The white Astro van where Meredith Emerson was held captive was stuffed with a wardrobe of high-end outdoors clothing, as well as a sling blade, duct tape, air pistols and a hacksaw blade, according to documents filed in DeKalb County Magistrate Court this week.
The search warrant return inventory for Gary Hilton’s van, which was impounded when he was arrested outside a DeKalb County convenience store, lists 198 items, from the mundane to the sinister.
The evidence could be used in the continuing investigation of Hilton, 61, in the deaths of three people in North Carolina and Florida. Florida officials traveled to Georgia on Wednesday to pick up evidence from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as they probe a possible connection between Hilton and the decapitation death of Cheryl Hodges Dunlap, the Tallahassee Democrat reported Wednesday on its Web site.
During the processing of Hilton’s van, authorities took swabs of blood from the exterior passenger door and seized a yellow jacket, paper towel and section of the driver’s seat that all had blood stains, according to the document.
Hilton pleaded guilty last month in Dawson County Superior Court to the murder of Emerson, a 24-year-old hiker abducted Jan. 1 from a trail near Blood Mountain in Union County. Emerson was held captive for three days before being bludgeoned to death with a tire jack handle in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. Hilton led authorities to her decapitated body after reaching a deal with Union County prosecutors that would see him avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to life in prison.The 2001 Chevrolet Astro van was bearing a North Carolina license plate when it was impounded. Authorities say the plate was stolen from a car in Transylvania County, N.C., where Jack and Irene Bryant, an elderly couple, were last seen in October while hiking in the western North Carolina mountains. Irene Bryant’s body was found in November; her husband’s remains were found by a hunter last week.
Authorities recovered more than 100 items of clothing of varying sizes, from jackets, mesh shirts and windbreaker pants to caps, gloves and boots. Much of it was made by high-end outdoors outfitters such as REI, North Face and Columbia. The sizes range from medium to extra-large. Hilton is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and about 160 pounds, according to court documents.
Several blue tote bags were in the van. One contained pornographic magazines, another contained two air pistols and personal lubricant, according to the search warrant.
Drug paraphernalia, including hypodermic needles and a "bong" marijuana pipe, was also recovered.
Hilton was said to live out of his van and frequent national parkland, including the Apalachicola National Forest where Dunlap’s decapitated body was found in December.
Among the food items in Hilton’s van were beans, rice, canned food, peanut butter and dog food.