Authorities felt confident in proceeding with charges because Emerson’s wallet, which had her driver’s license and University of Georgia student ID inside, was in the same dumpster as the blood-stained clothes.

Meredith Emerson just recently moved to Flowery Branch, Georgia (near Buford) from Longmont, Colorado. Her parents flew out here as soon as she was reported missing on Wednesday, January 2nd.

Here is a map showing the areas of interest in the case:

Map image

The original story below:


For the last few days I have been trying to stay updated on the Meredith Emerson case. Meredith is a 24 year old hiker who disappeared  from Blood Mountain just a few hours north of me. I have hiked the Blood Mountain area several times over the last thirty years and it’s really a beautiful area.



She went missing on New Years Day and reports have been all over CNN as well as my local TV station web sites. Her family has a web site up called Help Find Meredith if anyone has any information that can help out. Volunteers have been passing out flyers in the area where she disappeared since the search teams are all professional search and rescue teams. You can download the flyer from the web site here.

Meredith is an experienced hiker and was out with her black Labrador Retriever Ella when she went missing. She was dressed for the weather and although it can be a tough area to hike in, I have never been where I didn’t pass someone every twenty or thirty minutes.


Yesterday officials named Gary Michael Hilton a person of interest in the case, several people describing him and his dog as someone who had spoken with Meredith on the trail as their dogs played together.


Hilton was arrested yesterday after his white van was spotted at a convenience store in Dekalb County, which is a part of Metro Atlanta. Shortly before he was detained, Ella, the Labrador walked into a Kroger grocery store about 50 miles from where Meredith was last seen. Police also found items belonging to Emerson in a dumpster near the area where her dog was found. So far they have recovered several items from the trail that belonged to Meredith including a water bottle and a leash. While police won’t confirm it her roommate Julia Karrenbauer stated that Emerson’s sunglasses and mittens were found in the area as well.


The GBI is involved in the search now as well and according to WSB Atlanta Gary garyhilton Michael Hilton has been charged with kidnapping. Let’s hope that’s all it comes to although officials at a press conference stated that it’s not looking favorable that she will be found alive. Hilton is in custody with the U.S. Marshalls on a prior warrant for failure to appear in Federal Court on a charge of abandoning property in a national park. According to what I was reading he had been living in his van.


As of around noon today searchers were looking in a wooded area for Meredith near where her dog Ella turned up. According to 11Alive the items found in a dumpster included her wallet and drivers license.


This video from the AP is from yesterday but it pertains to the GBI being asked to help out with the case and describes Gary Michael Hilton as a person of interest.

<embed src=”http://www.thenewsroom.com/mash/swf/cube.swf?a=v1383198&m=307293&v=1″ base=”.” wmode=”transparent” name=”swfclipv1383198″ allowscriptaccess=”always” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com

/go/getflashplayer” height=”400″ width=”400″>


Here is some more information from the AP as of around noon on Saturday January 5th.



Nothing that I haven’t already said I guess.


CNN just released more breaking news that I had already seen locally. As I mentioned above Gary Michael Hilton has been charged with kidnapping with intent to cause bodily injury today according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

I don’t really have any more on this tonight except for a question. As more news turns up in the case I will be sure to try and post it here.

My question has to do with the fact that this is getting quite a bit of coverage. Of course my local Atlanta stations are reporting but CNN is wearing it out, and Yahoo & Google are both doing a bit of reporting. There are plenty of other missing hikers around the U.S. so is this another case of Missing White Woman Syndrome?



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40 throughts on "Where is Meredith Emerson?"

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  4. I don’t think this is a case of the “missing white woman syndrome”, as you put it. I live in North Ga and I am also a 24 year old female. I have walked the exact same trails that Meredeth did and it scares me to think that crimes like this happen. That could have been me and I am thankful that it wasn’t. Its a heart breaking story that is developing here. Her dog was found and then her wallet and blood soaked clothes. Would you not want to find someone who could be killing hikers? Its not really just about her, its about the safety of the area. Two people (a couple) were found beaten to death in either NC or SC. The man seen with them before their death was wearing a yellow jacket just like the one that Hilton was reported wearing when he was seen with Meredith. Its more that just a “white woman” getting a lot of attention on the news. This could happen to anyone and unfortunately it happened to her. Right now, they do not know 100% sure that she is dead. She could be wounded and they just haven’t found her yet. I am hoping for the best outcome possible. I live only about 10 minutes from where her dog, Ella, was found.

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  6. It’s an isolated incident. This isn’t going to happen to every hiker that walks those trails. Police have hilton in custody…all is well for hikers in that area. I wouldn’t let it ruin your life.

  7. Tragic story. I fear it won’t have a good outcome.
    Anyway, it doesn’t seem quite appropriate for this post, but I’m late in getting around and still want to wish you and yours a happy new year.

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  9. Interesting that you would question the news coverage, when you have obviously been obsessed with the story yourself.
    The news reports the stories that the majority of people want to hear, and that includes ANY missing hikers, ie recent stories in both Utah and in Colorado in the last six months. Anything that the majority of viewers can relate to. Someone who looks like they could be their daughter, or sister, or friend….
    Thanks for gathering all the news info. I can relate because I am a blonde, blue-eyed single female who loves dogs and to hike (often going by myself!)

  10. Judy, I wouldn’t exactly call posting one story obsesses, but yes it is the same here. Once in play it just sort of propagates itself. I regularly post stories on missing folks. Not as regularly as I would like due to work unfortunately, but ScaredMonkeys.com keeps up with the ones the rest of us miss.
    reRooster, you are most likely correct in that assumption. I spent most of my years growing up between Roswell and Sandy Springs and even with all of the development around Cumming and Canton over the last two decades there are still some very wooded and remote areas.
    Thanks Libby, Happy New Year to you as well. I have also been meaning to get ‘out’ and visit everyone’s site to say hello, just haven’t had a day off yet this year 🙂
    Sissel, you are absolutely correct in that it won’t happen to every hiker but I do think that more people need to be aware of what’s going on around them, even there. Unfortunately the days when you could hike Amicalola to Blood Mountain and chat with everyone you saw are long over. I have made that hike on many occasions and back in the seventies and eighties it was great. Now I wonder which of the scum sucking fuckers I am going to have to hurt in order to protect MY kids.
    Amy, nothing you said disproves my point. All of your points are correct and I agree with them however it does nothing to prove or disprove ‘missing white woman syndrome’. Are you aware of what that is? If not, wiki has a pretty good entry about it.

  11. I do understand what that is. I get that some people might think that because she’s a pretty white girl that the news is all over the story. However, I don’t think that is the case. I honestly feel that because they found an item they described as a police baton that is what made the news want to cover the story. In the very beginning that particular item was mentioned a lot and people were curious to know if a police official was involved. I am happy that you wrote your article though. I’m not trying to disagree with you.

  12. Richard, thanks for the information. As a hiker (though never in the Southeast, unfortunately) I am wondering if the Appalachian Trail runs through this area. Would AT hikers want to take heed of the changing conditions since the 70’s-80’s that you mention in your comment?

  13. That’s pretty astute about the baton. I also have seen it mentioned quite a bit. Up until earlier today I haven’t seen it come from any ‘official’ report, mainly from her friends and the media, but apparently the police are now reporting it as one of the items found along with some dog biscuits, the leash and two water bottles (along the trail). I don’t have the source in front of me right now so I cannot cite it but if I have time later this evening I may add it to the article.
    Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts.
    I think is is somewhat skewed. There are actually plenty of stories in the news about missing people all of the time. I frequent several missing persons sites and very rarely see one that hasn’t been mentioned at least once. Perhaps it is more US, the audience that is driving this? I have to include myself among the majority on this one because I am also writing about it and spent quite a bit of time looking up some of the information.
    Americans as a whole are a pretty morbid damned bunch. The sad fact is that all ‘we’ are interested in is hearing about the missing white girl (Natalee Holloway, Meredith, Emily Sander/Zoey Zane, etc..), the family murders and tragedies and Britney Spears latest escapade (I am in the process of writing about her, actually).
    I watched a video of Britney earlier today and the damned photographers were swarming like a herd of pigs around a trough all tripping over each other to get the best shot. It was literally disgusting. Why do they do it? Because we eat it up.

  14. Snack, the Appalachian starts right in that area actually. It starts around Amicalola Falls at Springer Mountain, runs up Blood Mountain and Neels Gap (which quite a few hikers use as the start of their AT hikes).

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  16. AT Hikers are getting prepared to start their 2008 thru-hikes within the next couple months and this news is very saddening. Hiking is generally a safe activity and seldom do situations like this occur on the trail. You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning while hiking than encounter violence on the trail. This is a rare isolated incident and I hope it doesn’t keep people from hiking and enjoying the wonderful area where this occured. I also hope the GBI wraps this up quickly and my heart is out to Meridith’s family.

  17. May Hilton burn in hell after we fry his ass in the chair. The man deserves a slow, painful death. No human being should have had to go through what Meredith went through, if indeed she is found dead. This makes me hate the world we live in and makes me wonder why people are against the death penalty. If Hilton is guilty, drag him into the streets and let the people of North Georgia stone him. Slow. Painful. Son of a bitch deserves it.

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  19. Thanks Linda. I’ve been at work most of the evening and just now arrived home to the news. The poor girl. That is awful for her family as well.

  20. Meredith may very well have put an end to a very long string of murders, maybe even dating back before she was born. Meredith was obviously very outgoing, so much so that she turned out to be the wrong girl for him to try and get away with something this appalling! It seems that her journey ended not in tragedy or vain, but in victory over this reign of personified evil! This was the job for a very special person; she came here to for this purpose and was victorious! Now her mission is complete, her journey is over and she has returned to her home. Her frieneds and family should consider themselves very blessed to have been entrusted with the Love, care and rearing of this beautiful soul. She… was an Angel.

  21. There is no “white woman syndrome.”
    Stories that are unique and unusual (and tragic) get aired all of the time. A female hiker getting tragically killed on a mountain in a rural area is much less common than someone getting shot in Compton.
    Inner city crime is not “unique” or “unusual” (though it is horribly devastating). “Unique” and “unusual” is the essence of news.

  22. Person, so you are saying that the mainstream media doesn’t give more air time for a young white female than for other stories? Than why exactly is it that John and Irene Bryant haven’t been all over the news since last November?
    Doing a Google search turns up roughly the same amount of stories right now, except that a large number of the ones you find searching for Irene Bryant are actually Meredith Emerson stories that have been published in the last five day.
    I do remember reading about them on CNN as well as a missing persons site that I frequent but there was nowhere near the same amount of web traffic.

  23. While acknowledging the tragedy of this, let’s ask the right question here. Why did Meredith choose to hike alone? Bad decision. As a woman, I know that many females are outraged that they cannot run/walk/hike alone for fear of danger, but they do it anyway. Unfortunately, women must accept the reality here. There is SO much education out there for women runners, walkers, hikers. First rule – don’t be alone in any isolated area. You are vulnerable.Period. No exceptions.

  24. Having never been to this blog (or any other), I hope my thoughts are not intrusive.
    I did not know Meredith. When speaking of media, there is a vast amount of “stories” on one side, and extremely small spaces on the other to project it. It might sound “caned”, but with all murders, child ___ fill in the blank here in your own minds, I can’t type it, the media (with all it’s faults) has to grab attention. On the surface this seems quit self-serving and perhaps it is. But one thing is clear—Meridith could be anyone’s daughter. The child killings in Atlanta — could have been anyone’s kids. Like it or not, our media will pick out the best “stories” to follow. We all know there are thousands that do not get the coverage, but perhaps there is an unintended lesson to be learned?
    Whatever CNN/MSNBC/FOX decides to cover, gives at least (and I mean least) a barometer of what is happening outside our front doors. I grieve deeply for Meridith’s family, it hurts my heart that someone could take away a precious life. Why?
    Rambling on, I really wanted to say that it is a non issue on whose story gets National attention. The pain is in every heart. We have the capacity, and intelligence to care. The “News” might get our blood boiling, but it is up to the individual to make a difference.
    All the very best,

  25. That hasn’t really been an issue for hikers in the past though. Yes, there are a lot of scumbags out there but I would bet that if you researched the number of missing/dead hikers that met ill at the hands of another person you would find that the number is extremely low. Not to mention the fact that she was pretty physically fit, had experience in the martial arts AND had her dog with her.
    People that assume that they are always vulnerable just because they are a woman/child/old/crippled are just inviting people to victimize them. I don’t mean that she was advertising she was a victim but you can generally tell the sheep from the wolves and if you act like a sheep then the wolves will think you are a sheep.
    My wife walks daily. Alone. Normally it’s only for an hour to an hour and a half but you just can’t assume that there is a bogeyman hiding behind every bush, otherwise you begin to lose your freedom.

  26. Getting all my ducks in a row…

    I have spent the great majority of the morning going between reading news sites and fooling with paperwork. Since the wife and I are going to the Bahamas next month and I don’t have a passport, while her’s expire ten…

  27. Richard, I agree that there is a balance here. You can’t run around like a sheep and be afraid. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that you need to assess the risks before undertaking an activity if you are a woman and you are alone. I bet your wife walks through a neighborhood, or past small shops. I doubt she’d choose a rural road with no houses in sight for miles. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes choosing the ‘safest’ route isn’t enough.
    I purposely chose an upscale neighborhood to run through alone about 7 years ago and was attacked in broad daylight. I was wearing a huge T-shirt and shorts to my knees, not a jog bra and skimpy shorts. Yes, I was outraged, but learned a lesson. No more alone runs. Ever.
    Unfortunately, Meredith’s dog wasn’t a pit bull or large breed animal. Those breeds can be a deterrent.

  28. i work with marideth emerson’s father and i feel so bad for him he lives in Colorado and flew all the way to georgia to find out his daiughter was dead

  29. Clare you are certainly right about that. The wife does generally walk through a neighborhood. Personally though I would feel safer walking alone on a rural road than I would anywhere within the city limits of Atlanta. I grew up in Atlanta and lived there for 22 years and have been in a rural (now more of a suburban) area for the last 18.
    Jennifer, thanks for stopping by. Mr. Emerson has my family’s condolences as do the rest of the family and anyone else close to the family.
    For anyone else stopping by, I posted a link to a guestbook in my updated entry at http://www.shadowscope.com/archives/2008/01/meredith_emerson_found.php that you may be interested in signing and sending your best wishes to the family.

  30. I would just like to express my deep sorrow for what happened to this unfortunate girl. As a fellow hiker I felt deep sympathy for her.
    Athens, Greece

  31. Very sad to hear about the outcome of this tragedy.
    I live in Cumming myself. I hope everyone stays safe out there.
    Some free self defense advice (martial arts instructor myself)
    – Remember the 3 weakest / most vulnerable areas on a human man are the 2 eyes, and the groin. If anyone tries to grab you, and you can’t run, immediate and explosive force to these areas will hopefully buy you time to run and call for help.
    Don’t listen to all that bullshit advice (that I heard on the radio) about dropping to the floor, or pissing in your pants…. In a life threatening situation, you use your fingers to poke in the attacker’s eyes, grab his groin and rip it out, or you bite off his nose, ear, or whatever you can get access to.
    Sorry for being graphic, but you have to protect yourself in a life threatening situation. I wish I could have known Meredith or tried to protect her from this. Very sad to hear. Be safe everyone.

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