[UPDATE] Gary Michael Hilton Trial Continues- DNA Links Hilton and Cheryl Dunlap

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UPDATED 2.11.2011 9:56pm by Amy Long

The gallery in the courtroom was full Friday as the the state rested its case in the murder trial of Gary Michael Hilton.

Prosecutors say it was the last witness to take the stand who proved Hilton murdered and dismembered Crawfordville native, Cheryl Dunlap.

It took Florida prosecutors six days to set the stage to present the first evidence that directly links Gary Michael Hilton to Cheryl Dunlap.

"I tested 9 areas from this sleeping bag-" says JoEllen Brown DNA and Population Statistics Expert, "I had one single sorce profile from an area that matched Mr Hilton. On another area I had a mixture of DNA. The major contributor at that particular area matched the DNA profile from Cheryl Dunlap."

DNA and Population Statistics expert JoEllen Brown spent much of the afternoon on the stand-- She testified Cheryl Dunlap's DNA was found on 4 items recovered from Gary Michael Hilton's white Astro van and a dumpster in Georgia.

Brown says a black duffle bag had traces of what is believed to be Dunlap's DNA, but it was the shoestring on one of Hilton's hiking boots, a blue sleeping bag and a blue pair of pants that had DNA profiles that statistics show would not match any one else on the planet beside Dunlap.

"Analysis from the blue pants showed a mixture of DNA types, I could determine a major donor however. The major donor does match Cheryl Dunlap and statistically speaking the frequency occurance of this major DNA contributor of the DNA profile is 1 in 29 quadrillion caucasions."

Brown conducted DNA testing on more than 750 items collected and swabbed by law enforcement.... When she stepped off the stand, State Attorney Willie Meggs and his team rested their case.

The DNA analyst also discovered a small plastic bead in Hilton's back pack when she was processing it ... it's the latest in a trail of beads recovered first at Hilton's campsite and then in Dunlap's car.

The defense is expected to start presenting its case on Monday at 9am.

UPDATED 2.11.2011 6:35pm by Julie Montanaro

Prosecutors have rested their case in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

DNA took center stage this afternoon and this morning, Gary Hilton's own words may have come back to haunt him.

"I'm not all bad. I mean, you got to understand. I mean, I'm sure you can see. I mean, I'm a *ucking genius, man. I'm not a ... (laughs) I'm not all bad," Hilton said.

Those words were recorded on a four and half hour ride from Georgia to Tallahassee as deputies brought Gary Hilton back to faces charges in the murder of Cheryl Dunlap.

LCSO SGT David Graham testified Hilton talked the whole time.

At one point in the recording Hilton called himself a "sociopathic character." He said he "got old and sick and couldn't make a living" and got "into a rage against society."

"I just lost, flat lost my *ucking mind for awhile man, I couldn't get a grip on it," Hilton said.

Defense attorneys point out Hilton said a whole lot more, rambling about everything from the price of gasoline to the assassination of JFK.

"Did he lament about his life?" defense attorney Ines Suber asked on cross examination.

"Yes," Graham said.

"His lack of family?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"His lack of employment?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"His lack of money?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"No reasons to live?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Suber asked about atomic bombs, interest rates, the housing crisis, credit card debt, volcanoes, earthquakes, marriage, politics, Vietnam, Hurricane Katrina, Tallahassee traffic and more and SGT Graham answered yes to every one.

The defense fought to keep the next witness off the stand. A witness never disclosed by the prosecution during discovery. A correctional officer who used to work at the Leon County Jail who overheard Hilton talking to a fellow inmate.

"Did Mr. Hilton say anything about whether he has any regrets about killing Cheryl Dunlap?" asked prosecutor Georgia Cappleman.

"Yes, ma'am," Caleb Wynn said.

"What did he say?"

"He said the only thing he regretted is getting caught. If he had a second chance he'd do it right. He kicks himself in the *ss every day for it," Wynn testified.

The last word from the prosecution was DNA.

An FDLE analyst says Cheryl Dunlap's DNA was found on the shoestring of one of Hilton's hiking boots, a pair of blue pants, a black duffel bag and on one of Hilton's sleeping bags too.

The defense is expected to start presenting its case on Monday.
[UPDATE] 2-11 --

State rests its case. Jury asked to be back at 8:45 am on Monday, February 14.
Defense will start testimony on Monday.


[UPDATE] 2-11 2:48PM --

Brown still on the stand at 2:48PM:

Brown tested the black pack from Ashford Dunwoody crime scene and found blood. Brown testifies she found loose items in the backpack while she was testing, including plant material, a stick, a rubber band, a gray strap, a bead, and masking tape. The found bead was entered as evidence.

Brown was given swabs from Dunlap's thighs and found foreign DNA that was very degraded, but the foreign DNA is a possible match to Hilton.


[UPDATE] 2-11 2:33PM --

Brown is still on stand at 2:11PM

Brown testifies she tested a black Northface jacket found at the Ashford Dunwoody crime scene. The jacket had Hilton's DNA.

Brown tested the black duffle bag and it had mixture of DNA, possibly belonging to Dunlap and Hilton.

Yellow overalls, a purple and green hat, and a lime-green and white string from Hilton's Astro van showed indication of blood, DNA could not be extracted.

Three pairs of teal pants, purple pants, a pink jacket, and teal shirt from Hilton's van tested positive for blood and DNA matched Hilton.

A purple sleeping bag found in Hilton's van tested positive for blood and a mixture of DNA, one of which possibly belonging to Dunlap.

Brown tested a blue sleeping bag and found blood. Brown tested 9 areas from the sleeping bag and found Hilton's DNA with the other major DNA contributor being Dunlap.

It was stated that DNA could only belong to 1 in 11 trillion, and because there are not a trillion people on the planet "it would be unlikely that the DNA was not hers."

DNA from blue pants showed a mixture of DNA with the major contributor being Dunlap. Only 1 in 29 quadrillion would have the same match.


[UPDATE] 2-11 2:18PM --

Browns states that blood and Dunlap's DNA was found on Hilton's boot shoestring, and a mixture of DNA from Hilton and Dunlap was found on a black duffle bag.

The court is still going through DNA results.


[UPDATE] 2-11 2:05PM -

The state calls JoEllen Brown, a crime lab analyst for FDLE. Brown looks for bodily fluids and is expert in DNA analysis and population statistics

Brown was able to make a standard set of DNA for Dunlap by comparing muscle found on the body recovered from the woods to Dunlap's toothbrush.

Brown was given swabs from the inside of Hilton's cheek and was able to develop a full profile for Hilton.

In this case, Brown says she was looking for items that had blood to try and extract the DNA. She says she screened over 750 items in this case.

Swabs from Dunlap's steering wheel and driver side controls showed a mixture of DNA, the majority from Dunlap and a small amount from a male whom she was unable to identify.

Brown swabbed a filter found at LL Wallace Road and it tested positive for blood, but no DNA. Pieces of paper towel and plastic sheeting did have blood, but again, she was unable to find DNA.

Brown says items left in the weather would degrade DNA.

Items swabbed from Joe Thomas Road included a broken piece of glass that had female DNA, but no blood and no other details.

A found, hand-rolled cigarette butt did have partial DNA from Gary Hilton.

Brown tested the bayonet and found blood, but could not extract DNA because it was left out in the weather.

Brown ran tests on the (hobo) gloves from the Quik Time dumpster and found blood. Mixed DNA profiles from 2 or more individuals were found. Hilton was included as a possible contributor. A mixture makes it more difficult because there are too many genes.

Brown tested the boots from Quik Time dumpster found blood. She swabbed 8 areas of the boots. There were mixtures of 2 different people, including Hilton The shoe string gave results of 3 people, the majority belonging to Dunlap.


[UPDATE] 2-11 1:19PM -

The defense moved for a mistrial, saying the jury is contaminated because they know Hilton was arrested an Georgia and that he committed a crime in Georgia.

Judge denies the motion.

The jury is now being brought in.


[UPDATE] 2-11 11:20AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Defense attorneys say after interviewing Wynn, Wynn could not say whether Hilton's comments about the missing head and getting caught were about Cheryl Dunlap or Georgia hiker Meredith Emerson.

The judge would not let jurors hear Hilton's comment about" being selective" about who he picked because it implies multiple victims.

Jurors have returned to the courtroom and Caleb Wynn is now on the stand.


[UPDATE] 2-11 10:30AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Defense attorneys are fighting to keep a former Leon County Jail Correctional officer off the stand.

Caleb Wynn told the judge he listened in on two conversations that Hilton had with fellow inmates. He claims Hilton said, "If the state would give him life, he'd tell them where the head is."

Wynn claims Hilton said the only thing he regretted about killing Cheryl Dunlap "was getting caught" and that he "kicks himself in the *ss for it every day."

Defense attorney Ines Suber claims prosecutors "deliberately and calculatedly" did not list Wynn as a witness and they say it is the second time they have done it during this trial.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman says Wynn's name was mentioned in jury selection, his testimony was mentioned in opening arguments, and says defense attorneys scheduled a deposition with Wynn last week, and then canceled it.

Suber says she canceled because she needed to explore Wynn and the possibility he had a prior record. She also says she has requested information and maintenance records on the jail's intercom system and needs more time to prepare to question Wynn about both of those issues.

The judge ruled that prosecutors did violate discovery rules but made no attempt to hide his testimony and had furnished Wynn's report to the defense as far back as September.

The judge gave defense attorneys 20 minutes to depose Wynn.


[UPDATE] 2-11 10:15AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Jurors are now hearing a recording of Gary Hilton's interaction with Leon County investigators who traveled to Georgia to collect a DNA swab, a hair sample and his fingerprints.

Almost right away, Hilton asks about the weather in Tallahassee, calls it "God's country" and says old folks like him like it because it's "real flat."

Hilton talks about the folks in Georgia "taking up all your water," calls Atlanta area developers "greedy pigs" and says they are" issuing building permits like there's no tomorrow."

Hilton says, "If they want to do immunity for me, I will be happy to give a full and complete statement."

Hilton also says in an apparent reference to other crimes "This is the absolute truth, nothing before September. Nothing before that. I started hunting in September."

Graham also was one of the deputies who escorted Hilton from Georgia to Tallahassee in June 2008.

Graham says Hilton talked in a long rambling monologue for more than four hours.

"I'm not all bad as I'm sure you can see. I'm a *ucking genius as you can see. I'm not all bad," Hilton said on that ride.

Hilton talked about the military and how soldiers are taught to kill. He said there are "two kinds of bayonet fighters, good ones and dead ones."

The prosecution played only about 6 minutes of the recording, so defense attorneys asked what else Hilton talked about. Graham answered "yes" to a long list of topics from politics to the price of gas, from the Vietnam War to the assassination of JFK, even interest and credit card debt.


[UPDATE] 2-11 9:00AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The judge told the jury that if everything goes as planned, prosecutors expect to wrap up their case later today. He told jurors the defense expects to present its case on Monday and jurors could get the case as early as Tuesday afternoon.

LCSO SGT David Graham is now on the stand. He went to Georgia to collect a DNA sample from Gary Hilton in February 2008. He says the entire encounter was recorded and prosecutors are about to play that recording for the jury.


UPDATED 2.10.2011 by Amy Long

Day 5 brings testimony from both prosecution and defense attorneys involved in Hilton's murder trial in Georgia where he pleaded guilty to murdering and dismembering hiker, Meredith Emerson. Florida Prosecutors needed their testimony to submit what is arguably some of the most important evidence in their case.

A Georgia state prosecutor called in his testimony and that was all it took for prosecutors in Florida to admit a bayonet into evidence.
The weapon was found after Gary Michael Hilton told GBI Agent Clay Bridges where he left it. "He had left the bayonet on a hiking trail in north Georgia." says Bridges.

Agent Bridges says he then called on another member of law enforcement to find it. That's where LT MARK Cecci with the Union County Sheriff's Office came in, "How did you locate it once you got to that location? With a metal detector."

The Prosecution then introduced Tool Mark expert, Jeff Foggy who said like fingerprints, each knife leaves its own unique pattern. He also testified about the connect between Cheryl Dunlap's slashed tire and the bayonet found in the Georgia mountains. "The submitted bayonet made the stab on the submitted tire."

Foggy says he was also sent vertebrae bones- but he could not tell if the marks were made with the same bayonet or even a knife at all.

The jury also saw the man they've only witnessed quietly sitting back in a courtroom chair animated when petting his dog and talking to police. "You can catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar, look he's laughing at me." Hilton watched as the jury got a glimpse into his life through home videos he had once deleted.

A fingerprint analysis expert also took the stand and testified Hilton's print's were *not* found in Dunlap's Camary, However, it's unknown if any of Dunlap's prints were in Hilton's van because a set of fingerprints for Dunlap was never established.

Testimony begins Friday at 9am

UPDATED 2.10.2011 by Julie Montanaro

A series of home-made videos loomed large on day five of testimony in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

Those videos gave jurors a glimpse into the life and mind of the accused killer who looked a lot different then than he does now.

We warn you there is some graphic language in this story.

Gary Hilton's attorneys fought it all the way, but Thursday morning jurors were able to watch a series of videos that analysts were able to retrieve from Hilton's camera even though Hilton had deleted them.

"I've gained 20 pounds in three months, three or four months," Hilton said as he backed away from the camera and struck a pose. "171 pounds," he said.

The videos showed a much more fit and vibrant man than the 64 year old with glasses seated in court.

Hilton poses affectionately with his dog in one clip. "This is my baby," he said as he kneeled next to him.

He confronts police from the driver's seat in another video that appears to be taken in his van.

"They stopped me right there on foot, jogging with my dog," Hilton said as he waved a piece of paper around in his hand.

He even lambasts a pizza shop employee over a tailgating delivery driver in another clip.

"You tell these guys to quit terror driving. You tell them not to drive more than five miles above the limit. You tell them to keep at least a vehicle away," Hilton says in a shaky video that looks up at a Papa John's employee near the cash register.

Yet the tapes that mattered most to the prosecution had very little video on them at all and it's not clear if Hilton even realized he was recording at the time.

One is a white screen with flashes of sky and pine. The other is almost completely black.

Both were recorded two days after Cheryl Dunlap disappeared and it's the audio that prosecutors enhanced in hopes jurors could hear a few key phrases.

"Yeah, I killed those bitches," Hilton said at one point.

A few moments later he speaks animatedly, presumably to his dog, saying "We're going to the park but first I've gotta go hide this somewhere else."

We want to point out, that there is no official transcript of the comments Hilton made on those home videos so the quotes may not be exact, but they are as close as we can get based on what we heard in court today.

Testimony will continue tomorrow.

UPDATED 2.10 5:45pm
Testimony has ended for the day and will begin tomorrow at 9am.

[UPDATE] 2-10 --

Jeff Foggy with FDLE is on the stand. Testifying about tool mark identification and analysis.

Foggy testified he made comparisons and tested sections of Dunlap's tire to find out what kind of tool was used to make a slash in the tire. Initially he says he had no tool to compare it to.

After looking at the characteristics, Foggy says he chose a bayonet to reference because of the way the tool entered and left Dunlap's tire.

Foggy testified his replicated results showed the tool used was a bayonet and told law enforcement they would be looking for a bayonet.

When Foggy received the bayonet recovered from GA, he cut into a test tire, compared and concluded the submitted bayonet (found by Cecci in GA) made the cut in the submitted tire (Dunlap's tire)

Foggy testified his lab was also sent vertebrae bones and he could not say if the marks on the bones were created by the same bayonet or even a knife.

Defense's cross examination tries to discredit Foggy's tool marking experience saying he primarily works with firearms and had only about 3 years of training in non-firearm tool mark testing.

Foggy says this is the first case he has testified in that refers to bayonets, but he says the marks are there and suitable for comparison.


[UPDATE] 2-10 --

LT Mark Cecci with GA Union County Police is on the stand, and testifies he found the bayonet on a trail on Blood Mountain.

Judge allows to admit pictures and bayonet into evidence

[UPDATE] 2-10 --

State calls Clay Bridges to the stand. Bridges is a special agent with the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation).

Defense requesting a mistrial because there are two members in the Jury that know something that happened in GA and now it's clear

"STAY AWAY FROM HIS (Hilton's) RIGHTS" The judge raised his voice at the state and warned Bridges to not mention Hilton was arrested in relation to other crimes.

Judge denied a mistrial.

Bridges testified Hilton told his where the bayonet he lost was. Hilton said he lost the bayonet on a hiking trail in GA. Bridges then said he instructed another law enforcement (Mark Cecci) to retrieve the bayonet.

[UPDATE] 2-10 --

Stephens says fingerprints are unique to each individual. He testifies he was provided with latent fingerprints found on 1,000s of items relating to the case "State vs Hilton". He was provided with fingerprints from Hilton but was unable to locate any fingerprints for Dunlap. He says he went to Dunlap's home and retrieved a couple of items from her house but could not find a standard of the victims prints.

Mark Stephens says he was unable to find ANY latent prints from the Joe Thomas campsite, he says it may have been because of the elements the items were exposed to.

Stephens says items he tested that came from Dunlap's Camary did NOT have any of Hilton's prints. State pointed out that he could not locate any of Dunlap's prints in Hilton's van because he has nothing to compare them to.

Defense now questioning Stephen's. who testifies he could not find any prints on any chains, tobacco papers, dog food containers, paper towels or duct tape from various places, allergy packets and and a black nylon baton holder found in a dumpster in GA had no prints on them

[UPDATE] 2-10 --

State witness FDLE Crime lab analyst Mark Stephens is on the stand. He specializes in finger print analysis.

Stephens gave the jury a long lesson in latent fingerprinting and says an individual's hands (callusing, gloves, lack of moisture on hands), texture of the surface being tested and weather elements or atmosphere conditions make it very difficult to find valuable latent finger prints.

[UPDATE] 2-10 2:50 PM --

Amy George FDLE testimony:

The state was able to admit a ceiling compartment that was in the van as it was found that it had suspected blood. The state also admitted 25 swabs of suspected blood from the inside of the van as evidence.

George's testimony is complete. The trial has recessed for 15 minutes.


[UPDATE] 2-10 2:30 PM --

Amy George with FDLE is on the stand.

George is responsible for processing Hilton's van after it arrived at FDLE headquarters on Feb.24 2008. George recovered small pieces of paper towels, part of an orange phone, parts of burned rolling papers, a piece of a palmetto, and nicotine gum. All of the items recovered were found under the driver's seat of the white van.

George also removed pieces of trimming from the side of the van that had suspected blood. There is also a seat belt from the middle of the van's front seat, sunglasses holder found on the visor, driver's visor, and the front passenger vinyl seat back,

Defense objected to all of the items submitted because of 'lack of predicate' or 'irrelevantly' . The judge overruled and admitted.

Jury is passing around all of the evidence bags


[UPDATE] 2-10 2:00 PM --

The state has Norman Gunter on the phone. Gunter, an attorney in Georgia, worked on the Emerson investigation with GBI. He started working the case on Jan. 4 2008 when Meridith Emerson went missing. Gunter made a deal with Hilton and his GA attorney (Neil Smith) on Jan. 7 2008 that if Hilton would tell investigators where Emerson's body was and give details of what happened, Gunter would recommend charging Hilton with one count of murder and a life sentence.

Gunter says Hilton told law enforcement where to find Emerson's body. There was trouble locating Emerson's head so they brought Hilton out to the location off Blood Mountain.

Gunter says Hilton lived up to his site of the bargain.

The defense as Neil Smith on the phone. Smith is with the Georgia Public Defender Office.

Smith says when the plea deal was made, Hilton, Smith and law enforcement drove over county lines and located Emerson.

The defense says the statements Hilton made in the car ride were part of a plea agreement. The defense says statements made exclusively for the state to not seek the death penalty and only be charged with one count of murder.

The defense says the bayonet only came to light because of Hilton's statement and say the state can't connect the bayonet by fingerprint or blood, instead, it can only be connected by statements made as part of the plea agreement.

The judge agreed that a statement Hilton made to GBI agent Clay Bridges is admissible. That statement led investigators there to a bayonet used in the abduction and murder of hiker Meredith Emerson. Prosecutors believe Hilton used that same bayonet to slash the tire on Cheryl Dunlap's tire.


[UPDATE] 2-10 Noon --

Jurors listened intently as prosecutors played two recordings from Hilton's camera that were dated December 3, 2007.

The first is 29 minutes long and on it you can hear Hilton humming and singing and then Hilton driving. It's almost as if he doesn't realize the camera is on and the only thing you can see is a white screen. At one point he seems to check the camera and you can see flashes of blue sky and pine trees.

The second recording is about 15 minutes long. It is similar in that it shows a mostly black screen.

Prosecutors are now playing a disc that includes only audio from the first recording and that audio has been enhanced so you can hear Hilton more clearly.

The audio, even enhanced, is difficult to hear. At one point, Hilton seems to say either to his dog or himself, 'we're going to the park but first I gotta hide this somewhere else.' And at another point seems to say 'killed those bitches.' However, there is no transcript in evidence at this point and no way to confirm if these comments are completely accurate.


[UPDATE] 2-10 10AM --

Prosecutors say most of the clips from Hilton's camera last less than a minute.

The judge has asked to see them all before showing them to the jury.

The jury is now watching the videos.

The first video shows Hilton's dog.

The videos show short clips of Hilton and his dog and passing shots of his van as it was parked in a parking lot behind a Kroger grocery store.

There is a clip of Hilton angrily complaining to a Papa Johns pizza shop employee about a delivery driver tailgating him in Atlanta.

There is another video that shows a confrontation with police officers. It appears to have been shot from inside Hilton's van and shows his hands on the steering wheel.

There is another video in which Hilton backs up from the camera, and says he's gained 20 pounds in three months and then lifts his jacket to show his waistline.

Jurors are now watching a 29 minute video that was taken on December 3, 2007.


[UPDATE] 2-10 9:50AM --

The judge has admitted a memory stick from Hilton's camera into evidence over the objections of Hilton's attorney.

FDLE Digital Evidence Analyst Matthew Ruddell is on the stand. He made a copy of the memory stick and with special software was able to retrieve not only the pictures and movies that were on it, but those that had been deleted.

There were more than 10 clips that were of interest in the investigation, Ruddell said, and those were highlighted in red on the content list shown in court.

One of the deleted files was a movie clip dated December 3, 2007 at 5:49pm, just two days after Dunlap disappeared.


[UPDATE] 2-10 9:25AM --

Testimony has resumed in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton as the prosecution's case stretches into its 5th day.

FDLE Special Agent Annie White went to GBI headquarters twice to retrieve evidence in the case. The first time she retrieved a bayonet and two other items and brought them back by car. The second time she went to retrieve evidence, she and several fellow agents drove up with a semi-truck to collect many more items.

Among them, there were some hiking boots, several jackets, a black backpack, a digital camera and at least two sleeping bags.

White says Hilton's white Astro van was brought back on the semi-truck that same day, Valentines Day 2008.


UPDATE 2.9.2011 by Amy Long

Day four of the Gary Michael Hilton Murder Trial is a wrap ... but not before attorneys from both sides argued back and forth over recorded conversations Hilton had with Leon County Deputies who helped transport him from Georgia to Florida.

Experts, however, did say one thing is indisputable: the bones found in Hilton's fire pit belonged to a human.

Bags and pictures of charred bones were entered in as evidence Wednesday afternoon.

"They are various bones of the human body. Some of them are cranial fragments. Some of them are bones of he hands and wrists." says Anthony Falsetti.

Forensic Anthropologist Expert Doctor Anthony Falsetti primarily works with skeletal remains. He was brought in to talk about the bones law enforcement recovered from Gary Michael Hilton's campsite fire pit and explain w hat, if any trauma, was done to them. "There were 7 instances of sharp force injury to the cervical vertebra, and of the carpal bones that were recovered, four of the five have cut marks on them."

"If you use you imagination our nail would be right there" Falsetti says there were enough digits for at least two, small hands and says while they were highly fragmented and burned, the bones could only belong to a human adult.
He also hand-picked the bones that were the least damaged to test for DNA ... but the hard-core evidence was snuffed out.

FBI Forensic Mitochondrial DNA Examiner, Patricia a-guard Aagaard, says she could not find DNA on any of the bones because they were so badly burned. "I did not have any DNA or mitochondrial DNA."

Attorneys revisited the admission of portions from 4 and a half hours of recorded statements that Hilton made during transportation from Georgia to Florida.

The judge agreed with defense attorneys that the jury shouldn't see them in their entirety.. However the jury will hear an edited version sometime in the future. "Frankly they are disturbing but he says he went off and that's why he murdered her, and I can't imagine anything being more probative." says Judge James Hankinson.

Prosecutors called two other witnesses to the stand to try and admit a recovered bayonet and a camera memory stick into evidence, but they were unsuccessful.

The jury is expected to hear more on both of those items in the coming days.

UPDATE 2.9.2011 by Julie Montanaro

Evidence is literally piling up in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton. Hundreds of bags of evidence now fill courtroom 3A.

Yet some of the most interesting testimony today is testimony the jury will never hear. Statements Hilton is alleged to have made soon after his arrest.

LCSO Sergeant David Graham helped to transport accused killer Gary Michael Hilton from north Georgia to Tallahassee to face charges in Cheryl Dunlap's disappearance.

He says Hilton talked almost the entire time.

"Then he made the unsolicited comment, "Y'all still messing with me down there?"

Do you remember him also saying to you, if they want to do immunity for me, I'll be glad to give them a full and complete statement?" the defense attorney asked, "Do you remember that statement?"

"Yes," Graham said.

Defense attorneys fought to keep Hilton's comments to Leon County deputies on that ride and a previous visit to collect DNA out of court.

They say he had just brokered a plea deal to avoid the death penalty in the murder of Georgia hiker Meredith Emerson and was hoping to negotiate a similar deal in Florida.

The judge admitted the statements as evidence, but agreed with defense attorneys that the jury shouldn't see them in their entirety. They won't hear Hilton saying "I'll appeal it all the way" or "It'll take 20 years to execute me."

And even though defense attorneys say it hints at earlier crimes, jurors will hear Hilton say "I started in September of last year, nothing before that ... I started hunting in September."

Also on the stand today, a former GBI Crime Scene specialist who collected evidence from Hilton's van and a nearby dumpster the night he was arrested in Georgia.

Among the duffel bags and plastic bins inside, he said, were three air pistols, a digital camera and memory stick, some hiking boots, at least two yellow jackets, and three sleeping bags, one of which prosecutors contend has Cheryl Dunlap's blood on it.

[UPDATE] 2-9 5:10PM -- By Amy Long

Defense claims Hilton was truly a frustrated individual when he was being transported from Georgia to Florida to stand trial for murder and his recorded ramblings had nothing to do with this case.

They claim it was nothing more than someone who is venting and running his mouth.

State believes the statements speak for themselves. Thinks Hilton was referencing the Dunlap murder when he spoke. State thinks the statement shows guilt expressing himself justify the crime "I just lost it". State says there are some rambling aspects in his statements, but it shows he had consciousness of guilt. The states talks about the bayonet and the state alleges the bayonet is the same tool that slashed Dunlap's tire.

Other statements the state wanted to admit include those about suicide. State says the statements are important because they show premeditation and how the crime was committed. The judge said he will not allow those statements.


[UPDATE] 2-9 4:50PM -- by Amy Long

Jury has been sent home for the day but the action remains in the courtroom as a hearing is underway about a Hilton transport recording that happened on 6-9-2008.

The defense says the state wants to present only limited portions of the 4.5 hour recorded statement. The defense objected saying the State only took out selective parts of the tape recording made while Hilton was being transported to Florida from Georgia. Defense says selective portions need to reviewed since they says the statement is just rambling that covers a broad range of topics. Defense says Hilton's statement is all over the place and the State selected only parts and which are taken out of context.

One of those quotes "I'm not all bad- lost grip on myself" One of many statements the defense says is inflammatory and not an admission to this crime. Defense says it's a commentary on the military and America's society.

Other statement the state wants to use "Drill Sergeant would ask 'What's the spirit of the bayonet?- would answer 'to kill!" AND "I wont refer to myself as a serial killer because I've only been accused of being a serial killer."

Defense is now referencing other cases.


[UPDATE] 2-9 4:25PM -- by Amy Long

Trial at a stopping point at 4;14pm the jury is sent home to regroup. Jury asked to return tomorrow morning at 8:45 AM.

Attorneys are still discussing in the courtroom. The topic is the hearing on the transport statement.


{UPDATE] 2-9 4:00PM -- by Amy Long

FDLE Crime lab analyst, Matthew Ruddell, who specializes in digital evidence is called to the stand.

Ruddell says he was asked to looked over Sony memory stick in the case of "the State vs. Hilton"

Objection called by defense.

Ruddell received the item (memory stick) on 6-20-2008. He says it came in a sealed, submitted by Tina Rivers with LCSO.

The item was not introduced. Ruddell is asked to step down.

Judge says he want a testimony showing each stop the potential evidence made to be sure it was not tampered with to be sure it is the same one that was seized.


[UPDATE] 2-9 3:20PM -- by Amy Long

Investigator Mark Cecci from Georgia takes the stand.

The first question asked by the state is about the recovery of a bayonet. The defense called objection and a sidebar.

The jury was then called out of the room.

Attorney's discuss:
The bayonet was found in area on Blood Mountain. The the same trail Meridith Emerson was last seen alive and where Hilton was seen by witnesses.

An expandable baton was found in the same general area Cecci found the bayonet.

Cecci says it was his understanding that Hilton's statement lead them to the area where the bayonet was found.

Agent Clay Bridges found out about bayonet from Hilton's statements in Georgia.

Neither side (state or defense) is clear on whether Hilton's statement was unimmunized, only has strictly use immunity, or whether he had derivative use immunity.

The judge says it seems the defense would have communicated with council in Georgia on what the immunity was.

The judge does not have enough details to make a decision. He needs to know what the status of the information was, calling it "fool hearty" to put into evidence what Hilton's agreement was with Georgia.

Judge says he will not enter the bayonet on "inevitable discovery"

Cecci asked to step off the witness stand.


[UPDATE] 2-9 2:50PM -- by Amy Long

Patricia Aagaard, forensic mitochondrial DNA examiner for the FBI, is on stand. She is the states expert forensic mitochondrial DNA examiner.

The DNA was explained to the jury:

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited maternally, meaning anyone who would share the same mother. The DNA has a better chance of getting results in hair, teeth, bones. This type of DNA is usually more present, especially if there is extreme weather (I.E. the charred black bones Aagaard received). The DNA has a higher copy number.

Nuclear DNA, another type, is specific to one person but there is not as much present.

Aagaard tested for mitochondrial DNA, but tests showed no DNA. She thinks it was because the bones were too badly burned.


[UPDATE] 2-9 2PM -- by Amy Long

Dr. Anthony Falsetti says there are at least 2 hands that they established that were sent to his lab from law enforcement after they found them in a burn pit. He says the hands are those of an adult man or woman with small hands. He is looking at bones from the hands, wrist and skull.

All of the bones are highly fragmented and burned. The bones chosen for DNA tests were the ones with the least amount of burning.

Falsetti was sent bones from a vertebra (bone in neck) to look for trauma. There are 7 cut marks, indicating a sharp force injury to the vertebra. Also, four of the five wrist bones have cut marks on them..

They are currently looking at the different cut marks in the vertebra


[UPDATE] 2-9 1:35PM -- by Amy Long

Dr. Anthony Falsetti is on the stand as states expert forensic anthropologist. He is now confirming that charred bones are skull, hand, and wrist bones.


[UPDATE] 2-9 Noon -- by Julie Montanaro

The kidnapping and murder trial of Gay Michael Hilton is now in its fourth day and evidence is literally piling up in the courtroom.

Clear bags and cardboard boxes sealed with red evidence tape are stacked up in front of the jury box as well as two long tables across the room. When I walked out, they were admitting item number 247.

Hilton is accused in the December 2000 murder of Crawfordville Sunday School Teacher and FSU nurse Cheryl Dunlap. Some of the most interesting testimony today, the jury will not hear. They were statements that Hilton made after his arrest for the murder of hiker Meredith Emerson. An LCSO sergeant met with Hilton twice, once to get a DNA sample and the next to transport him back to Tallahassee to face charges. Hilton told him "f they want to give me immunity, I will give them a full and complete statement. It's gonna cost you 10 million dollars to execute me and I'll fight it. And in an apparent reference other crimes, Hilton said " I started in September of last year, nothing before that... I started hunting in September."

The judge will allow jurors to hear comments about "I started in September" but the rest he ruled too prejudicial to reveal to the jury.

A GBI crime scene specialist is going over items that he collected from Hilton's van the night he was arrested in Georgia, including three sleeping bags, one of which prosecutors say has Cheryl Dunlap's blood on it.


[UPDATE] 2-9 11:05AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Former GBI Crime Scene Specialist Jeff Branyon is now on the stand. He collected evidence from a dumpster and Hilton's van the night Hilton was arrested in Georgia.

Branyon says Hilton was arrested a Chevron station on Ashford Dunwoody Road. His van was parked by the vacuum and several items were on the ground outside. Branyon says he also collected items from the gas station dumpster.

Among the items he collected: three sleeping bags, a couple of duffel bags, a black fleece jacket, a black baton case and a couple of lottery tickets.

There were lots of clothes in the van, including at least two yellow jackets,several pairs of teal pants as well as a purple fleece jacket and hat.

There was also a pink nylon jacket found in the van.


[UPDATE] 2-9 10:20AM -- by Julie Montanaro

GBI Special Agent Clay Bridges is now on the stand. He interviewed Gary Hilton on January 4, 2008 soon after his arrest for the kidnapping of Georgia hiker Meredith Emerson.

Bridges says he read Hilton his rights and Hilton told him he did not want to talk until he had an attorney present.

Bridges says he interviewed Hilton again on January 7, 2008. He says Hilton had an attorney with him that day and had already negotiated a plea deal in which Hilton would provide information in exchange for the state of Georgia not seeking the death penalty.

Bridges says Hilton told him that he had used a bayonet to abduct Meredith Emerson and Hilton told him where he could find Emerson's body as well as where to find the bayonet on Blood Mountain.

The judge ruled that the statement regarding the bayonet is not admissible at this time because paperwork doesn't indicate there was a plea offer or agreement until weeks later.

[UPDATE] 2-9 10:30AM -- by Julie Montanaro

GBI Special Agent Mitchell Posey is back on the stand. He testified that he handed Gary Hilton a swab to collect a DNA sample on February 12, 2008.

Posey says Hilton swabbed the inside of his own cheek and handed the swab back to him.

Posey testified that two Leon County deputies were there with him at the time, David Graham and Dawn Dennis.

The judge would not admit the DNA sample yet. He said a decision on that will have to wait until an FDLE analyst takes the stand.

On cross examination, Posey said the hiking boots recovered from the Quik Trip dumpster were not inside any of the eight trash bags, but were loose in the dumpster.


[UPDATE] 2-9 9:30AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The judge has ruled that comments Hilton made about pursuing appeals and the cost of execution are prejudicial and the jury will not get to hear them.

The judge ruled that Hilton's comments about "I started hunting in September" are highly relevant.


[UPDATE] 2-9 8:45AM -- by Julie Montanaro

It is day four of testimony in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

Attorneys are now arguing over the admissibility of statements Hilton made to Leon County deputies when they went to collect DNA evidence and again when they transported Hilton to Tallahassee.

SGT David Graham says he and the other sergeant were advised not to solicit Hilton for information or engage Hilton in conversation.

Graham said Hilton talked almost the entire ride from north of Atlanta to Tallahassee.

Hilton's attorneys said he had just entered a plea to avoid the death penalty in Georgia and had a reasonable expectation that Florida would do the same.

According to his attorneys, Hilton told the Leon County deputies, "If they want to give me immunity, I will give them a full and complete statement."

The judge ruled that Hilton's statements were admissible.

Now attorneys are debating the relevance of certain comments he made.

Among them, Hilton said "It'll take four years to take me to trial, 15 years to execute me. That's 19 years and my life expectancy is 17.1 years." He went on to say "It's going to cost you ten million bucks and I'll fight it."

Defense attorneys say Hilton told deputies, "I started in September of last year (2007), nothing before that," and later said, "I started hunting in September."

Defense attorneys say that statement and others reference other crimes and are highly prejudicial.


UPDATED 2.8.2011 7:10pm by Julie Montanaro

Bags of evidence are admitted in day three of the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton and most were pulled from a dumpster far beyond the state line.

A word of warning, some of today's testimony was graphic.

"That man right there."

Steven Shaw pointed right at Gary Hilton saying that is the man he saw near a dumpster back on January 4th 2008, a man whose brightly colored clothing first caught his eye.

"Either the pants and hat were purple with a green shirt or it was the green pants and green hat, because I remember the colors," Shaw said.

Shaw spotted Hilton more than 300 miles from here at a Quik Trip Convenience Store in Cumming, Georgia, just north of Atlanta.

Evidence recovered from a dumpster there is critical to the prosecution: Boots that prosecutors say have victim Cheryl Dunlap's DNA on them. A sheath for a long knife. At least three link chains. A half dozen padlocks. And a a piece of paper helping to tie them to Gary Hilton.

"It's a forestry citation," GBI Special Agent Mitchell Posey said as he examined a piece of paper in a clear bag sealed with red evidence tape, "and under remarks it says camping in an unauthorized area."

GBI Special Agent Mitchell Posey helped collect and document all that evidence, eight trash bags full.

However, the most shocking evidence of the day did not come from that dumpster, it came from the medical examiner.

Dr. Anthony Clark did an autopsy on Dunlap's body, a torso missing its head and hands.

Dunlap was dismembered after she died,he said, and was in the woods for days before she was found.

"It's a really rough estimate to say 7 to 10 days at the most, could be
longer, could be shorter," Clark said.

Clark deemed the cause of death "undetermined homicidal violence" and believes Dunlap's severed head holds the answer to the question how.

"Is it safe to assume that whatever caused her death probably occurred to her head?

"Head or neck, yes ma'am," Clark testified.

All of the pieces of evidence pulled from the dumpster were hotly contested by the defense who voiced objection after objection.

The GBI agent wasn't even on the state's witness list, the defense argued.

The judge ultimately sent the jury home at 2 o'clock Tuesday to give the defense team more time to prepare for its cross examination.

Testimony will resume at 8:30 Wednesday morning.

Check out our Live Stream from inside the courtroom at:
Gary Michael Hilton LIVE Trial


[UPDATE] 2-8 2PM -- by Amy Long

The defense says Mr. Posey was not on the states witness list and they failed to notify them, so they couldn't prepare. The defense requested the court strike his testimony or give them more time to prepare.

The state admits Posey should have been listed as a Category "A" witness, but was not. However, the defense was given reports with Posey's name as the primary case agent from the Quik Time dumpster, and that all of the evidence was reviewed by both parties at FDLE back in November 2010.

The state says not seeing him as a potential witness was an oversight by the defense.

The defense says she needs time to prepare. The fact that the witness name was not there is not fair to Hilton, she states. The defense wants two days. The state had 650 category "A" witnesses and the defense says it is not her job to go through reports to find other potential witnesses.

Posey says he received a document request from the defense back in 2008.

The judge says it was not a willful violation. Posey's name is mentioned several places in the report. The judge denied to strike the testimony. Court has recessed for the afternoon, so that the defense has some time.

Trial will start again at 8:30AM.


[UPDATE] 2-8 Noon

This is the third day of testimony in the trial and the details paint a gruesome picture.


So far this morning, jurors have been subjected to the gory details of the bones found at the campsite and the autopsy of Cheryl Dunlap's headless body.

Associate medical examiner Dr. Anthony Clark who completed Dunlap's autopsy took the stand earlier this morning. Clark said that he could not determine Dunlap's exact cause of death, saying it was undetermined homicidal violence. He says he believes she could have been strangled or died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Witness Steven Shaw pointed straight at Hilton in the courtroom and said that is the man he saw near a convenience store dumpster in Cummings, Georgia. He says he was wearing bright purple and green clothing and that's what caught his attention. Shaw said he saw Hilton carrying something but couldn't tell what it was.

The judge told Defense Attorney Ines Suber to be quiet and sit down after she continuously interrupted prosecutors. Suber then moved for a mistrial because she says there is prejudice against Gary Hilton. The move was denied.

Prosecutors say they hope to wrap up testimony by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

UPDATE by Julie Montanaro

There are clear plastic bags with red evidence tape piled up on the prosecution table.

So far the judge has not admitted any of them, because prosecutors have not established the proper predicate.

The judge is now admitting items seized from the dumpster. They include a black pillow case with at least three metal chains inside, a half dozen padlocks and a collapsible night stick.

A pair of black nylon pants, a pair of hiking boots and a pair of gloves were also admitted into evidence.

The judge has called a recess for lunch. Testimony will resume at 1:15.


[UPDATE] 2-8 11:00AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The defense has moved for a mistrial. Ines Suber contends it prejudiced the jury against Gary Hilton when the judge told her to "be quiet and sit down" as she tried to raise an objection during the questioning of the medical examiner.

The judge denied it, saying Suber was unprofessional when she persisted in interrupting the prosecutor's question.

Special Agent Mitchell Posey is now on the stand. The GBI agent helped to collect evidence from the dumpster at the Quik Trip convenience store on January 4, 2008.

Posey says among the items in the dumpster was a sheath, and a forest service citation issued to Gary Hilton.

The defense has objected to the admissibility of each of the items.

Posey says there were eight trash bags full of evidence collected from the dumpster.


[UPDATE] 2-8 10:30AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Steven Shaw pointed straight to Gary Michael Hilton in court and said he was the man he saw near the dumpster of the Quik Trip convenience store in Cumming, Georgia back in January 2008.

Shaw said Hilton was wearing bright purple and green clothing and that is what first caught his attention.

Shaw said he saw Hilton carrying something but couldn't see what it was.


[UPDATE] 2-8 10AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Dr. Anthony Clark testified that he could not determine the cause of death for Cheryl Dunlap. He listed her cause of death as "undetermined homicidal violence."

He testified that he felt Dunlap may have been beaten, strangled, or suffered some other trauma to her head that killed her.

Clark did go to the campsite off Joe Thomas Road and confirmed that bones found in the fire pit were human head and hand bones and they were similar to the bones missing from Dunlap's body.

Clark sent those bones to a forensic anthropologist for further testing.

Clark said it is very difficult to tell how long Dunlap's body had been in the woods, but based on decomposition and insect activity, his best estimate is 7 to 10 days.


[UPDATE] 2-8 9:26AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Prosecutors say they hope to wrap up their case by late Wednesday or early Thursday. Georgia Cappleman continues to question witnesses, but is losing her voice.

Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Anthony Clark is now testifying. He did the autopsy on Dunlap's body the day after it was found by hunters in the Apalachicola National Forest. At that time it was an unidentified torso of a woman.

Attorneys are now meeting sidebar with the judge as they argue over the admissibility of some of the autopsy photos. The judge has admitted all of the photos. The first two photos are xrays that show Dunlap was decapitated at her C7 vertebrae and subsequent photos showed her torso without head and hands.


[UPDATE] 2-8 9AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Testimony has resumed in courtroom 3A as prosecutors continue to make their case in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

FDLE analyst Amy George is back on the witness stand for cross examination.

Defense attorney Ines Suber is asking George about her examination and processing of Cheryl Dunlap's car as well as her processing of swabs, hair and other items collected by the medical examiner in a sex assault kit.


UPDATE 2-7 10:30pm by Amy Long

Day two of the Gary Michael Hilton Trial wrapped up at the Leon County Court House.

Much of the morning was spent discussing ATM surveillance photos. Witnesses brought to the stand in the afternoon described encounters with Hilton and items recovered from the forest.

Monday afternoon was filled with testimony from hiker and hunters who frequent the Apalachicola National Forest.

Shawn Matthew who stopped to ask a stranger for directions in the Apalachicola National Forest says, "He told us how far away things were and it wasn't in miles or kilometers, it was in paces of steps. 'Let me stop you there- did he direct you to Leon Sink?' He told me there was a limestone sinkhole behind me."

State attorneys used the witnesses to build what they believe is a time line of Hilton's forest stay and to map out his travels between two different campsites off L.L. Wallace Road and Joe Thomas Road.

FDLE Crime Lab Analyst Amy George was called in when Cheryl Dunlap's body was found ... and she brought a sample of Dunlap's muscle mass to court with her. "Her body was covered with limbs, tree limbs and palmetto frays. Her body was decapitated and her hands were missing." says George.

George also processed the fire pit at a campsite off Joe Thomas Road. "(STATE)What items did you locate?(George) Suspected bones, hands and skull bones, um a bead and there were metal pieces."

Detective William Punausuia with LCSO recovered bone fragments from the fire pit too ... but the state's expert cannot tie them to Dunlap and cannot say definitively if they belong to a woman.

The defense cross examined Detective Punausuia saying nothing recovered by him at either the campsite location that the state entered as evidence was processed - and therefore can't be linked to Hilton at this point.. "(Defense Attorney, Did you process any of those items for fingerprints?(DET William Punausuia says) No." Punausuia did say however that it was possible another agency or detective did process the evidence.

All of the witnesses thus far described Hilton as very chatty and friendly although one hunter testified that Hilton was concerned when the two spoke, and Hilton found out that hunting season would soon begin. Brian Bauer says, "He asked me if there was going to be a lot of hunters in the woods that next day and I said yes, there's going to be a lot. And he said oh (explicit) and turned off, called his dog and they walked off,"

Another piece of evidence introduced Monday was photos of beads found in Dunlap's car. Detectives from LCSO and FDLE overlooked the multi colored plastic beads during their separate processing of Dunlap's Toyota Camery- it was not until similar beads were found near a fire pit at Hilton's campsite at Joe Thomas Road that George went back to recover them.

Court will resume tomorrow morning at 9am.


{UPDATE] 2-7 6:10pm by Julie Montanaro

Hikers and hunters dominated this second day of testimony in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Michael Hilton.

Monday afternoon, several hikers and hunters described chance meetings with Hilton in the Apalachicola National Forest , and this morning, most of the testimony came through the lens of a camera.

A masked man visited the ATM at this Hancock Bank on West Tennessee Street ... three consecutive days after Cheryl Dunlap disappeared.
Monday ... photos of that masked man stretched more than a hundred inches tall on a screen in courtroom 3A.
"Did you conduct some video analysis in reference to State of Florida versus Gary Michael Hilton?"
"Yes, I did."
Agent Ronald Weyland with the Orange County Sheriff's Office analyzed the ATM video and captured and cropped several stills from that video. He says it appears the man wore the same blue striped dress shirt each day. The first two days, he says, the man used white medical or athletic tape to make a mask, but the third day - when it was daylight - he appeared to hold just a cloth over his face.
Weyland also noted something unusual on the man's hip.

Weyland says, "And on his left side, there appears to be a holster with a gun inside of it."

Jurors in this case are allowed to ask questions and one wanted to know if Weyland estimated the height and weight of the man in those bank tapes . He said no.

"The encounter was in Cherokee County along Harden Bridge Road."
Cherokee County Georgia deputy William Ballard confronted Hilton in October 2007, and told him camping wasn't allowed in the wildlife management area there.

Hilton's last words to the deputy that day "Be safe."

This afternoon several hunters and hikers took the stand and described meeting Hilton in the forest. One took police to the spot where he last saw Hilton and they discovered a beheaded dog. It is not clear if that was Hilton's dog or another one. Amy Long will have more on this afternoon's testimony on Eyewitness News later tonight.

There has been lots of back and forth over the admissibility of evidence today because the info is graphic information, but important information. Prosecutors contend there was a human head and hands found in the burn pit at Hilton's campsite off Joe Thomas Road, but their expert cannot tie them to Cheryl Dunlap and cannot even say definitively if they belong to a woman. Defense attorneys tried to have this evidence thrown out, but the judge said no. Defense attorneys also fought to keep pictures of Dunlap's uncovered body out, but jurors will see those too.


[UPDATE] 2-7 Noon -- by Julie Montanaro

Testimony didn't start until after 10 this morning and so far, there have only been two witnesses on the stand.

The bulk of the testimony has focused on surveillance video taken at the Hancock Bank of West Tennessee Street the three days following Cheryl Dunlap's disappearance.

Ronald Weyland with the Orange County Sheriffs Office analyzed the video and enhanced some of the pictures. He says it appears to him the man wore the same blue stripped shirt each day. The first two days the man appears to be wearing a mask made out of medical tape and the third day is just holding some type of cloth over his face. In one of the shots, Weyland says it appears to him the man had a holster with a gun on his hip on at least one of the days.


[UPDATE] 2-7 11:30AM by Julie Montanaro

William Ballard with the Cherokee County, GA Sheriffs Office is on the stand now.

He was dispatched to Harden Bridge Road back in October 2007 to advise Hilton that camping was not permitted in the wildlife management area.

Prosecutors are now playing a 28 minute tape of a dashboard recording of that encounter. It shows a man in a green sweater and knit cap.


[UPDATE] 2-7 11:10AM by Julie Montanaro

Ronald Weyland says it appears the man in the ATM photos wore the same blue dress shirt all three days. The first two days, he said, the man appears to have made a mask out of white medical or athletic tape, but the third day just covered his face with a cloth. That day you can see the man's eyes peering over his glasses. One photo, Weyland said, shows what appears to be a gun in a holster on the left side of the man's waist.

Weyland also analyzed some home videos that prosecutors say Hilton took on his camera.


[UPDATE] 2-7 10:30AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Ronald Weyland with the Orange County Sheriffs Office is now on the stand. He enhanced surveillance video taken at the ATM at the Hancock Bank on West Tennessee Street. Pictures were taken on December 2, 3, and 4th of a man in a blue striped dress shirt and a makeshift mask.


[UPDATE] 2-7 10:10AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The second day of testimony is about to begin in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

17 witnesses testified Friday and Deputy William Punausuai is expected to resume his testimony this morning. Punausuai helped to collect and document evidence from Hilton's campsites on LL Wallace Road and Joe Thomas Road.


UPDATE 2-4 9:45pm by Amy Long

Ronnie Rentz was called to the stand Friday afternoon to testify on what he found during one of his hunting trips. He says he was at his usual location where he released his hunting dogs when he saw buzzards. "I could just see, down to the waist and as I got closer I bent over and looked and could see the legs and the feet of a body." Rentz has hunted in the Apalachicola National Forest for years now and says he's never seen anything like what he came across December 15th, 2007 when he found Cheryl Dunlap's body

"It scared me so I backed up for a second and thought about what I was going to do!" But, Rentz collected his composure and called police, who arrived and discovered that Dunlap was beheaded, her head and hands were found burned in a campfire.

A total of 7 witness took the stand Friday afternoon including Loretta Mayfield who said she and her aunt ran into Hilton at Glenda's convenience store. She said he was in a white van trying to use a payphone, his dog by his side. "He said you know you can get out and pet him if you want to- he's not going to bite- his dog was in his passenger seat and I told him that that was okay..."

Mayfield then testified that she told Hilton she and her aunt were going to search for Dunlap, to which he responded: "He said you never know people in this world is basically what he said." Mayfield went on to say while she and her aunt were out searching they passed Hilton in his van on dirt road two other times that day, deep in the forest.

Teresa Denise Johnson testified that just days before Hilton's arrest, she was at an Express Lane gas station off Highway 20 in Bristol, Florida when a man she identified as Hilton approached her. "It started with a little bit of small talk and then he said isn't that bad about that girl who was murdered, and I said yes it is and he said you look like her." says Johnson

George Ferguson also testified saying Hilton flagged him down to help him jump his van parked off L.L. Wallace road. Ferguson said when he went to help out the van started quickly leading him to believe the van didn't really need to be jumped and Hilton had faked the crisis.

Shana Langston an AmerisBank representative took the stand and confirmed transactions made with Dunlap's debit cards and explained someone would need Dunlap's pin number to make those transactions. She also verified the transactions in question were made at the ATM at Hancock Bank on West Tennessee Street after Dunlap went missing.

Joel Jarrett with Hancock Bank testified the security photos captured at the Hancock Bank ATM on West Tennessee showed a man using Dunlap's cards.

During the testimonies the cross examiner pointed out Hilton was cordial and polite to all of the witnesses ... State attorneys point out every witness described the clothing they personally saw Hilton in was the same clothing worn by the man in the ATM surveillance photos or recovered from his van.

Detective William Punausuia with Leon County Sheriff's Office works in the crime scene unit and collected and preserved items found in Dunlap's car and from the campsite found off L.L. Wallace Road.

In Dunlap's car Punausuia says they noted a cut in a rear tire and collected swabs from Dunlap's steering wheel and hair and dust. Punausuia noticed beads in Dunlap's car but did not recover them.

At the campsite off L.L. Wallace Road, Punausuia recovered multiple newspapers from Georgia, receipts from Kroger Grocery Store and items found on that same receipt. The Defense objected to all items entered as evidence but the judge says he will wait to see their connection and then decided if he should strike them.

Testimony will resume Monday at 10am.

[UPDATE] 2-4 6:11 pm

Plenty of action in the courtroom today as they were able to get testimony from 17 witnesses. Court will resume Monday morning (2-7) at 10:00 am.

UPDATE by Julie Montanaro

Opening day in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton paints a gruesome and graphic picture of Cheryl Dunlap's last days.

Most of the evidence in this case has been under seal, and now we know why. Prosecutors claim to have DNA, blood, self-made movies and more to prove that Hilton killed and dismembered Dunlap, a nurse and Sunday school teacher. We want to warn you that some of the details in today's testimony are graphic.

Jurors filed into courtroom 3A to hear the evidence against Gary Michael Hilton.
Prosecutors say there's plenty. They told jurors that Cheryl Dunlap's nightmare started at peaceful Leon Sinks. Michael Shirley and his wife were hiking the trails there that day, and they say they saw her sitting alone on a bench reading a book , and within days saw her picture in the paper.

Michael Shirley, hikes frequently at Leon Sinks, says, "I looked back at the photograph and immediately recognized it as the woman we had seen at Leon Sinks."
Prosecutors contend Hilton held Dunlap captive for possibly two days before killing her. Not only did hunters find a body with no head or hands, prosecutors say, Hilton tried to burn them in his camp fire.

Georgia Cappleman, prosecutor, says, "In this burn pit, law enforcement recovered the charred remains of a human head and hands."
Yet defense attorneys called into question the voracity of much of the evidence. Saying an eyewitness who rummaged through Dunlap's car identified another man first, before switching to Hilton, and question the "sudden appearance" of some telltale beads in Dunlap's car.

Ines Suber, Hilton's attorney, says, "And lo and behold, when plastic beads became important to the case, plastic beads all of a sudden are found in a car."

Dunlap's friend Tonya Land was the first to report her missing ... and the first to take the stand. Captain Steven Ganey took that report and went to take a look at Dunlap's abandoned car on the side of Crawfordville Highway. He thought a slash mark in the tire looked staged from the start.

Steven Ganey, Wakulla County Sheriffs Office, says, "What it appeared to us is someone punctured the tire in a place to make it look like it was disabled on the side of the road."

Dunlap's cousin and aunt and several of her closest friends were in the courtroom today. A few of them started to cry the minute Hilton walked into the courtroom.

The judge estimates the trial to last three weeks. There are 131 people on the witness list and they were able to call 17 for today.


[UPDATE] 2-4 5:32 pm

Wrapping for the day. Judge is speaking to jury, told them to be back Monday 9:45 am to start around 10 am.

[UPDATE] 2-4 3:40pm

They are on questioning Terese Denise Johnson --
She is on the stand right now. She says she was at an Express Lane off highway 20 in Bristol, Florida when a man came up to her. They made small talk, and he mentioned that she looked like the lady that was murdered.

She says this same man followed her to the cash register. She later identified this man as Gary Hilton.


[UPDATE] 2-4 Noon -- by Julie Montanaro

Testimony is now underway in the murder trial of Gary Michael Hilton, more than three years after the kidnapping and murder of Cheryl Dunlap.

Several of Dunlap's family and friends are in court today.

Cheryl Dunlap's aunt and cousin are in court this morning as well as several of her friends. A few of them started to cry the minute Hilton walked into court.

Most of the evidence in the case has been sealed until today and the revelations are painful. Prosecutors contend that Hilton kidnapped Dunlap from Leon Sink, held her captive for possibly two days and ultimately beheaded her.

Defense attorneys question the integrity of some of the evidence and say experts could not even determine whether the head and hands found at Hilton's campsite belonged to Dunlap. Two of Dunlap's friends also took the stand this morning, one who reported her missing and another who said she and Dunlap were supposed to go to dinner that night but Dunlap never showed up or called.

Also on the stand this morning, a Tallahassee couple who saw Dunlap at Leon Sink that day, alone, reading a red book. They were shocked to see her picture in the paper days later.

The judge estimates this trial will last three weeks.

Eyewitness News will post frequent updates on our website and have more details.


[UPDATE] 2-4 10:20AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Michael Shirley, a frequent hiker at Leon Sinks, says he and his wife saw Dunlap sitting alone, reading a red book, on one of the boardwalks on the hiking loop on December 1st.

He says he saw her picture in the paper a few days later and the following weekend, he and his wife went back to the sinks to see if perhaps Dunlap had fallen into one of the sink holes. Shirley says they didn't see anything in the clear waters, but as they were leaving, they saw the red book on the side of the road.

Shirley said he then went to a nearby search scene and reported seeing Dunlap December 1st as well as directed deputies to the red book.


[UPDATE] 2-4 10AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The defense is calling into question the reliability of much of the evidence in this case.

Defense attorneys say even experts could not determine whether the human remains found in the burn pit belonged to a man or a woman.

Defense attorneys say their is no way to prove that the masked man in the striped dress shirt who used Dunlap's ATM card was Hilton.

Defense attorneys also say some plastic beads that prosecutors contend were found in Dunlap's car "suddenly appeared" during a second search of the vehicle.

Defense attorneys say they are equally confident that jurors will have a reasonable doubt.

[UPDATE] 2-4 9:00AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The jury is now in the courtroom.

In the moments before they walked into the courtroom, prosecutors revealed that Cheryl Dunlap's head and hands were found at Hilton's campsite, not far from where the rest of her body was found.


[UPDATE] 2-4 8:45AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Testimony will begin momentarily in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton. A few of Cheryl Dunlap's family members began to cry the minute Hilton walked in the courtroom and spun around in his chair to face the audience.

Hilton's attorney made a last minute request to delay the trial, saying she has not had enough time to prepare. The judge said no.

Hilton's attorney also objected to two of the jurors who she says are aware of Hilton's link to murders in Georgia and North Carolina. The judge refused to strike the jurors.


UPDATED 2.3.2011 7:20pm by Julie Montanaro

There are difficult days ahead for the family and friends of Cheryl Dunlap as her accused killer goes on trial.

Gary Hilton is facing kidnapping and murder charges in her death.

Dunlap was reported missing December 1st of '07 and hunters would find her body covered with palmetto leaves in the Apalachicola National Forest two weeks later.

Dunlap's cousin says she is anxious for all of this to be over, but is also afraid to hear all the painful details of the crime.

"I don't want to hear what he did to her. I don't want to hear what she had to suffer through," Gloria Tucker said. "It would have been better if he just, if he were going to kill her, just do it right then and not put her through anything. And I don't want to know what she had to go through."

Testimony in Hilton's trial will begin Friday morning at 8:30. We'll have updates on our newscasts and live streaming video of the trial on our web site wctv.tv

UPDATE 2-2-2011 8:45pm

Jury selection is now over as six men and six women have been selected to hear the evidence against Gary Hilton.

Two alternates have also been chosen.

Opening statements in the trial will begin Friday morning at 8:30 am.


UPDATED 2.2.2011 7pm by Julie Montanaro

Jury selection is now in its third day in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

Attorneys are still trying to seat a jury in courtroom 3G. We'll keep you posted on their progress.

Gary Hilton is accused of killing FSU nurse and Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheryl Dunlap and as many as 131 witnesses could take the stand when testimony begins.

"I guess if you watch CSI, we're not going to wrap this up in an hour," State Attorney Willie Meggs said with a grin.

Jurors chosen to weigh the evidence against Gary Michael Hilton can expect to spend three weeks in this jury box.

Prosecutors listed 66 potential witnesses, including victim Cheryl Dunlap's two sons, nearly 40 law enforcement officers from three states, and a forensic anthropologist who has identified human remains in the wake of terror attacks and tsunamis.

"So there will be a lot of pictures," defense attorney Ines Suber said.

Defense attorneys wanted to be sure prospective jurors were ready for what could be disturbing photos and wanted some assurance that emotion wouldn't get the best of them.

"Do any of you would have a problem viewing that type of photograph?" Suber asked.

Hilton's attorneys have a list with 65 witnesses of their own. More than half a dozen doctors, a tool mark expert and more from as far away as California and even Buenos Aires.

The bulk of the defense team's questions surrounded capital punishment. Hilton could face the death penalty if convicted and more than a handful of potential jurors admitted from the start, that's something they could never do.

For those of you who are interested in watching live streaming video of this trial, we'll have it on our web site wctv.tv as soon as the first gavel falls.

[UPDATE] 2-2 11:50AM by Julie Montanaro

Defense attorney Ines Suber told jurors not to be swayed by the gruesome photographs of Cheryl Dunlap's body.

Co-counsel Robert Friedman will question jurors extensively about their feelings on capital punishment after lunch.
[UPDATE] 2-2 11:30AM by Julie Montanaro

Defense attorney Ines Suber is now addressing jurors.

"I have tried to speak without an accent," she said, "but it is impossible."

Suber told jurors that she is from Colombia, came to this country in 1968, and is a US citizen. She asked them to raise their hands at any time during the trial if they have any trouble understanding her.

Victim Cheryl Dunlap worked at FSU as a nurse. Suber asked if any of the potential jurors who attended FSU or worked there would be swayed by that. All said no.

Suber also asked whether any of the jurors camped or hiked in the Apalachicola National Forest. At least three said they took day hikes there and several others said they camped in other places. Suber asked repeatedly whether they took rubber bands to secure their pant legs, but all of the jurors said no.


[UPDATE] 2-2 11AM -- by Julie Montanaro

A handful of potential jurors said they could not impose the death penalty.

State Attorney Willie Meggs asked the rest if they could find Gary Hilton guilty knowing the death penalty is a possibility. All of the jurors said the could.

Meggs told the jurors that they are not sitting in judgment of Gary Hilton, but are sitting in judgment of the evidence and the facts.

One juror said she's not sure she could live with deciding whether someone should live or die.

Meggs also asked jurors to hold prosecutors to a reasonable standard in their presentation of evidence. "This is not CSI, we're not going to get this done in an hour. We're not going to pull fingerprints out of the air ... or trace fibers to a single manufacturer in Duluth, Minnesota."


[UPDATE] 2-2 10AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Prosecutors read a list of 65 potential witnesses.

Nearly 40 of them are law enforcement officers. They are from Leon and Wakulla counties as well as from sheriff's offices and police departments in Georgia and South Carolina.

Both of Cheryl Dunlap's sons and her daughter-in-law are on the witness list.

Also expected to testify is Dr. Anthony Falsetti, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida. He specializes in identifying human remains and has helped to do that in the wake of the September 11th terror attacks as well as the tsunami in Southeast Asia.

The defense read a list of 65 possible witnesses. That includes more than half a dozen doctors and a tool mark expert.

Dr. Jason Byrd, a forensic entomologist from the University of Florida, is on the defense's witness list. He helped to identify bodies in the wake of last year's earthquake in Haiti.

Jurors are now being questioned about their opinions on the death penalty.


[UPDATE] 2-2 9AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Jury selection in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton is now in its third day.

80 prospective jurors, who attorneys are confident have not been biased by all the pre-trial publicity, are back for a second round of questioning.

The questions today will include inquiries about capital punishment, because prosecutors will seek the death penalty if Hilton is convicted.


UPDATE 2.1.2011 3pm by Julie Montanaro

Attorneys have wrapped up the second day of jury selection in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

80 prospective jurors have been asked to return tomorrow (2-2) for further questioning in the case.

[UPDATE] 2-1 11:30am by Julie Montanaro

One prospective juror says a friend who happens to be a law enforcement officer worked the scene where Cheryl Dunlap's body was found. She says he told her that she had been dismembered. That juror was asked to come back for further questioning on Wednesday.


[UPDATE] 2-1 11:00am by Julie Montanaro

Hilton is accused of killing FSU nurse and Crawfordville Sunday school teacher Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007.

Jurors are being questioned one by one in a private room about their exposure to pre-trial publicity.

So far, 110 potential jurors have been questioned and a new group of 55 prospective jurors reported this morning.

The defense has asked for a change of venue, but the judge denied that request and hopes to have a jury selected by the end of the day Wednesday.

New information released today by the state attorney indicates Dunlap was abducted from Leon Sink and that Hilton used her ATM card at a Hancock Bank.


[UPDATE] 2-1 9:45am by Julie Montanaro

One of the prospective jurors says he actually saw Gary Hilton in a camp store when he and his wife were hiking in the Georgia mountains back in 2007. He says the Meredith Emerson disappearance and murder unfolded the week he was there. He was excused from the jury pool.


[UPDATE] 2-1 9:30am by Julie Montanaro

Judge James Hankinson says he will excuse any juror who is aware of Gary Hilton's conviction in the murder of Georgia hiker Meredith Emerson. Hankinson says if they are aware of the case, but don't know that Hilton was actually convicted, that will not automatically rule them out.


[UPDATE] 2-1 8:45am by Julie Montanaro

Jury selection continued Tuesday, Feb. 2 in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton. Jurors continue to be called into a room adjacent to courtroom 3G to be questioned one by one.

At this stage potential jurors are being questioned about any news reports they may have seen or read about this case.

We have a reporter in court. Stay with WCTV.tv for updates.


[UPDATE] 1-31 9:25pm by Julie Montanaro

Out of the 110 jurors who reported Monday, 36 were excused because of exposure to pre-trial publicity or hardship. 47 were asked to come back on Wednesday for further questioning. And attorneys did not have a chance to finish questioning the rest.

An additional 110 potential jurors will report Tuesday and those chosen to proceed will also come back Wednesday for more questioning.
[UPDATE] 1-31 6:19pm by Lanetra Bennett

Gary Michael Hilton's trial stirs up memories and a lot emotions for folks in Crawfordville where Cheryl Dunlap lived and died.

The first thing that comes to mind for many when they think about Hilton facing a jury is -- it's about time.

One woman said, "They shouldn't have waited that long."

People in Crawfordville say it's a long time coming for Gary Michael Hilton to stand trial for the murder and kidnapping of fellow resident Cheryl Dunlap.

Pat Underwood said, "I think it's been very difficult for people who knew her really well and her family and extended family. Every time I go pass that place on the road to Tallahassee, I think about it."

That place on the road Underwood is referring to is Highway 319 near the
Wakulla/Leon County line where Dunlap's Toyota Camry was found on December 3, 2007.

Dunlap hadn't been seen since December first, and hunters later discovered her body in the Apalachicola National Forest on December 15th.

More than three years later, jurors are finally being picked to hear the case.

Many in Dunlap's hometown say they already have an ideal outcome in mind.

Jean Rueth said, "Go ahead and give him the death penalty and be done with it. They had all the evidence they needed. He should just go ahead and fry for it."

Dunlap was a Sunday School teacher in Crawfordville and a nurse at FSU.

Jeremy Brown said, "It rips my heart out when I find out someone can do something so savage to someone so strong and pure. There's no point in that."

"They need to see a resolution quickly. If he's guilty, then the town will rest and be at peace."

Many in Crawfordville say although it's taken what they consider too long for Hilton to go on trial, they say they hope a guilty verdict will bring them some closure.


[UPDATE 1-31 4:11pm by Julie Montanaro]

Accused killer Gary Michael Hilton is now on trial in the murder and kidnapping of Crawfordville Sunday school teacher and FSU nurse Cheryl Dunlap.

Gary Michael Hilton traded in his jailhouse blues for a jacket and tie, as he stands trial for the 2007 kidnapping and murder of Cheryl Dunlap.

The first batch of 220 potential jurors filed into court Monday morning.

Hilton's attorneys have repeatedly asked the judge for a change of venue fearing Hilton won't get a fair trial given all the publicity and speculation that he's a serial killer.

"Serial killer, like super predator and sociopath, there are terms that carry emotional content," said Assistant FSU Law professor Reid Fontaine.

It's a perception that can further complicate picking a jury, Fontaine said.

"It might influence the public to be particularly inclined to hope for a conviction and hope that they're incarcerated for the interest of public safety," Fontaine said.

Hilton, his defense team, prosecutors and the judge spent most of the day behind closed doors as jurors were interviewed one by one.

Some said they "didn't know the first thing" about the case. Others knew plenty, including Hilton's ties to murders in Georgia and North Carolina. And still others say they had already made up their minds that Hilton is guilty.

Fontaine said, "Someone saying that they're aware of the case is unlikely to mean that person's going to be removed for cause, but if someone discusses the case, and says I've followed it closely and I'm sure that he's guilty or there's no way this person's done it, then it seems like this person has already drawn a conclusion before the trial's begun. Those are the kinds of scenarios where the judge may excuse for cause."

Potential jurors who survive this cut have been asked to come back Wednesday for further questioning.

The judge would like to have a jury seated by the end of the day Wednesday, so testimony can begin on Friday.

Over the next 48 hours we will see how many jurors remain in the pool.

Fontaine says in general, change of venue requests are not successful.

[UPDATE] 1-31 Noon -- by Julie Montanaro

Accused killer Gary Hilton is now on trial for the murder and kidnapping of Crawfordville Sunday School Teacher and FSU nurse Cheryl Dunlap.

Jury selection started this morning.

Cheryl Dunlap was kidnapped and killed in December, 2007, now more than three years later, Gary Hilton is on trial for it.

Hilton's attorneys have tried repeatedly to have the trial moved, but the judge is determined to try to seat a jury here. Today the first 50 of 220 potential jurors reported to courtroom 3G. Soon afterward, Hilton, along with his defense team, prosecutors and the judge gathered around a table in a nearby room and called jurors in one by one. They wanted to know what they'd seen or heard about the case and if they had any strong opinions about his guilt or innocence. There were a wide variety of answers. Some folks knew lots of information, including Hilton's ties to killings in Georgia and North Carolina, others say they didn't know the first thing about this case. The majority of those excused however said they unequivalently thought he was guilty.

At the table potential jurors are sitting just three feet away from Hilton.

For the most part, Hilton stares straight ahead and taps his feet and occasionally glances at the jurors answering questions.

The judge hopes to have a jury seated by Wednesday so they can begin testimony on Friday. Of the first 20 potential jurors questioned, 9 were excused and 11 were told to come back Wednesday for further questioning.


[UPDATE] 1-31 10:30AM by Julie Montanaro

Attorneys trying to seat a jury in the Gary Hilton case have questioned 12 potential jurors so far. Five have been excused based on their knowledge and opinions in the case, seven have been asked to report back for further questioning on Wednesday.


[UPDATE] 1-31 9:40AM by Julie Montanaro

The judge told the jury that the trial could last three weeks once a jury is selected. He said they would not be sequestered during the trial, but could be sequestered during deliberations.


[UPDATE] 1-31 9:39AM by Julie Montanaro

The jurors are now going to be questioned individually about what they have seen or heard about this case.

State attorney Willie Meggs gave a brief overview of the facts of the case and said victim Cheryl Dunlap was last seen at Leon Sinks on December 1, 2007.


[UPDATE] 1-31 9:07AM by Julie Montanaro

The first 50 prospective jurors have just filed into courtroom 3G.

UPDATE 1.31.2011 by Julie Montanaro

The kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton is now underway at the Leon County courthouse. Hilton is wearing a jacket, tie and glasses and is flanked by four defense attorneys.

Jury selection begins this morning. 220 potential jurors have been summoned over the next two days. The judge intends to question them about publicity today and tomorrow and then the jurors who remain in the pool will be brought back on Wednesday for further questioning.

Defense attorney Ines Suber renewed her request to delay the trial, but the judge denied it again.

Judge James Hankinson also rejected a renewed request for a change of venue, saying he will try to seat a jury first before considering that request again.


Jury selection for a man accused of killing a Crawfordville woman begins tomorrow.

220 potential jurors have been summonsed to court and those selected will ultimately determine the fate of Gary Michael Hilton.

Hilton is accused of kidnapping and killing a 46-year-old Florida State University nurse and Crawfordville Sunday school teacher, Cheryl Dunlap, back in December of 2007.

Hunters discovered Dunlap's body in the Apalachicola National Forest.

Hilton potentially faces the death penalty if found guilty.

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