Fugitive Kidnapper Kills Himself 1
Unlikely Manhunt Leads to Tragedy 2
Did System Enable Mom Killer? 3

Lauren Giddings, New Law Grad, Dismembered By Neighbor Stephen Mark McDaniel

Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:10 am
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UPDATE: For a budding lawyer, Stephen McDaniel isn't very good at bullshit. He's trying to blame Lauren Giddings' murder on another law student who also worked as the apartment complex's maintenance man. See update after the jump...

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Stephen McDaniel, a former intern at the district attorney's office, is charged with Lauren's murder
Back on June 25, 27-year-old Laura Giddings had all the promise of America before her. She'd recently graduated from Mercer University Law School in Macon, Georgia. But she'd also returned from her sister's wedding, and thought someone had break into her apartment.

She'd sent an email telling her boyfriend, an Atlanta lawyer, of her suspicions. But it doesn't seem she was worried enough to call the police.

On the night of the 25th, Lauren went out with friends. She had returned to Macon to spend some time studying for the bar exam, then she planned to move. But that's the last night anyone saw her.

When she was reported missing, police found her keys, phone and wallet inside her apartment. There was no sign of a break-in or a struggle.

But the case turned tragic when detectives found her torso stuffed in a plastic bag in a garbage bin next to her apartment complex.

All along, detectives considered Stephen Mark McDaniel, her next-door neighbor, as a suspect. He was subsequently arrested for two burglaries at the apartment complex. But as the days passed, detectives seemed unable to pin him for Lauren's murder.

That changed Tuesday. Police won't discuss their evidence, but they seem to be implying that Lauren was killed during the commission of another crime, possibly a burglary or an abduction.

Detectives are now asking residents if they've noticed any peculiar smells, since the rest of Lauren's body has yet to be found.

Incidentally, McDaniel served as an intern in the district attorney's office earlier this year.

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Police have found Lauren's DNA on a hacksaw linked to McDaniel
UPDATE: McDaniel was a classmate of Lauren's at Mercer Law School.

After Lauren was declared missing, McDaniel actually joined in the search for her. He was even interviewed describing her as "as nice a person as could be. She was personable. She was always nice to talk to. I don't know why anyone would do this."

But word from Macon is that McDaniel had a master key to the apartment complex they both lived in, and that he had made a creepy habit of breaking into other people's places and stealing their condoms.

Classmates say he aspired to work in the prosecutor's office on his way to becoming a judge. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was one of his heroes, and he was a staunch Tea Party member.

He had a habit of sending right-wing emails to his classmates, but ran afoul of them when he called President Obama a "communist," leading other students to publicly harangue him. McDaniel responded by showing up to class wearing chain mail.

He was also fairly religious and went on mission trips with the Mountain Park First Baptist Church in Stone Mountain.His mom, Glenda McDaniel, says Stephen and Lauren were friends and that her son would never kill anyone.

"We don't believe a Christian can murder and cut someone's body up."

Police have apparently recovered a hacksaw with Lauren's DNA on it. Packaging for a hacksaw was found in McDaniel's apartment. But detectives say he's refused to talk to them. 

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McDaniel seemed to believe he was a criminal mastermind capable of getting away with the perfect murder
UPDATE II: McDaniel once bragged that he could kill someone and get away with it.

Police aren't saying who McDaniel boasted to, but an arrest warrant says he "has previously commented that he could commit murder and provided details of methods to avoid detection which are similar to the facts and circumstances surrounding the killing of Lauren Giddings."

The hacksaw used to presumably carve Lauren's body was found in a locked storage shed of the apartment complex. Packaging for the same saw was found in McDaniel's apartment.

Boni Bush, the owner of the complex, told 11 Alive-TV that Lauren and McDaniel weren't exactly friends, but they were classmates and she was nice to him. Everyone seemed to know that McDaniel was a little off in some respect. When Lauren first moved in, Bush asked her if she would feel comfortable living next to him.

Bush also says that Lauren's bathroom tub now has long scratches on it, like those you would see on a cutting board. This may be where McDaniel decided to saw Lauren up.

With his admission of believing he could kill someone, it raises the specter that McDaniel may have killed Lauren just to prove how much smarter he was than the cops. Or it could be that he's just a garden variety shithead who murdered one of the few people who took time to be nice to him.

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McDaniel is now trying to blame another Mercer law student for Lauren's murder
UPDATE III: For a lawyer in training, McDaniel isn't very good at bullshit.

Though McDaniel was studying to take the bar exam, it's doubtful he would have passed, since he apparently failed all of his classes on lying and deceit.

His mother Glenda McDaniel has come forward with Stephen's explanation for Lauren's murder, and it's far more unintentional comedy than the evasive scheming of a criminal mastermind.

She says her son admits to buying the hacksaw that contained Lauren's DNA, but Stephen told her he actually bought it at Walmart to trim the branches of a pear tree at the apartment complex that was damaged in a storm.

Why anyone would buy a hacksaw to cut off tree limbs, we're not sure. But Stephen told his mom that the saw didn't work very well -- no shit, Sherlock -- so he threw it away.

He's also trying to pin the murder on another Mercer law student, David T. Dorer, who worked as the apartment complex's maintenance man.

Two days before Lauren was last seen, Giddings says he heard a loud noise outside his building. So he got up and went outside. That's where he saw Dorer standing on Lauren's balcony at midnight. Dorer supposedly told him he was thinking of mowing the lawn.

Glenda McDaniel claims her son thought nothing of the strange incident. "It was only later, when he started recovering from the shock that his friend was dead, that he started processing that and realized, 'No. No one cuts the grass at midnight,' " she told the Macon Telegraph.

She calls it "divine appointment" that her son was able to ID the real killer. "God loved Lauren and he wanted justice for Lauren, and he wanted somebody to be there who would know something and be able to bring justice for her and whoever did this to her."

She claims Dorer knew that McDaniel could pin him for the murder, so he planted a master key and keys to Lauren's apartment inside McDaniel's apartment. She also believes Dorer retrieved the hacksaw after McDaniel threw it in the garbage.

But police have already interviewed Dorer, and they say he's not a suspect nor a person of interest, and that he's been completely cooperative.

Meanwhile, detectives have taken the bathtub from Lauren's apartment for forensic testing. They've also taken drain pipes and say McDaniel showed signs of scratching on his stomach when he was first arrested.

See our last story from the Homicide file: Ame Deal, 10, Suffocated to Death for Taking Popsicle Without Permission.

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