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Cable series profiles Emerson murder
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A crime series on the cable channel Investigation Discovery will profile serial killer Gary Michael Hilton, the drifter who admitted to killing a young Buford woman in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area in January 2008.

Dawson County Sheriff's Lt. Col. John Cagle, a former special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who led the investigation into Emerson's disappearance, will be featured in the Fatal Encounters documentary "Blood Mountain Murder" that first airs at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

"I did this with certain conditions about her final hours that they agreed to and they respected my request," he said.

Five and a half years after the murder, the veteran lawman said the grizzly discovery that missing hiker Meredith Emerson had been killed in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area is one of the few cases that continues to haunt him.

"We caught the guy and prevented more murders, but we didn't save Meredith and that is something that I seem unable to recover from," Cagle said.

Hilton abducted the 24-year-old Emerson on Jan. 1, 2008, from the Byron Reese Memorial Trailhead in Union County and killed her three days later in Dawson County.

In exchange for authorities not seeking the death penalty, Hilton led Cagle to her mutilated body in the forest.

Cagle said watching the re-enactment will not be easy for the officers that worked the case.

"I think of Meredith every day," he said. "Seeing a re-enactment is going to be difficult for a lot of folks close to the investigation."

Cagle keeps in touch with Emerson's family and has attended several events in her honor.

"I can't imagine how her parents continue to feel," he said.

Cagle, who calls Hilton a "monster," said his hope is that documentaries like Fatal Encounters reinforce safety on hiking trails.

"I hope safety is something folks think about more often and these programs serve as a reminder to enjoy the trails but also the fact that there is a chance the monster can come again," he said.

Hilton is currently awaiting execution in Florida for the slaying of Sunday school teacher Cheryl Dunlap in 2007.

He also received four life sentences in North Carolina for the double murders of John and Irene Bryant, an elderly couple in the Pisgah National Forest, and is the prime suspect in the murder of 27-year-old Michael Scot Louis, whose body was found at a Florida state park about the same time as the other victims.

Hilton has not been charged in that case.

Fatal Encounters' "Blood Mountain Murder" first airs at 9 p.m. Thursday, followed by additional showings at midnight Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday.