Man pleads guilty to federal murder charges

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Gary Michael Hilton entered a guilty plea today in U.S. District Court for the murder of John D. Bryant and Irene W. Bryant, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Hilton also pled guilty to robbery, kidnapping and firearms offenses in connection with the October 2007 murders of the elderly victims.

In June 2011, a federal grand jury returned a five-count criminal indictment charging Hilton, 65, with the October 2007 kidnapping, robbery and murder of John and Irene Bryant on national forest lands. According to the plea agreement, Hilton admitted to killing John Bryant, within the Nantahala National Forest in Macon County, N.C. using a firearm. Hilton also admitted to killing John Bryant’s spouse, Irene Bryant, within the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County, N.C. Hilton’s plea agreement provides that he will receive a sentence of life in prison without any possibility for parole for his crimes.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “Our hearts go out to the Bryant family. No action by the criminal justice system can soothe the pain they must live with because of the actions of Gary Hilton. This is a just outcome, reached after consideration of all the facts and circumstances of this case. We trust that the fact that Mr. Hilton will spend the rest of his life in a prison, locked away from all civilized society, will bring some closure, if not comfort, to the Bryant family.”

In April 2011, Hilton was convicted and received a death sentence for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap in Leon County, Florida. Hilton is also serving a life sentence for his convictions related to the 2008 murder of Meredith Emerson in Northern Georgia.

Hilton remains in local federal custody. A sentencing date for the defendant has not been set yet.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Tompkins thanked the FBI, SBI, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office and the Macon County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this investigation.


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