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New evidence emerges in missing hiker case

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Law enforcement agents in Georgia expanded their search for missing hiker Meredith Emerson as evidence emerged linking the case to an October disappearance.

Officials expanded the search to a five-county area for the 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate who disappeared last Tuesday on a hiking trip to Georgia's Blood Mountain.

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A criminal warrant was filed Saturday against Gary Michael Hilton, 61, implicating him in the disappearance.

The warrant said authorities found blood stained clothing consistent with Emerson's, a wallet containing her driver's license and student I.D., and portions of a seat belt with "apparent blood transfer stains" in a trash can 50 miles from where Emerson disappeared.

Officials said evidence suggesting a link between the Emerson case and the disappearance of John and Irene Bryant of North Carolina in October, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Monday.

The Bryants disappeared Oct. 20 in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest and Irene Bryant's bludgeoned body was found in November.

The couple's son, Bob, told the Journal-Constitution Sunday a man fitting Hilton's description was seen using his parent's bank card at a North Carolina bank machine.

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The younger Bryant said also a blunt object was used in his mother's death and the arrest warrant issued against Hilton in the Emerson case uncovered a policy-style baton linked to Hilton.

The Emerson arrest warrant also said Hilton used Emerson's bank card.

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