Gary Michael Hilton Trial - Victim Impact Statements

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

UPDATE April 7, 2011 by Lanetra Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I miss my friend."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sentencing date is set for April 21st.

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April 7, 2011 - Noon -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 7, 2011 - 10:10am -

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

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

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April 7, 2011 - 9:55am -

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

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

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

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


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