Hiker Meredith Emerson was kidnapped by serial killer Gary Hilton, who later confessed to her murder.
ATLANTA -- Meredith Emerson's murder was especially grisly. She was abducted as she hiked the Appalachian Trail with her dog.
The former University of Georgia student's nude body was found decapitated. A 61-year-old drifter named Gary Hilton led authorities to the body. When he confessed and agreed to a prison term of life in prison, it closed the case.
But it also opened the case file to public scrutiny. Now the skin magazine known as Hustler wants the case file -- and the crime scene photos in particular.
"I have no idea why they would want that. To me, it's beyond belief," said House Speaker David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge).
The magazine's Open Records Act request is making the rounds through state government -- triggering a rash of denunciations.
"I think that request is sickening. I think it's disgusting. I think it's vile and I think it's very very hurtful for this family," said Ralston during a news conference.
Georgia's Open Records Act requires the release of the investigative files of closed criminal cases. It excludes autopsy photos. But it includes crime scene photos -- even graphic ones.
GBI director Vernon Keenan says he is refusing to release the Emerson photos, though he doesn't dispute that the law requires it.
"I'm basing that (refusal) on the fact that the autopsy photographs are exempt from release to the public," said Keenan. He acknowledges that the crime scene photos aren't exempt.
"These are scenes of the same victim, just in a different setting," Keenan said.
Keenan says he'll let a court decide whether to force the GBI to release the Emerson crime scene photos to Hustler. Meantime House leaders took up the Emerson cause, and vowed to tighten the Open Records Act. Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta) said she would introduce a bill to exempt crime scene photos.
"The victims of crime need to keep from being exploited in this particular manner. And the legislation would address photographs of nude dead bodies," Chambers said.
11Alive News has requested comment from LPF, Inc., the Los Angeles-based publisher of Hustler magazine.