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It’s been nearly three years since a beautiful 27-year-old law school graduate was murdered, and the trial for her accused killer is finally set to begin on April 28.
Lauren Giddings had just graduated from Mercer University law school, and was studying for the Georgia bar exam, when she mysteriously disappeared in June 2011. Her dismembered torso was found days later in a curbside trash can outside of her apartment.
The man accused of killing her is Stephen McDaniel, a fellow law school graduate who lived next door.
Lauren was last seen on June 25, but no one realized anything was wrong until four nights later. Friends and family had figured that Lauren was just holed up in her apartment while cramming for the bar exam. When her loved ones noticed that she wasn’t returning text messages or even checking her Facebook account, they knew something was amiss.
One of Lauren’s friends filed a missing persons report after using a key to get into her apartment and noticing that Lauren’s cell phone and purse were inside, but Lauren was nowhere to be found. Police arrived shortly after, and began searching the property before making the gruesome discovery.
Over the last three years, Stephan McDaniel and his defense team have been preparing for his trial. Now that the trial date is finally approaching, let’s take a look back at the timeline as well as the evidence prosectors reportedly have against him.
June 25, 2011 Lauren is last seen by her friends.
June 30, 2011 Lauren is reported missing. When police arrive on the scene, they discover a human torso in a trash bin outside of Lauren’s apartment. The torso is wrapped in a black trash bag, clothed in cotton running shorts with nothing underneath. Lauren’s next-door neighbor, Stephen McDaniel, speaks with reporters and although he is pretty chatty at first, his demeanor visibly changes when the reporter tells him that a body has been found. He says “I think I need to sit down.” He then sits down on a nearby curb and appears to be hyperventilating.
McDaniel is charged later that day with burglary, after he allegedly admitted to police that he broke into other apartments in the complex and stole condoms. Police conducted a search on his apartment and took six knives, including one that was a foot long. They also seized a sword, tennis shoes, T-shirts, underwear, a gray bath towel, and 13 pieces of “cutting equipment.”
July 1, 2011 McDaniel appears in court for the burglary charge. He is charged with two counts of burglary and his bail request is denied.
Meanwhile, police conduct another search of his apartment and seize:
- two handguns
- a rifle
- wooden sticks
- four baseball bats
- a bayonet
- a chain mail vest
- a “wad of hair”
- a laptop
- a camera
- a cell phone
- an external card drive and a memory card reader
- a shoelace
- receipts (including one from Walmart dated June 23, 2011)
- a green scrub sponge
- two keys
- a silver case with a journal and laptop
Police also search McDaniel’s black 1997 Geo Prizm and take fabric samples from the back seat, scrapings from the airbag area, an earring, and two ponchos from the glove compartment. In addition, they execute a search warrant on McDaniel’s body and collect hair samples, swabs from inside his cheeks, and fingernail scrapings, as well as take photos of his body.
July 6, 2011 Police hold a news conference and confirm that the torso found is Lauren’s. They say that they have not found all the body parts yet.
July 12, 2011 Police execute a search warrant on McDaniel’s apartment again.
July 13, 2011 Police remove a refrigerator from the apartment below Lauren’s. The tenant had been in the process of moving out when Lauren went missing. Reportedly, the tenant said that it appeared as though things in the refrigerator had been moved around in his absence.
July 20, 2011 Police perform another search of McDaniel’s apartment.
Among the items they remove from the apartment:
- a Sony Playstation 3 and PS2
- a Microsoft Xbox gaming system and accessories
- compact discs
- memory sticks and memory cards
- a laptop
- a camera
- two adult magazines
July 21, 2011 A GBI forensic computer specialist searches the computer equipment and storage devices belonging to McDaniel and Lauren. A thumb drive belonging to McDaniel stored 52 images of child pornography. Police search McDaniel’s apartment again and take a pair of women’s panties, packaging for a Stanley hacksaw, and fingernail clippings.
August 2, 2011 An arrest warrant is issued, charging McDaniel with Lauren’s murder. The warrant states that police recovered a hacksaw at the apartment complex where Lauren and McDaniel lived. The saw’s packaging material was found inside McDaniel’s apartment.
August 3, 2011 McDaniel appears in court on the murder charge.
August 4, 2011 Police remove the bathtub from Lauren’s apartment.
August 23, 2011 McDaniel is charged with 7 counts of sexual exploitation of children, stemming from the child pornography found on a computer flash drive in his apartment.
December 12, 2011 McDaniel pleads not guilty to sex charges.
April 3, 2012 The judge sets McDaniel’s bond at $850,000, an amount his lawyers say his family can not afford.
February 21, 2013 Prosecutors announce that they will no longer be seeking the death penalty for Stephen McDaniel.
Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke released a statement saying, “Recently I met with the family of Lauren Giddings, and discussed the case with them at length. At the close of the meeting, Lauren’s mother and father asked me to withdraw the death notice. Although they believe that Mr. McDaniel deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, they recognize that withdrawing the death notice will allow the case to proceed in a more timely fashion, and will result in the State achieving justice for Lauren at a sooner date. In the interests of avoiding further delays, my office will not seek the death penalty for Mr. McDaniel.”
The evidence against Stephen McDaniel
Among the evidence prosecutors are expected to present at trial:
- Police found a pair of green and white blood-stained panties in a dresser drawer inside McDaniel’s apartment.
- A medical examiner found a few several-inch-long brown hairs on Lauren’s abdomen. A clump of brown and blond hair was on the back of her shorts. Lauren had blond hair, and McDaniel had shoulder-length brown hair at the time.
- A hacksaw with Lauren’s DNA on it was found in the apartment complex. Police later found packaging for a hacksaw in McDaniel’s apartment.
- Officers found large, dark stains that looked like blood on the front and back seats of McDaniel’s 1997 Geo Prizm.
- Scratches were found on McDaniel’s stomach, which police suggest may have come from fingernails.
- Thad Money, an old college roommate of McDaniel’s, called police the day after Lauren’s body was found and said that McDaniel had regularly told him that he could pull off the perfect murder and get away with it.
- Police obtained video footage of McDaniel shopping at a Macon WalMart on June 23, 2011, two days before Lauren was last seen. In the video, McDaniel appears to be looking at flashlights and boating supplies, including boat anchors. McDaniel buys a package of rope, a computer flash drive, and a pair of rain ponchos.
- Between April and June 2011, McDaniel purchased a pair of 8-inch scissors, a 48-ounce jug of bleach, household rubber gloves, Scotch-Brite pads, and allergy tablets from Kroger.
- A master key to the apartments in the apartment complex was found inside McDaniel’s apartment. A detective tested the key in Lauren’s lock and it worked.
- Swords, guns, a baseball bat, duct tape, knives, and a stick-like weapon were found in McDaniel’s apartment.
- An earring was discovered in McDaniels car.
- Lauren had allegedly complained to friends that someone had been in her apartment without her permission a few days prior to her death.
- Police recovered an Internet search query on McDaniel’s computer that was for “molest…sleeping girl.”
- “Violent” internet postings have been connected to McDaniel, using the screen name “SoL” meaning “Son of Liberty.”
- Another Internet search revealed that McDaniel had visited websites about gynophagia, sexual arousal from seeing someone eaten.
Prosecutors haven’t said much about their exact theory, but it looks like they believe McDaniel used his master key to get inside Lauren’s apartment that night. What they think happened after that will presumably come out at trial.
Lauren’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against McDaniel, in an attempt to get permission to search McDaniel’s grandfather’s property for the rest of Lauren’s remains, which have not yet been found. The civil trial is expected to take place later this year.
Jury selection for McDaniel’s murder trial is scheduled for April 28, 2014, in downtown McDonough, which is about 60 miles north of Macon, Georgia.
I will post more about this case when the trial begins.
UPDATE: 4/14/14 11:03 AM
According to the Telegraph, the girlfriend of the man who lived in the apartment beneath Lauren’s says she saw McDaniel toting “a large stick” and later heard “movement” in Lauren’s apartment the last night Lauren was seen alive.
Prosecutors filed a motion last week asking for a judge’s order to compel the girlfriend, Bertila Ivane Delora Boyd, to testify at McDaniel’s murder trial.
From The Telegraph:
Bertila Ivane Delora Boyd had gone to Barristers Hall apartments on Georgia Avenue on June 25, 2011, with her boyfriend, Antoine Terrell Bostic, according to affidavits that accompany the motion.
While waiting in the car, Boyd saw McDaniel “carrying a large stick” as he walked from the side of the apartments where the garbage cans were kept, an affidavit said.
After seeing McDaniel, Boyd said she went inside Bostic’s apartment, where she heard “movement from above” in Giddings’ apartment.
Prosecutors also asked the judge to compel Bostic to testify at the trial.
The judge granted both motions.
UPDATE: 4/21/14 12:52 PM
Stephen McDaniel pleaded guilty to murdering Lauren a week before his trial was scheduled to begin. Read my latest post on this case HERE.