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Officials: Hilton was in Gainesville on night Emerson abducted

Suspect stopped at ATM on E.E. Butler Parkway

POSTED: January 22, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Gary Michael Hilton was at a Gainesville ATM trying to use a bank card belonging to Meredith Emerson the night she was abducted, officials said.

Hilton is believed to have spent about 20 minutes at a Bank of America ATM in Gainesville around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 1, Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said this week, citing information provided to him by agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Other local law enforcement officials have confirmed that Hilton is believed to have used the ATM located on E.E. Butler Parkway near the Brenau University campus.

As authorities trace the path taken by Hilton, Gainesville was apparently the first stop on a circuitous route taken by the suspect after he was seen talking with Emerson at the Byron Herbert Reese Memorial Trail in Union County on New Year’s Day.

Authorities have reason to believe Emerson was in Hilton’s van, possibly restrained or incapacitated, but alive, when he stopped at the Gainesville ATM, just a few hundred feet from the Hall County Courthouse. Arrest warrants allege that Emerson was killed three days later in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area from a blow to the head.

At the time Emerson’s ATM card was used in Gainesville, she was not yet reported missing. The following day, Jan. 2, authorities were alerted that she hadn’t returned from her hike. On Jan. 3, officials issued a lookout for Hilton and his van. He was arrested on Jan. 4 while cleaning the van outside a DeKalb County convenience store.

Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic and Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper both have said their agencies have not been involved in the investigation, which is being conducted primarily by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

This week, in the face of intense media coverage, the GBI stopped taking questions about the Hilton case, with agency spokesman John Bankhead saying the GBI would "not say anymore" about the investigation.

Hilton, 61, remains in the Dawson County jail without bond, charged with murder. Florida authorities have said he could also face murder charges from a December slaying in Tallahassee.



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