Report: Florida Officials Prepare to Charge Man Accused of Hiker Murder, Decapitation

A Florida prosecutor says he has enough evidence to charge Meredith Emerson's accused killer with a murder in that state, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday.

William Meggs, the district attorney in Leon County, told the newspaper that authorities are prepared to charge Gary Michael Hilton, 61, with killing 46-year-old Cheryl Hodges Dunlap, whose body was found in the Apalachicola National Forest in December.

Hilton is in custody in Dawson County, Ga., and facing a murder charge in the death of Emerson, the 24-year-old hiker who went missing on New Year's Day in the North Georgia mountains.

Meggs did not return repeated phone calls by The Associated Press. Other prosecutors declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the parents of Emerson will adopt her dog Ella and take the retriever back to their Colorado home.

The black Labrador retriever mix was with Emerson when she disappeared while hiking at Vogel State Park in north Georgia on New Year's Day.

Emerson family spokeswoman Peggy Bailey said Emerson's parents, Dave and Susan Emerson of Longmont, Colorado, want to adopt the dog because she is "a part of Meredith that they'll always have."

A memorial fund set up in Meredith Emerson's name at the Longmont Humane Society had surpassed $7,800 by Thursday.

Meredith Emerson died of a blow to the head three days after she disappeared during a New Year's Day hike, authorities said. An autopsy report said she was decapitated after her death, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which said it was not releasing the report because it is part of an ongoing investigation.