Laura Giddings almost did not meet Stephen McDaniel. He applied to Mercer College's graduate school in spring 2008 but got waitlisted. Toward the beginning of June, the school invited him on board, and that fall, he moved into a condo across the road from the Walter F. George School of Law.
Lauren Giddings, then, 24, was his nearby neighbor. She was pretty, athletic, and active. Stephen McDaniel was odd, intelligent, a loner.
Stephen asked her out now and again. She said no however attempted to be cordial. He gave her the killjoys.
Lauren Giddings just graduated from law school a few months before she met her gruesome demise. She had a lot of things going on for her at that moment. Her sister just got married a few months ago. She passed the bar exam and was anticipating her new start in life. Giddings had no idea her torso would be found in a trash can in a few days.
The Man Behind The Mask
Stephen McDaniel was a neighbor who happened to be in her class for her few years in law school. They weren't friends, but they were friendly whenever they met. To Lauren, Stephen McDaniel was just an ex-classmate that lived next door who may have had a crush on her, but she wasn't interested, something she made very clear to him when he asked her out, but it just increased his odd obsession for her.
In the early hours of June 26, 2011, Stephen McDaniel entered Lauren's apartment using a master key. He wore a mask to conceal his identity and climbed into her bed to strangle her in her sleep. Stephen later said in his confession that she struggled with him in her last minutes and eventually removed his mask.
Lauren was surprised to see her killer's face. He had the perfect façade of a quiet and polite neighbor that nobody would have suspected him of such a hideous crime.
As if killing Laura in cold blood wasn't enough, Stephen McDaniel did the most horrifying thing that anyone would imagine could happen in that small town. He dragged her body to her bathtub, went to his house to continue his daily activities. Then, he came back in the evening with a hacksaw to butcher her body into pieces, flushed her fingers into her toilet. Finally, McDaniel threw her head and torso into different dumpsters around his apartment building. A mistake that was sure to haunt him.
Many profilers say Stephen McDaniel was a brooding serial killer. It was his first kill, but it wouldn't be his last if he weren't caught.
During the investigation, a lot of people came out to talk about Stephen's weird behaviors. He once told an acquaintance of Lauren of how his perfect crime is knocking someone unconscious and then chopping them in a tub. He even had a blog where he described several ways to torture and violate women.
Caught On Camera
A few friends noticed Lauren was missing and called it to the police attention. The police began searching for her with a few friends and neighbors who volunteered. Stephen McDaniel was one of them. Stephen was helpful and willing to participate in the search. Some people may say he was too happy to help. He was even giving out interviews to reporters who were covering the case.
"It's just so bizarre," he said in an interview. "This is just so off the wall bizarre."
And it was more bizarre when the reporters suddenly got the news that the police found her torso in a garbage can a few blocks away from their apartment. What got everyone's attention more than the severed body part was his reaction. He had a mental breakdown and was very restless. Everyone noticed it and knew something was wrong, especially after hyperventilating and drinking over ten water bottles in a few minutes.
The police called him back to the station for a second interview, but the initial person that was very chatty and ready to help was gone. The guy in the interrogation room just wanted to leave that room and disappear, but it wasn't going to happen soon.
The court issued a search warrant for his house, and the police found over 200 pieces of evidence against him. The problem was that most were circumstantial and not enough to go to trial in court. They needed something to get him locked up for good, and even after they found a hacksaw with Lauren's blood on it, his defense attorneys deemed it inadmissible in court.
That was until they found deleted videos on his computer he took when spying on Lauren. But even that wasn't enough to get Stephen Mcdaniel sent to prison.
Justice At Last
In the first indictment, the prosecutors made a statement that almost deemed the case invalid in court. On November 15, 2011, an indictment that dispatched the legal dispute fought that McDaniel, 28, killed Giddings in a way "including the decapitation of said victim."
By including that expression, prosecutors asserted that Giddings was alive when her head was cut off, a reality that they would have needed to demonstrate at preliminary.
Thankfully, the case didn't go to court using the first indictment. His lawyers would have won the case without breaking a sweat because all evidence showed that Lauren was killed before dismembered.
Two years later, the prosecutors submitted another indictment. This time, the case would go to trial, and Stephen McDaniel would be sentenced to life imprisonment. It was then he admitted to her murder and described the accounts of that deadly night.
Evil Lives Here
As determined as he'd been in killing her - following Giddings, both on the web and by spying on her second-story loft with a camcorder taped to a 6-foot stick - McDaniel seemed to disentangle in the killing's repercussions. He thought he could get away with murder.
When her body turned up in a curbside garbage bin at the lofts, McDaniel was as of now not in charge. He wanted to fool the police but got caught on his first try and what was supposed to be a perfect crime became his ultimate ruin.
Stephen McDaniel had evil brewing in him. He didn't just kill someone, but he wanted someone to disappear. To him, it was like a science experiment and a game. He didn't just know it would be game over for him so soon.