When the HLN television show “Real Life Nightmare” returns for a fourth season, the first episode will feature a man convicted of murdering a woman in Dawson County and charged with several other murders.
The six-episode season will open with a two-hour special event titled “Blood Mountain: The Hunting Ground” which investigates Gary Michael Hilton, also known as the National Forest Serial Killer, according to a press release from HLN.
“Real Life Nightmare” will premiere on CNN’s HLN network on Sunday, November 13 starting at 9 p.m. with new host Paul Holes. Holes was a former cold case investigator for 27 years and helped investigate the Zodiac, Golden State Serial Killer and Jaycee Dugard cases.
On January 31, 2008, Hilton pleaded guilty to one count of murder for the murder of 24-year-old Buford resident and University of Georgia student Meredith Emerson. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.
As part of his plea, Hilton admitted to killing Emerson in the Dawson Wildlife Management Area on January 4, 2008.
Emerson was last seen alive hiking with her dog, Ella, on Union County’s Blood Mountain during New Year’s Day in 2008. Witnesses reported seeing her with a older man on a link trail near Blairsville.
After Emerson failed to return home on January 2 and friends searched for her, Ella was found wandering about 60 miles away in Cumming on January 4.
That same day, a witness from a Chevron gas station in DeKalb County called police to report that Hilton was cleaning his pickup truck. Before Hilton could bleach the interior of the van, blood matching Emerson’s DNA was obtained from the vehicle.
Hilton was later arrested and charged with her murder. Three days later, Hilton led authorities to Emerson’s body after the Enotah Judicial District Attorney agreed not to seek the death penalty against him.
In 2020, a lead investigator in Emerson’s case, John Cagle, released a tell-all book detailing the investigation into the brutal murder and Hilton.
After being convicted of Emerson’s murder, Hilton was later charged and later charged with
the October 2007 murder of elderly couple John and Irene Bryant in North Carolina and the December 2007 murder of nurse Cheryl Dunlap in Florida.
Hilton was also charged with the 1997 death of Judy Smith, although no official connection has been established and Smith’s case remains unsolved.
He stood trial for Dunlap’s death in 2011 and following his conviction he was sentenced to death. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and murder of the Bryants, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Hilton’s attempt to have his conviction and death sentence overturned for Dunlap’s murder failed, with the Florida Supreme Court upholding both in August 2021.
Other cases covered in this season of “Real Life Nightmare” will include the disappearance of Flight MH370, the unsolved murder of Catholic priest Father Alfred Kunz, the mysterious kidnapping of Lindsey Baum, and more, the press release said. HLN.
After his long tenure as an investigator with the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices in Contra Costa County, Calif., Paul Holes became an author and podcaster in addition to being a television host.
Holes published her first book “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases” in May 2022. The book became an instant New York Times bestseller.
“Real Life Nightmare explores some of the nation’s greatest crime mysteries, and I look forward to bringing my investigative experience to the series and helping shed light on these important cases,” Holes said. “The team behind this show has a genuine passion for these cases that I have witnessed firsthand, and I look forward to sharing our findings with viewers as we produce each episode.”
The TV show is part of HLN Investigations, led by showrunner Elizabeth Yuskaitis.
Episodes of “Real Life Nightmare” will air every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST/PST on HLN. The series will stream live for pay-TV subscribers via CNN.com and CNN OTT and mobile apps under “TV Channels” or CNNgo, where available.
All episodes of the season will also be available on demand the day after the first broadcast to pay-TV subscribers via cable operator platforms.