On June 24th, 2011, a recent graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, named Lauren Giddings went out to celebrate her law school graduation as one final hurrah knowing that the bar exam was coming shortly after and knew she needed to study- so this was her final chance before crunch time. However, days after being dropped off at home from her celebration, Giddings went radio silent. It wasn’t odd at first, since she had to study for the bar, however red flags were raised once community members of the law library had seen Lauren for days. This was odd, especially due to her popular and bubbly personality- and her planned study groups.
Giddings had mentioned to friends earlier in the year that she felt like she was being watched, and believed that someone was breaking into her apartment and touching her things. However, her support system thought she was being dramatic, and since she was an extremely busy law student so she brushed off any odd encounter she had noticed. Concerned friends noticed Giddings wasn’t home and nothing looked out of place, however her purse, keys, car, and cell phone were still at her apartment.
After this discovery, the race was on. Her family had filed a missing persons report, and many of her friends she was visiting with the weekend of her disappearance- became a suspect. Police were actively investigating her apartment, and her data when they found an e-mail to her boyfriend stating that someone had tried to break into her apartment the night before while she was away. With no obvious signs of struggle, detectives desperately expanded their search for Giddings. However during this visit, detectives caught a whiff of something that they knew all too well. A detective stated “While we were standing there, the wind started to turn. Immediately, I smelled an odor that I was very familiar with,” said one of the detectives. “We all smell things in life that smell bad. And that of a body, or a decomposing body, is one of the worst things you’ll smell. But it has a very distinctive smell.” This scent lead investigators to the garbage- and in there they found two bags of trash, and once they opened them both inside they found the torso of a Caucasian woman. There were no other body parts in the bag.
In true crime there isn’t much time to get lucky during a case of this nature. The crime scene however had two lucky breaks for investigators: One, the Dumpster should have been collected that morning, but the truck was running late so the body part was still able to be located, and around this same time, there was a local news station interviewing community members. One man interviewed was Stephen McDaniel. He was Lauren’s neighbor and had helped the police in searching for her body, and seemingly was concerned about her disappearance. The reporter asked him during this interview about how he felt that a body was located- and that’s when things started to unravel. McDaniels suspicious reaction on hearing of the discovery of Giddings body immediately turned the attention of investigators to this man.
During interrogations after this bizarre interview, McDaniels admitted he had been stalking Lauren, mostly by using a camera attached to a long stick to film her through her second-story window. Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke had stated to reporters that “his computer history showed an interest in her Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Sometimes he would be searching for images of her around the same time that he was looking up violent pornography. Of course we found her underwear in his apartment…. The biggest evidence in all this was when we found deleted video he had used to survey her home.” Police also discovered a master key to the entire building in his apartment.
On August 2nd 2011, Stephan McDaniels was officially charged with Lauren’s brutal murder. After maintaining his innocence for about a month, McDaniels ended up confessing to her slaying, realizing the charges were there to stay. McDaniels wrote in his confessional, how the case went down and stated she said “Get the fuck out.’” He also wrote that he “grabbed her around the throat” and the two “tumbled out of the bed to the floor and in her struggle to get away, she moved her legs and her lower body under her bed, preventing her from getting away or kicking me.”
McDaniels is currently serving a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2041.