Gary Michael Hilton to be Evaluated for Competency

By: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Julie Montanaro; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Julie Montanaro; Lanetra Bennett Email
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By: Lanetra Bennett
March 18, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - Convicted serial killer Gary Michael Hilton will undergo a psychological evaluation.

During a hearing Tuesday morning, Judge James Hankinson said attorneys have 45 days to have Hilton evaluated for competency.

Hilton was convicted of killing four people in three states. That includes the kidnapping and beheading of Crawfordville Sunday School Teacher Cheryl Dunlap in 2007.

Dunlap's cousin, Gloria Tucker, says, "I think the process is long and it's hard and it's extremely frustrating. I think every criminal, especially those on death row, can just continue to bring up everything imaginable to keep from the death penalty happening for them."

She adds, "Justice is defined in the dictionary as administering punishment or reward. There is no justice when a criminal can continue to put off his penalty. It's a long, hard process and it's not an enjoyable one."

The next hearing is set for May 2nd.


UPDATED 4.25.2013
By Julie Montanaro

Serial killer Gary Hilton could soon be brought back to Florida to face the death penalty.

Hilton was sentenced in a pair of North Carolina slayings yesterday and the family of his victim here is anxious for him to return to death row.

Gary Michael Hilton has been convicted of killing four people in three states including kidnapping and beheading Crawfordville Sunday school teacher Cheryl Dunlap.

Thursday, a federal judge sentenced him to four consecutive life sentences for the murders of North Carolina hikers John and Irene Bryant.

"He beat my mother to death. He shot my father in the head. He murdered two people for no reason, other than the trophies of their clothes and the 300 dollars he got from their bank card," daughter Holly Bryant said after the sentencing.

"I was totally appalled, " Gloria Tucker said.

Cheryl Dunlap's cousin was furious the feds didn't go for the death penalty there. Now she's anxious for Hilton to be brought back to Florida where Hilton's death sentence has already been affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court.

"I'm very adamant that he should spend the rest of his life here and be put to death here," Dunlap said.

Hilton was accused of a four month killing spree. The Bryants were abducted and killed in North Carolina in October 2007, Cheryl Dunlap was abducted and killed in Florida in December 2007 and Meredith Emerson was abducted and killed in Georgia in January 2008.

Hilton will be brought back to the sunshine state to serve his life and death sentences, but no one can seem to say when.

"Gary Hilton will eventually come back to the state of Florida where he was convicted and given the death penalty," Florida Department of Corrections Spokesperson Ann Howard said. "When that happens we never discuss when we're transporting inmates - either interstate or within the state - we never discuss transportation of inmates as a security measure."

When Hilton is returned to death row, he'll sit alone in a 6x9 cell and wait.

"I think it's really important because in other jails and prisons, they have more freedom and more contact and I think he deserves to just sit in solitude for the rest of his life," Tucker said.

Hilton's death sentence was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court last month, but the DOC reports the average inmate spends 13 years on death row before they're executed.


Press Release: Federal Bureau of Investigation

ASHEVILLE, NC—Gary Michael Hilton was sentenced to four life sentences today in U.S. District Court for the kidnapping and murder of John D. Bryant and Irene W. Bryant and to 15 years in prison for a related robbery offense, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Hilton pleaded guilty to the murdering the couple in March 2012. He also pleaded guilty to robbery, kidnapping, and firearms offenses.

In June 2011, a federal grand jury returned a five-count criminal indictment charging Hilton, 66, with the October 2007 kidnapping, robbery, and murder of John and Irene Bryant on national forest lands. According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, Hilton admitted killing John Bryant within the Nantahala National Forest in Macon County, North Carolina, using a firearm. Hilton also admitted killing John Bryant’s spouse, Irene Bryant, within the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County, North Carolina.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims and while today’s outcome cannot bring back John and Irene Bryant, it is our sincere hope that everyone impacted by Hilton’s heinous crime can finally have some closure,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “I also want to thank the prosecutors and our law enforcement partners who worked on this case for their hard work, professionalism, and integrity.”

In April 2011, Hilton was convicted and received a death sentence for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap in Leon County, Florida. Hilton is also serving a life sentence for his conviction related to the 2008 murder of Meredith Emerson in Northern Georgia. At today’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger ordered that Hilton’s federal life sentences be served consecutively with the sentences he received for the state convictions in Florida and Georgia.

All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The prosecution was handled by Don Gast of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville. U.S. Attorney Tompkins thanked the FBI, SBI, the U.S. Forest Service, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, and the Macon County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this investigation.


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