Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:23 pm | WTXL.Com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) – The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for convicted killer Gary Michael Hilton.
In a release (see link for full release above) Thursday, Florida Supreme Court Justices said Hilton did not show enough evidence that his conviction should be overturned.
In April 2011, Hilton was convicted in Leon County and sentenced to death for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap. Hilton was also sentenced to life in prison in Georgia for the murder of Meredith Emerson.
In March of 2012 the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, North Carolina announced Hilton had pleaded guilty there for the October 2007 robbery, kidnapping, and murder of an elderly couple, John Bryant and Irene Bryant.
Prosecutors say in December of 2007 Hilton kidnapped and murdered Cheryl Dunlap, then dismembered and dumped her body in the Apalachicola National Forest. Her body was found several weeks later by a hunter. Her hands and head were later found in a fire pit at Joe Thomas campsite, about seven miles from where her body had been found.
Hilton was eventually tracked down in Georgia where investigators say he then kidnapped Meredith Emerson, keeping her hostage for four days, before murdering her. Hilton was found in a dumpster behind a convenience store in North Georgia.
The basis for Hilton’s appeal to the Supreme Court comes from his transport from Georgia to Florida. Hilton argued to the Florida Supreme Court that his statements to law enforcement during his transport should not have been used at trial.
According to the filing from the Florida Supreme Court, on June 6, 2008, Sergeant David Graham with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and two other officers drove Hilton from Georgia to Florida. Although Hilton was not questioned, he spoke for nearly the entire five-hour drive, which was recorded. The State also played portions of this recording at trial.
Hilton stated: “I’m not all bad. I mean, you got to understand, I mean, I’m sure you can see. I mean, I’m a [expletive] genius, man. I’m not a-I’m not all bad. I just, you know, lost my mind for a little bit. Lost a grip on myself, man. What can I tell you? FBI and everybody else is trying to scratch their head, hey, guys don’t get started doing my shit at 61 years old. It just don’t happen, you know. Like there’s a retired FBI (indecipherable) named Cliff Van, Clifford Van Zandt, that keeps getting himself in the news, talking about me. And he said, this guy didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, he said. You know, in other words, he’s been doing this. But like I told you before, you know, when I saw you before, I said, remember, I said I’d give you one for free. Nothing before September, okay? I mean, I’m not joking, okay? I just, I got old and sick and couldn’t make a living and just lost, flat lost my [expletive] mind for a while, man. I couldn’t get a grip on it.”
Additionally, Hilton made statements to a fellow inmate at the Leon County Jail that were overheard by Correctional Officer Caleb Wynn. Specifically, Hilton told inmate Summers that he could answer all the State Attorney’s questions if he would give him a life sentence, that he would reveal where the head was located, that his bayonet was used on Dunlap’s tire, that he would explain how he “pulled it off” on a busy highway, that he spent a few hours or a few days with Dunlap, and that he felt no regret other than getting caught.
Hilton also argued the trial court was wrong in allowing Dr. Gregory Prichard to testify about allegations of Hilton’s past criminal conduct.
Ultimately the Florida Supreme Court Justices ruled there is not enough evidence to overturn his conviction and have upheld his death sentence.
A search shows Hilton now in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections.