Gary Michael Hilton Trial - Victim Impact Statements

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

UPDATE April 7, 2011 by Lanetra Bennett

Those who knew Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheryl Dunlap say their lives have been forever changed.

Today, they got the chance to express themselves in court in front of the man accused of killing her.

A jury convicted Gary Michael Hilton 12 to 0 for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap, and they also voted 12 to 0 to recommend the death penalty...

But, today it was mostly about Dunlap's family and friends as they were allowed to have their voices heard before the judge makes a final decision on Hilton's sentence.

Gary Michael Hilton asks about the well being of his public defender as he walks into the courtroom...

But, it was the loved ones of the woman he's convicted of killing that aren't doing so well.

"I miss my friend."

Friends and family of Cheryl Dunlap had an opportunity to express their feelings before Hilton is sentenced during a victim impact hearing Thursday...

Dunlap's aunt says Dunlap loved to read at Leon Sinks... where Hilton is convicted of kidnapping Dunlap before murdering her in December 2007

Emma Blount, Cheryl Dunlap's aunt, says, "I remember one time in particular when I told her I didn't like for her to go there alone. She said I had nothing to worry about, she would be perfectly safe. There was no one there who would harm her. To have her taken from a place she felt and enjoyed adds to the horror of this."

Dunlap's former co-worker, best friend, and prayer partner then shared how her life has changed since Dunlap's death.

Laura Walker, Cheryl Dunlap's best friend, says, "She was a counselor, a shoulder to cry on and the list goes on and on. When the realization hit me that I would no longer see her or hear her voice again, I just felt empty and void."

Hilton declined to speak during the hearing, but Dunlap's cousin made it clear in her speech how she feels about him.

Gloria Tucker, Cheryl Dunlap's cousin, says, "What will it take to stop this monster? There is no question he must pay with his own life."

State Attorney Willie Meggs re-emphasized the sentiments of Dunlap's family by also asking the judge to go with the jury's death penalty recommendation...

Hilton's lawyers say no weight should be given to what Meggs had to say, and they are asking for a life sentence.

The sentencing date is set for April 21st.

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April 7, 2011 - Noon -

Loved ones of the Crawfordville woman he's convicted of killing addressed the court one final time before Hilton is sentenced.

Cheryl Dunlap's aunt, best friend, and cousin, all stood up inside of courtroom 3A to convey as much as they could how much the death of the FSU nurse has changed their lives.

In February, 100 percent of the jury recommended the death penalty for Gary Michael Hilton. Hilton was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007.

This morning, Dunlap's loved ones gave impact statements before the court. The first to speak was Dunlap's aunt who described Dunlap as compassionate, giving and quick to help. Dunlap's best friend and cousin also spoke on how much of an impact this has had on their lives over the past few years.

State Attorney Willie Meggs asked the judge again today to follow the jury's recommendation of the death penalty... The defense is asking for a life sentence.

More than two dozen letters from other friends and loved ones were submitted to the court. The defense objected to most of them because he says their expressions of hurt and pain were inappropriate. The judge agreed with the state and is allowing the letters to be considered by the court.

The judge makes an official sentencing for Gary Michael Hilton on April 21.

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April 7, 2011 - 10:10am -

Sentencing for Gary Michael Hilton is set for April 21
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April 7, 2011 - 10:05am -

Defense is up now. The attorney has asked for a life sentence for Hilton instead of the death penalty. He says not much weight should be given to much of what the state attorney said.

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April 7, 2011 - 9:55am -

Hilton declined to speak. State Attorney Willie Meggs is giving an ending statement.
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April 7, 2011 - 9:42am -

Dunlap's aunt, Emma Blount, just finished giving her impact statement. Dunlap's best friend, Laura Walker, is now up. Both have expressed just how much Dunlap meant to them.
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April 7, 2011 - 9:38am -

The defense objected to the written impact statements from Dunlap's family and friends because he says their comments about pain, heartache, and punishment for Dunlap's killer are inappropriate characterizations of Hilton and opinions of the crime. The state says the purpose of the letters is not to inflame the court. The prosecutor says the people have a right to be heard and is asking that the letters be a part of the record. Judge agrees with the state. He has over ruled the objections and says the court has a right to consider the letters.
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April 7, 2011 - 9:25am -

State Attorney Willie Meggs says three witnesses will speak before the court today for one last opportunity to tell the court how Cheryl Dunlap's death has impacted their lives. The defense is going through a pile of letters from other loved ones who've submitted written impact statements. There were more than two dozen letters, and the defense objected to all but one.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Lip Cheese on Apr 8, 2011 at 08:06 AM
    Now he has health insurance. I work and pay taxes but do not, cannot afford it.
  • by Why? Location: tally on Apr 8, 2011 at 06:57 AM
    He is already convited at GA. What is this court in FL for? Let him serve at GA first and save tax payers some money in FL but NO we have to pay all these hours of atorney work, court costs etc. The guy has dead penalty approved at GA and we are still trialing him at FL. Nothing else to do we are at court for a person who already needs to be dead at GA and yet courts need money. A lot needs to change here!
  • by panhandlesue Location: Wakulla on Apr 8, 2011 at 06:11 AM
    Giving GMH the DP is "Justice delayed is justice denied". It will keep him in Florida for years filing appeal after appeal while he is held on death row, safe, warm, clothed, medicated, fed for the rest of his life with FL paying for his millions of $$ in appeals. NC & other states won't be able to extradite him for trial for the Bryant's murder or any other murder he committed.
  • by Kathy Location: Crawfordville on Apr 8, 2011 at 02:59 AM
    Hang him and get it over with. He did not give any of his victims time.
  • by wbb on Apr 8, 2011 at 01:28 AM
    He's what hanging trees were grew for.
  • by christina Location: WAKULLA on Apr 7, 2011 at 09:36 PM
    GO AHEAD KILL WHAT YA WAITING ON THE WORLD TO COME TO A END
  • by Lip Cheese on Apr 7, 2011 at 07:37 PM
    The gates of hell will open for him. In the meantime, his life will be hell. Living in a cage and being tormented by his demons and the inability to carry his sick fantasies out. The other inmates will probably not accept him well either. Nothing can change what happened and Cheryl is not coming home. Peace to us all.
  • by mecq Location: madison on Apr 7, 2011 at 06:22 PM
    An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth....!!!! Post haste..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • by wdyoung Location: Tallahassee on Apr 7, 2011 at 05:11 PM
    Agree with everything folks have posted here. Sad part is, so many bleeding hearts in society who believe he "didn't mean to" or he "wasn't in his right mind" or "needs help". Just sick. Someone could do that to a totally innocent, young, and healthy, not to mention loved person, and will likely be cared for on our dime for decades to come.
  • by Wakulla Belle Location: Crawfordville on Apr 7, 2011 at 02:36 PM
    They can hang him near the old courthouse where they use to many years ago in wakulla county. Or right in the same location where he kidnapped and murdered Ms. Dunlap. Or just do to his body what he did to that sweet innocent woman.... Regardless Judgement is God's in the end and he will spend eternity in the pit of hell for what he did if he doesn't seek forgiveness.
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