Hiker Possibly Still Alive When Suspect Spotted
She may have been trussed up in van at restaurant stop
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2008 5:05 AM CST
In this May 2007 photo released by Pat B. Mitchell, Meredith Emerson is seen with her dog Ella, in Flowery Branch, Ga. The 24-year-old hiker has been missing since Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Courtesy...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Witnesses saw a "real fidgety" suspect Gary Hilton at a Georgia restaurant when kidnapped hiker Meredith Emerson was probably still alive in his van parked outside, CNN reports. The owner of a restaurant eight miles from where Emerson's decapitated body was found says Hilton came into the diner a day before police believe Emerson was killed.

Hilton, 61, used a phone at the restaurant, apparently to explain his absence to his boss, who had already told police he suspected the drifter in the hiker's disappearance.  A waitress was upset to realize Emerson may have been captive in Hilton's van when she saw him. "It kills me to know that," she said. "We could have saved her."