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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  February 11, 2018 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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coddled a twice-accused wife beater, not really what you want to be talking about with your campaign message. >> you are running through quite a week. that does it for us tonight on "kasie dc." you have to be aware of your surroundings. you just never know. it started with a frightening horror flick from the '80s. >> the mpremise of the movie is we're going to take some women into the woods and they're going to be hunted down. >> decades later, something truly frightening. it was happening for real. a strange vanishing in the forest. then -- >> your heart just broke.
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>> cheryl, then meredith, two women missing and two desperate efforts to find them. >> she should be alive and we just can't let up. >> could this old movie hold the key to these new cases? >> a little blood, a little sex, a little violence. >> a film fantasy turns chilling reality. >> if someone has her, she's afraid. >> who could be behind this? and how would this real life story end? >> she was a blue belt in judo. if anybody could survive, it was meredith. if anybody could fight, it was meredith. >> mystery on blood mountain. >> hello and welcome to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. this is a muzzling case centered in national forests. it's about what happened when a young hiker out with her dog vanished. as her loved ones kept vigil, the police pressed on.
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the plen dspen d splendors national parks, from the rockies to the appalachians, it's here in the parks we have the promise of stepping out of the hubbub of our daily routine. that was the kind of serenity me
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meredith saw in the mountains. it was 2008 as the young sales assistant set out from buford georgia with her dog ella. her roomy had slept in that morning. >> she left me a little note on our chalk board, took ella, went hiking, not where, not when. it wasn't really anything out of the ordinary. >> meredith like roomy julia was a dog person. she doted on ella since finding her at a rescue shelter. >> she had two dogs growing up. she wanted one of her own. she talked about it and researched what she wanted. definitely wanted to rescue a dog. finally found one, went out, loved her, brought her home. it really was the light of her life. >> julia didn't know that meth d meredith and ella were heading to the national forest. "blood mountain" is one of the
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most popular places to hike in the southeast. the famous appalachian trail takes off just south of here. the roommate spent her day with friend and didn't notice meredith hadn't come home. >> she would leave ella in my room and i would take care of her min the morning. i called her cell phone. it went straight to voicemail. >> when did you become anxious? >> when i got to work, our friend called me and said meredith didn't show up to work. meredith was always the first one at work. >> reliable meredith wasn't where she was supposed to be. julia called the sheriff's office. then she amid sond some friends assembled a search party. maybe she'd twisted her ankle hiking and taken a tumble. they started with that note on the chalk board. >> did you know where she would be? >> we had a few ideas.
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we took some books that she had and some places she highlighted and just kind of started driv g driving. there was four of us in the car. we were trying to call park rangers and anybody who may have seen her or her car. then a friend of ours found her car and called us. there was snow on it. >> the car was at the base of blood mountain. >> we had that sinking feeling when you first see it. >> the friends raced up the blood mountain feeder path to the appalachian trail, but no trace of meredith or ella. by nightfall the search became more urgent as a cold front moved in and temperatures plunged below zero. at daybreak, thursday now, the friends were joined by deputies from the local sheriff's office. john kagel was the agent in
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charge for the georgia bureau of investigation. the case of the hiker missing for two days didn't look good to the seasoned detective because of some disturbing items that had been recovered on the trail. what was found on the trail? >> a couple of water bottles, a dog learn and a police expandable baton. >> this is a piece of professional gear? >> it is. it's just a metal pipe that is expandible. >> did those artifacts, the water bottle, the baton found together tell you a story at all or suggest something ominous? >> yes. we found those items in an area where the ground had appeared to have been disturbed. we became concerned that possibly a struggle took place there. >> meredith's water pot bottles ella's learn and signs of a struggle. nothing about the scene looked good to the veteran lawman,
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especially that expandable police baton that was found. >> we eventually partnered with over 18 or 19 police agencies to help the search for meredith. >> her friends were naturally beside themselves. >> your heart just prosecubroke because you think something happened. >> you're thinking at the very least she's been abducted? >> yep. it was so hard because it wasn't something we could talk about until we could actually prove that. >> the cops commandeered a park building as headquarters. >> we began getting information quickly. >> from people who hiked the trails? >> right. remembered her. we began to get disturbing news about a strange looking individual with meredith who also had a dog. >> what were you hearing? >> strange looking, just a wiry kind of guy. >> older guy. >> older guy. we even developed a vehicle description, a white van. >> the lead on the van came from
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this photo taken by a hiker in the parking lot the night before meredith went missing. a be on the lookout advisory went out for the man in the white van accompanied by his reddish dog. >> it was a white male between the ages of 50-60 years old, approximately 160 pound. it was described as he has bad dental. he had a dark reddish colored retriever. >> we put out that information through the media in atlanta and actually got a call from someone who said i think i know who this is. coming up, this mysterious stranger would prove to be stranger than anyone expected. >> i just turned white at one point. i felt the blood leave my face. >> meredith emerson had not been the only one missing in the forest. >> if she's still alive and someone has her, she's afraid. og this extravagant?
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returning to our story, here again is dennis murphy. meredith emerson and her lab ella were two days missing on georgia's blood mountain early in a freezing january of 2007. her friends alerted the authorities and people from all over the greater atlanta area were scouring the hiking trails. so many volunteers they couldn't use all of them. >> people just showed up and just said, i have a daughter who likes to hike, i have a sister who could have been meredith easily. and they just volunteered their time. >> but the search in the national forest had become something more ominous than a lost hiker incident. meredith had been last seen in the company of an unsavory looking stranger. law enforcement was absolutely to identify him. the tip came from john tabor, an atlanta businessman. he was watching the continuing news coverage of missing
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meredith during his morning workout. >> when they started giving the description of a person of interest my ears perked up. i think i just turned white at one point. >> tabor thought this has got to be gary hilton. hilton was a guy who worked on and off for him as years, first as a telemarketer, then as an independent contractor in a siding business. he even lived for a while in a house that tabor owned. >> the first thing that got my attention was where the event happened, where she went missing. blood mountain, i knew that was a place he liked to hang out, that he had a dog with him. most important was the evidence they had found at the scene. i knew hilton always had an expandable police baton with him. >> the tip and a name quickly led to a georgia driver's license for 61-year-old gary hilton. investigators showed the photo to hikers who id'd him as the
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mystery man seen with meredith. the manhunt was on. >> we put that name and face out. >> it's plastered all over the metro atlanta area. >> it is. >> the apb went well beyond the georgia order. hilton's name and picture were all over the regional news. lightbulbs began going off to the south around tallahassee when people there saw his photo on tv. the search for gary hilton was about to widen. the mystery man person of interest in the meredith emerson case looked familiar to people who thought they'd seen him just about the time they'd learned about the case of another women who'd done missing, cheryl dunlap, a nurse and mother. when cheryl didn't turn up for church one december sunday in 2007 and then missed her send school class, red flags went up. next door neighbor and friend tanya land. >> i turned around in church and looked at her usual spot and she wasn't there. >> immediately we knew something was wrong, because that's just
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not like her. >> everyone who knew her agreed. 46-year-old cheryl was reliable. a woman solid in her faith and set in her habits. her fellow nurse friend and prayer partner laura walker. >> she always liked to hear what we call our praise reports, something good that happened with a patient or coworker. >> when monday morning rolled around and tanya still hadn't been able to retch cheryl, she walked next door. >> i went back down to her house and saw that the dog was at the house but her car was gone. >> cheryl's daughter-in-law called the sheriff's office to report her missing. >> i knew there was a problem when she didn't show up for work. >> after that missing person's report was filed, the friends heard about a car that looked like cheryl's spotted on the side of the highway leading into tallahassee. >> immediately they send a deputy up there and just took over from that point. >> are you apprehensive? >> yeah.
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i knew there was something wrong. >> yeah. >> cheryl's car was parked well off the highway. florida department of law enforcement agent annie white. >> it was pretty clear from the beginning that that's not someplace that she would have parked it as well as the tire looked like it had been purposely flattened on the vehicle. >> an abandoned car, a slashed tire. >> where is she? >> searchers, law enforcement, volunteers began fanning out into the adjacent 57,000 acre apalachicola national forest, all with dread in their hearts. >> i would be devastated if something like that happened in my family. >> there were massive searches in town. thousands of people showed up to comb the woods hooking for her. it was clear early on this was unusual for her. she would not have gotten in a car with someone. >> tallahassee democrat senior writer jennifer portman covered the story. >> we're talking about north
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florida in the panhandle area. people are bound by their schools, by their family, by their churches. >> sunday schoolteachers with children and a grandchild don't go missing? >> exactly right. >> law enforcement was trying to put the pieces together. when they looked into cheryl's background, nothing jumped out at them. two sons, a long-settled divorce, no boyfriends. then on tuesday four days after she was last seen, the cops got her bank records. something was up. >> we found where some atm activity had occurred. >> that's a big break. >> yes, sir. upon viewing that video in leon county, it was clear it was not her. this was a male subject using her card. he was disguising his face. we knew at that point that it was probably not going to be a good outcome for ms. dunlap. >> the disguised man made three separate withdrawals of $700. the atm was in downtown
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tallahassee miles from where cheryl's car was found. >> you and the team stake out the atm machine. >> we stayed there several days day and night watching the atm. he never came back to that one. >> the search stretched on for weeks. >> a lot of us went out on our own and searched the woods and went to places we thought she could possibly be. >> the more time goes on, inevitably the fear sinynci sin. mid december 2007 some hunters out training their dogs in the national forest noticed a vulture circling above them. >> went to check it out and discovered the body. >> a female body missing its head and hands, a grisly fact not released at the time. it took a dna sample from her
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toothbrush to identify the remains as those of cheryl dunlap. >> someone called and said, laura, they found a body. we pulled over on the side of the road and just, you know -- >> that was it, huh? >> yeah. >> it was surreal. the thing you hear about in movies. it was so close to home that in our small community that something like this could happen. >> now with cops in florida looking hard at gary hilton in the gun lap murder and counterparts in georgia convinced he'd taken meredith emerson, authorities started hearing about yet another national forest homicide, this one in north carolina. >> then you've got to be saying what do we have here. >> that's right. now we're really wondering who we have here. and where is he. and more importantly, where's meredith. coming up -- >> do we have a killer running around loose in the national forest? >> concern for meredith deepens.
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but her friends know something that man on the mountain couldn't. >> a blue belt in akido and judo. if anybody could survive it was her. aah! ...i would have said you were crazy. but so began the year of me. i discovered the true meaning of paperless discounts... and the indescribable rush of saving drivers an average of $620. why does fear feel so good? i fell in love three times -- once with a woman, once with a country, and finally... with myself. -so, do you have anything to declare or not? -isn't that what i'm doing?
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welcome back to "dateline extra." returning to our story, here again is dennis murphy. >> where was meredith hope emerson? could she still be alive somewhere out there in the national forest? and did the 24-year-old hiker have a prayer if she were indeed in the clutches of mystery man gary hilton? the search on blood mountain went into a third day. >> we had the hope. we were there from sunup to sundown plus. we were there through the night and the cold. if anybody could survive, it was meredith. if somebody could fight somebody like that, it was meredith. >> meredith's parents had flown in from colorado and joined the search. peggy bailey, a family friend was their spokesperson. >> let me tell you something, meredith emerson could do
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anything. she is feisty. she is strong. she's tiny and petite, 120 pounds. she can run those mountains. she's a strong person. if anybody can survive this, she can. >> the missing woman was deceptively strong. not just an experienced hiker, but an accomplished martial arts enthusiast as well. >> a blue belt in akido and a blue belt in judo. >> take her on at your peril? >> absolutely. she would fight you. she would come home and tell me, i threw this 220 pound man, i beat him up today in class. >> by now with half of georgia looking for gary hilton, authorities outside of tallahassee, florida, to the south were wondering about his connections with a missing woman there. it was then that the detectives got solid information about another killing in a national forest. >> we were in our command post. a detective walked in and said that they had a case, took place in north carolina involving a
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husband and wife, that the wife had been murdered. >> that detective was working an unsolved case that had cops in north carolina bewildered. david mahoney is there have of transylvania county, a beautiful place with an of nominous name. >> we have some beautiful add traction attractions here. >> folks like john and irene bryant retired her far from the p brutal winters of upstate new york and close to the hiking trails they loved. >> they loved the outdoors. when they were first married, they used to go out hiking in the mountains. they would take us hiking. as they got older, they'd take the grandchildren out hiking too. >> the bryants had a lifetime of outdoors experience, had hiked all over the world.
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>> my father completed the appalachian trail, which is 2,000 miles from georgia to maine. they traveled extensively to new zealand and all through europe, all through america, especially in the southwestern and northwestern united states. >> in late october 2008, two months before meredith emerson disappeared, the couple set off on a day hike in the 500,000 acre pisca national forest. >> they always let us know if they were going on one of their many trips. so it was totally unlike them to disappear. >> their son bob flew in from texas. >> the newspapers were around the doorstep. he broke into the home and found their breakfast was still out on the table, but obviously many days old. he knew something was terribly wrong. my brother searched up and down
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every little back road throughout the park. >> he found their car at a trail head in the national forest. by then sheriff mahoney's office was involved. >> the rescue squad began a search assuming there had been some medical problem or some illness that had fallen upon them. >> in my heart, i knew that wasn't the case. this is just no way they would both be hurt like that. they were very, very experienced. >> unfortunately it was not very long after we began that search that we discovered the body of ms. bryant. >> it was a sense of finality. i knew she was gone already, but that little glimmer of hope was extinguished when they found their body. >> irene bryant's remains were 30 yard from where her son found the car. she had been bludgeoned to
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death. where was mr. bryant? within hours of discovering irene bryant's body, detectives learned $300 had been withdrawn from the bryants' accounts using an atm card in tennessee. >> the man had concealed his head and face and was able to successfully use the bryant's atm. >> whoever was making the withdrawal, it wasn't 79-year-old john bryant. but time was working against the law man. >> we spent weeks everywhere in that spientire area. we did everything from vehicle patrol, atv patrol, horse back, on foot, everywhere. >> john bryant had seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. the fbi posted a $10,000 reward for information. but the bryant case went cold until meredith emerson loomed on the lawman's radar. >> our lead investigator began
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following that case. immediately there were some similarities that we saw between the two cases. both of these incident os occurred on forest service land. we really felt like the two were probably connected. we may go years without a homicide. this was very, very different. do we have a killer running around loose in the national forest? >> in georgia the searchers looking for meredith emerson and her dog ella on blood mountain were hoping and praying they weren't dealing with a homicide. >> do everything we can do to make sure if she's up there we get her out of there. if she's not up there, to do everything we can do to eliminate that as a possibility and then continue the investigation from there. >> georgia authorities were compiling a profile of gary hilton, who was starting to look like a person of interest not only in the meredith emerson disappearance case but in two
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unsolved murders in the national forests. >> coming up, might a movie hold the key to this case? >> the premise of the movie is we're going to take some women into the woods and they're going to be hunted down. >> is gary involved in this? >> gary is helping me throughout. ♪
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come break news out of puerto rico. a blackout after an explosion at a main substation. several municipalities are without power, including parts of san juan. hundre the white house is expressing condolences to russia after an airliner went down outside of moscow. all 71 people on board were killed.
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welcome back to dateline extra. police were looking for gary hilton in connection with the death of meredith emerson. here again is dennis murphy. on blood mountain there was still no trace of meredith emerson. her friend julia and the other searchers found no news to be good news. >> i think it might be a good thing. she might be somewhere warm with her dog and somebody might just have her or something like that. kind of makes me feel a little better knowing that we haven't found anything here yet. >> hundreds of volunteers and deputies scoured the forest for clues. detectives were trying to get a handle on gary hilton, the suspect in her disappearance, who was by now a person of interest in at least two
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murders. john tabor, hilton's former boss, gave investigators what background he had on his eccentric employee. >> the only interest that he had in life seemed to be his dog and going out camping for extended periods of time in the wilderness with his dog. he seemed to like that type of isolation. >> hilton's dog dandy had been at his side since he started working for tabor. >> he often told stories of going to parks with his dog. he would end up in altercations with other pet owners. it was always the same story. he would reprimand the other dog owner's behavior and he was always the victim. >> for the first nine years hilton worked at his siding business.
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tabor recall add hed him as a g employee until something snapped. >> i decided to go and see what was going on over there. it was a very bizarre scene. >> how so? >> his physical appearance was quite different. he went onto smile and show that he was missing several teeth. he said he had taken a pair of pliers and removed several of his teeth. he said he enjoyed doing that because it frightened people. he was very animated, he was very talkative. >> tabor fired hilton, who then claimed tabor owed him money. >> he finally threatened to kill me. >> the tabor took those threats seriously. >> i immediately armed myself with a glock nine millimeter and an ar-15 assault rifle. it was a terrifying ordeal.
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>> when the former boss finally went to the police with his story, it seemed to do the trick. >> within a day or two he had packed up all of his belongings and moved on. >> put all his stuff in the van and took off. >> yes. >> john tabor was relieved to see hilton in his rear-view mirror. but he was puzzled by the change that had come over the man. >> a demonic violent personality had materialized somehow. >> tabor had part of the dparga hilton picture. sam rail had defended hilton years back on some minor beevef >> he was accused on a misdemeanor of acting like a charity and he had raised money
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to help children. of course he had pocketed it. >> what was his job? >> his job was scamming. that's what he did mostly. >> you knew him as a con man basically? >> right. >> when he got tripped up, he'd call on you? >> he did. >> he wears two hats. he's also a movie producer. not hollywood but more of the direct to video. this is a 2004 release. >> i can't do that. >> don't do it. >> shoot me. >> shoot me! >> horror, gory, what's the genre? >> try not to make it gore ri b -- gory but at the end of the day, a little blood, a little sex, a little violence can't hurt. >> as it turned out, cops on the meredith emerson case were particularly interested in
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rail's first movie "deadly run." he made it back in 1985 with the assistance of his scam artist client gary hilton. >> the premise of the movie is we're going to take some women into the woods, then we're going to befriend those women and then, poof, they're going to be hunted down and killed. >> is gary involved in this in the sense of a script writer or anything that formal? >> gary is helping me figure out how to get the star to be a serial killer. he'd like to have more blood, more gore, have rape. i thought we toned it down and made a better movie. he suggested that we do it up in the woods. he helped me find some of the locations. we found the cabin. >> that cabin used in the movie
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happened to be in the ch chathoochie national forest. >> when the movie is being made he's animated but interesting. >> he's not a loner. >> he's a loner. he's a psycho path. he's a sociopath. he's always doing something a little bit wrong, but all my clients, they do that too. >> it sound like you're talking about kind of a charming guy. >> he was charming. he was personable. she w >> which are all skills you need to be a successful conman. but the lawyer and movie producer had a falling out with hilton over, of all things, a dog. >> dogs seemed to be important to him? >> he wound up with my dog. >> what do you mean? >> i had a dog, a nice little
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golden retriever. we had him in the back yard. all of a sudden i i come back one day and the dog is done. gary took the dog. as their profile of hilton became clearer and more troubling, investigators looking for him and meredith were desperate for any lead on his whereabouts and they were about to get one. >> i answered my cell phone and i heard his voice. couldn't believe it. coming up, a trap is set to lure gary hilton from his hiding spot. and a dramatic new lead. could it lead police to meredith? >> she could be alive. and we just can't let up. >> when mystery on blood mountain continues. ♪ if you wear a denture, you not only want a clean feeling every day, you want your denture to be stain free. did you know there's a specialty cleanser that's gentle enough for everyday use and cleans better than regular toothpaste? try polident cleanser. it has a four in one cleaning system
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for her. >>realized this would be helpful, his heart would be softened and turned to coming forward with information. please have the courage to come forward. we need you. >> their next lead, the big one, came from an unlikely source, the suspect himself. three days into meredith's disappearance dpar gary hilton d his old boss. >> i answered my cell phone and i heard his voice. couldn't believe it. he pretended nothing was wrong. >> he didn't let onto you he was the subject of a manhunt? >> absolutely not. he apologized at length for his past behavior and the terms on which he left. he said he was ill and now he felt better and he realized the errors of his ways and he was ready to get back to work. >> startled but thinking fast,
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tabor tried to lure him to a location with a promise of money. >> i told him that i would give him a check for $800. >> were you baiting that place that he knew to come and show up? >> it was certainly my objective to get him to a place where authorities could apprehend him. >> the trap was set at a building owned by tabor where hilton had lived for a while. the swat team was dispatched. would hilton fall for the ruse? what about the missing woman? >> meredith's name was meredith hope emerson and we all hoped she was alive. but the longer these things carry on and time passes, you continue to hope, but it diminished after time. >> as the manhunt continued, there was a glimmer of hope. january 4th, 2008, four days after meredith vanished, the
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u.s. marshall service traced activity on meredith's bank cards. >> the card was used at a local bank 15 miles from the abduction site and 50 miles south of the abduction site and the next day 80 miles. these were attempted where no money was taken. >> which suggested what? >> suggested that her did wouldn't give him the right pin. >> which also suggests maybe she's still alive? >> that's right. >> investigates had been able to trace the phone dpar gary hiltod to call his old boss. that phone call was traced about 50 miles from blood mountain. hilton, it seemed, was moving south toward atlanta. metro pd concealed themselves in and near tabor's building. that was the drop point where his old boss had promised he'd leave hilton $800. >> he doesn't show. we're still looking and wondering where could this guy
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be. >> the veteran agent working his last case before retirement was talking constantly with meredith's parents. her father, dave emerson. >> i appeal to everyone to search their hearts and memories for anything they can remember and do to help us find meredith. >> after i met the emersons, i knew that i had to tell them everything. i couldn't hold back any information from these two people. they were terrified. >> why did you take it personally? >> this case was a little bit different, because not only me but the other investigators recognized the fact early on that we have to embrace this family and tell them everything even though what we were telling them was not good news. >> hilton, meredith, her lab ella, the tip line kept ringing with leads good and bad. then four days in, a friday afternoon, a shopper called to say that she'd found a black lab mix wandering around a supermarket parking lot. >> surprised to see any dog running loose in the parking hot and then found out that it's the
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one that meredith was her dog was a pretty big surprise and shock. >> she took the dog to an animal clinic where the vet was able to read an identity chip implanted in her. sure enough, it was ella. but where was her owner, meredith? now events were moving quickly. right away came another tip >> we get a call from a female acquaintance of hilton stating she had just hung up the phone. he called her and wanted money. and she commented, don't you know the world is looking for you? and he hung up. >> hilton called from a pay phone at a convenience store near where meredith's dog had turned up. >> you have a living pet, a missing own and a phone somewhere. >> the agents are searching and they look in a dumpster. it was in a dumpster we found meredith's identification and
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her purse and bags of bloody clothing. >> the purse, three bloody fleece tops. still friday, not far from where tabor had set the trap for hilton, more than one elle-eyed citizen noticed a man emptying a white van. >> at the gas station up here, there is a white van and red dog wandering around. >> calls lit up 911. this one lasted for 12 minutes. >> dekalb, 911. >> i have the person of interest in that missing woman case is at this chevron gas station on asher dunwoody. >> the man is there? >> the van is here. the dog is here, the road dog. and i saw the man's face. i've been watching the news and i know it's him. i know it's him. he's emptying the stuff out of his van, looking around like he's guilty as sin. i can go take him down if you want. >> no, sir. stay right there. >> here comes the cops. yes. yes. >> police are there?
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>> they've it got him now. two cruisers pulled up on him. >> gary hilton was under arrest. detectives swarmed over the filthy astro van and inventoried his possessions looking for any clue to meredith's faith. a gbi spokesman updated the media. >> it's a missing person's investigate investigation right now. that's how we're pursuing it. >> take me inside your situation room when you get the news atlanta's got him. >> we're very pleased that now we have this man, but we can't lose sight of the fact we don't have meredith yet. and the possibility that she could be alive and we just can' let up. we attempt to interview him. he refuseds. >> i'm waiving no rights. i want an attorney appointed to represent me. i want to speak with that attorney and i want that attorney present during questioning. >> cops had their man but not meredith.
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could they crack him, get from him the story of what had happened in the national forest? in your decades of law enforcement agent, have you ever had a session of interviews like this one? >> no. he was very straightforward and was very nonchalant. >> when "mystery on blood mountain" continues.
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saturday morning, five days after meredith emerson vanished on blood mountain, gary hilton was charged with a crime against her, kidnapping with bodily injury. hilton was in custody but he was uncooperative, zipped up, giving his interrogators nothing on meredith's whereabouts or what he had done with her. >> meredith's middle name is hope and that's exactly what the lord gives us for her. so we are hoping that we're talking of meredith in the
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present tense and that we will be finding her and that she will safely come home to us. >> the searchers in the field, meanwhile, shifted their focus from blood mountain to these woods called dawson forest about 30 miles to the south. it was from around here that hilton had made those phone calls to his ex-boss. remember, by then, meredith's bloody clothing had been retrieved from a dumpster, not a good sign at all. but as long as there was the most remote chance she was still alive, the search was going to continue. but lead agent john kegel knew these vast woodlands very well, and he knew the otds of finding needles in haystacksment as he saw it, he only had one option, repugnant as it was with, and that was to cut a deal with gary hilton. >> sunday morning we got him a lawyer and i went up and had a talk with the lawyer and essentially laid out our case. >> hilton's lawyer then conferred with his client. the district attorney was brought into the loop and a deal went down. hilton would plead guilty to
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murder, because that is what it had been, and then he said he would lead investigators to meredith's body in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table. nobody in law enforcement likes to make deals without holding their nose. >> we had to do it. you know, we needed to find meredith, and given the circumstances i would do the same thing now. >> i'm guessing, agent, the situation in your interview room is, gary, you told us what did to her. now where did you put her? >> yes. and he told us. >> hilton was loaded into a vehicle and he led lawmen down a trail in dawson forest. >> the body will be approximately 40 yards or 120 feet covered by leaves and brush. the head will be missing. >> where's the head? >> the only reason by the way the head was removed was forensically. >> yeah, right.
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>> a clearly shaken agent kegel told atlanta about the tragic outcome. >> at approximately 7:30 this evening the body of meredith emerson was discovered in a wooded area. the specific information given as to the location of the body was given to me by gary hilton. >> the kidnapping charge was anted up. >> mr. hilton is charged with one count of murder of meredith emerson. he has been taken into custody and brought to our detention center.
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