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Life sentence for drifter who killed hiker

DAWSONVILLE, Ga., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A drifter was sentenced to life in the Georgia state penitentiary after he confessed to abducting and killing a female hiker.

Gary Michael Hilton, who pleaded guilty to the death of Meredith Emerson, 24, will be eligible for parole in 2038, when he will be 91 years old, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday.

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Hilton was seen talking to Emerson on a hiking trail on New Year's Day. Emerson's bloody hiking clothes were found Jan. 4 in a trash bin near a store where Hilton had used a pay phone, the arrest warrant stated. Hilton was arrested the following day after 911 callers reported him cleaning out his van at a gas station.

Hilton directed authorities to Emerson's body after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Authorities determined she was killed Jan. 4 by repeated blows to the head using a car jack handle.

"I believe he is nothing more than a bully and a weak-minded coward who preys on others," Susan Emerson, Meredith Emerson's mother, told the court before the sentencing. "He fancies himself a survivalist while anyone can see he's a scared little man on the run."

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Hilton is also considered a suspect in the deaths of a women in Florida and an elderly couple in North Carolina.

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