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Hiker's killer indicted in Florida slaying

  • Story Highlights
  • Cheryl Dunlap's body was discovered in December southwest of Tallahassee
  • Investigators say they know Hilton was in the area at the time Dunlap disappeared
  • A forestry agent wrote down his tag number, ran it through the police database
  • Hilton pleaded guilty in January to killing 24-year-old Meredith Emerson
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(CNN) -- A man serving a life sentence in Georgia for killing a young hiker in January was indicted Thursday in connection with the death of a 46-year-old Florida woman, authorities said.

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Gary Michael Hilton is also a suspect in the deaths of a couple who disappeared in North Carolina.

A Leon County, Florida, grand jury indicted Gary Michael Hilton, 61, on charges of murder, kidnapping and two counts of grand theft in the death of Cheryl Dunlap.

Her body was discovered December 16 in the Apalachicola National Forest southwest of Tallahassee.

Hilton pleaded guilty January 31 to killing Meredith Emerson, 24, after meeting her hiking in the north Georgia mountains.

Authorities believe Hilton killed Emerson January 4, three days after she disappeared while on a hike with her dog.

Hilton directed authorities to Emerson's body three days later. An autopsy found she died from blunt-force trauma to the head and was decapitated after she died.

Police in Florida had said Hilton was a suspect in Dunlap's death. North Carolina authorities have also named him a suspect in the deaths of John Bryant, 80, and his wife, Irene, 84, who disappeared while hiking in Pisgah National Forest October 21.

Irene Bryant's body was found near the couple's car November 9; a hunter discovered John Bryant's remains earlier this month.

Florida investigators have said they know Hilton was in the area at the time Dunlap disappeared December 1 because he ran into a forestry agent who wrote down his vehicle's tag number and ran it through the police database, Leon County Sheriff's Maj. Mike Wood said in January.

No warrants for his arrest or other criminal alerts were found.

Police released surveillance camera photos of a man they said was using Dunlap's ATM card to obtain cash on December 2, 3 and 4. No details have been released on the cause of Dunlap's death or the condition of her body when it was found.

Wood said Florida authorities had received numerous tips from citizens in the Dunlap case, including one from a hunter who reported seeing a "homeless-looking, disheveled man with a knife" December 7 in the national forest.

The hunter, who said he warned the man the forest was a bad place to be during hunting season, notified police of the encounter December 19, after Dunlap's body was found.

Authorities in Florida and North Carolina had said there was no rush to charge Hilton, because he was in the custody of Georgia authorities.

Although Hilton was indicted, the Leon County, Florida, Sheriff's Office said in a written statement they and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will continue the investigation. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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