JACKSON, Ga. – A judge Friday cleared the way for the confessed killer of a Georgia hiker to be extradited to Florida, where he faces the death penalty in the slaying and decapitation of a nurse.
Gary Michael Hilton, a 61-year-old drifter already serving a life sentence for killing hiker Meredith Emerson in Georgia, has been indicted in the death of 46-year-old Cheryl Hodges Dunlap, a nurse whose body was found Dec. 19 in the Apalachicola National Forest, southwest of Tallahassee.
Hilton has 30 days to appeal the ruling by Butts County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson. Department of Corrections officials declined for security reasons to give details about Hilton's transfer to Florida.
Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs in Tallahassee told The Associated Press on Friday he will pursue the death penalty against Hilton in the Dunlap case.
Florida law enforcement officials attended Friday's hearing where a judge ruled that all conditions for Hilton's extradition had been met.
Hilton represented himself at the hearing, appearing with his arms handcuffed to a chain around his waist.
"Your honor, I deny that I'm a fugitive of justice. I deny I'm guilty of the crimes that I have been charged with," Hilton told the judge.
Hilton was indicted in February by a Florida grand jury on charges of murder and kidnapping in Dunlap's death.
He is serving a life sentence in Georgia after pleading guilty Jan. 31 to the beating death of Emerson, who was 24. Police found her body Jan. 7 in a north Georgia forest.
Authorities say he also is a suspect in the deaths of a North Carolina couple, John and Irene Bryant.