Body found in Macon in missing hiker case

Skeletal remains found in Macon County’s Nantahala National Forest Feb. 2 are those of an 80-year-old hiker who disappeared in October 2007, authorities say.

A local resident discovered the remains of John Bryant Saturday evening along Forest Road in Macon County. After conducting a preliminary autopsy, the North Carolina State Medical Examiner’s Office in Chapel Hill positively identified the body as Bryant’s.

Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland said the sheriff’s office is treating the case as a homicide, and continuing to investigate the scene.

Bryant and his wife Irene went missing last year while hiking in the Pink Beds area of the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County. Irene’s body was found Nov. 9, 25 yards from the couple’s SUV. It was determined she was killed by a blow to the head.

Sheriff David Mahoney in Transylvania County last month named Georgia drifter Gary Michael Hilton as the suspect in the Bryant case.

Hilton pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to the murder of hiker Meredith Emerson in Georgia. Emerson was last seen New Year’s Day when she ventured out for a hike in the Union County area of North Georgia. Her body was found in Dawson County.

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