- - Monday, February 21, 2011


Drifter sentenced to death in beheading case

TALLAHASSEE | A man found guilty in the 2007 slaying and decapitation of a Florida nurse has been sentenced to death.

The jury in Tallahassee deliberated for just over an hour on Monday before reaching its unanimous decision condemning Gary Michael Hilton, 64, who they found guilty last week of the killing of nurse Cheryl Dunlap, 46, of Crawfordville.

Hilton, who sat motionless when the verdict was read, was earlier sentenced to life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea in the January 2008 slaying of Meredith Emerson, 24, of Athens, Ga.

The headless bodies of the women had been found in forests where Hilton had camped, Miss Dunlap’s remains in the Florida Panhandle and Miss Emerson’s in northern Georgia.


Stepmother indicted in disabled girl’s death

HICKORY | The stepmother of a 10-year-old disabled girl was indicted Monday on charges she killed the child and then desecrated her remains to cover up the slaying, and authorities said they did not have evidence to charge anyone else in her death.

Prosecutor James Gaither Jr. said Monday at a news conference that there was no credible evidence to suggest anyone else was involved in Zahra Baker’s slaying. The stepmother, Elisa Baker, was charged earlier Monday with second-degree murder.

Zahra, who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after being stricken with cancer, disappeared four months ago. Police eventually found the girl’s remains in different locations around western North Carolina, and Mrs. Baker told authorities that she had been dismembered, according to warrants.

Meanwhile, an autopsy report released Monday showed that medical examiners say the cause of Zahra’s death was undetermined homicidal violence. Examiners say many bones were not present for the autopsy, most notably Zahra’s skull. Several bones show cutting tool marks consistent with dismemberment.


Virginia snowboarder rescued on Mount Hood

PORTLAND | A 27-year-old Virginia man who got lost while snowboarding on Mount Hood in Oregon has been rescued after spending a night when temperatures dipped into the low teens on the tallest mountain in the state.

Julian Acree of Roanoke told KGW-TV in Portland he was cold but did not suffer any injuries and used pine needles to help stay warm overnight along the tree line.

Mr. Acree said he was visiting friends in Oregon and decided to hike up an area of Mount Hood above Timberline Lodge and snowboard back down before the weather changed and he got lost in heavy snow.

Mr. Acree was able to call a friend on his cell phone Sunday afternoon, triggering a search before an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter crew lifted him to safety late Monday morning.


Longest-serving judge in Eastern District dies

RICHMOND | U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams, the oldest and longest-serving active judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, has died.

Judge Williams died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Richmond, the Bennett Funeral Home said Monday. He was 87.

President Carter nominated Judge Williams to the bench for the federal district that stretches from Alexandria to Norfolk in 1979, and he started the job the following year. He took senior status in 1992 but handled court matters until his death, working from home in recent months because of poor health, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He presided over several high-profile cases, including overturning Virginia’s ban on late-term abortion in 2003. His decision was affirmed twice by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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