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Judge delays trial of man accused of killing hikers
Man already sentenced in Buford womans killing
Gary Hilton
Gary Hilton

ASHEVILLE - A federal judge has again delayed the death penalty trial of a twice-convicted killer who's charged with killing a couple from Hendersonville, N.C., in a national forest.

Judge Martin Reidinger this week agreed to postpone the trial of Gary Michael Hilton until
April 30.

Hilton, 65, already has a Florida death sentence for killing a couple there and a life in prison sentence in Georgia for killing Meredith Emerson of Buford.

Hilton's lawyers say they need more time than usual to prepare because capital punishment cases are fundamentally different from other criminal trials.

They say they have to review hundreds of thousands of documents before the trial can start.

Prosecutors say Hilton killed John and Irene Bryant, who vanished while hiking in Pisgah National Forest in 2007.
Hilton pleaded not guilty in July to the charges in
North Carolina.

The case is being handled in federal court because the Bryants were killed in a national forest.

Family and friends say the Bryants followed their passion for hiking around the world, tramping across Europe, New Zealand and along the Appalachian Trail.

They were killed not far from their home in Hendersonville.

Hilton was arrested in January 2008 in the Emerson killing.

He pleaded guilty weeks later. He was convicted in the Florida case early in 2011.

Emerson was hiking on a trail in Union County near Blood Mountain when she was abducted.

She was killed three days later in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.