Blood tests, confession under attack in McDaniel hearing

jkovac@macon.comDecember 11, 2013 

Lawyers for accused killer Stephen McDaniel are expected to argue in a pretrial hearing Thursday that McDaniel’s supposed confession about sneaking into apartments and taking condoms at the complex where he and his alleged victim lived was improperly obtained.

Based on motions filed in recent days and months, there are a number of other elements in the case that McDaniel’s attorneys may try to keep a jury from hearing when the high-profile murder trial begins in February.

Among them, conversations McDaniel may have had with acquaintances four or so years before Lauren Giddings was slain and her body dismembered.

Three men, including a former roommate of McDaniel’s, told investigators that McDaniel was fascinated with “perfect murder” scenarios.

One of the men recalled McDaniel telling him that McDaniel’s perfect murder would involve cutting a body apart and scattering the pieces.

“He would end up knocking a person out, then he would drag them to the bathroom because bathrooms are sanitary and ... covered in linoleum or tile,” acquaintance William Ingram told Macon police a couple of months after Giddings’ June 2011 slaying.

If McDaniel’s lawyers can suppress such statements -- talk they have deemed “curious musings, not deep criminal confessions” -- it will go hand in hand with their contention that jurors also should hear nothing of chemical tests performed on surfaces in Giddings’ and McDaniel’s apartments.

In a motion filed earlier this week, the attorneys note that investigators used luminol spray, which under special lighting gives off a glow that can help detect blood. The luminol test indicated there may have been blood in Giddings’ bathtub.

One investigator wrote in a report that there were “substantial results,” that Giddings’ tub “glowed to a point two inches from the top rim of the tub.”

McDaniel’s lawyers, however, say there were no photographs taken of that “glow,” and that, more importantly, no actual blood was ever found.

Sources have told The Telegraph that no tests have ever confirmed the presence of Giddings’ blood in her apartment, McDaniel’s apartment or in a third residence beneath the one where Giddings lived.

She and McDaniel were law school classmates and next-door neighbors at Barristers Hall on Georgia Avenue, a boxy, two-story complex across the street from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law.

Giddings’ torso was found in a curbside trash bin outside the apartments on June 30, 2011. McDaniel was jailed on unrelated burglary charges the next day. He was charged with murder a month later.

McDaniel’s lawyers likely will attack the burglary charges, along with admissibility of door keys that detectives are said to have seized from McDaniel’s apartment. The keys unlocked other apartments in the complex.

If a jury never hears of those details, it may be more difficult to portray McDaniel as a stalking assailant.

McDaniel’s attorneys may argue that McDaniel was in police custody hours before he was read his rights, and that incriminating statements he might have made before being informed of those rights -- the condom-theft burglaries, for instance -- are inadmissible.

Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms is presiding in the case, which had been handled by Judge S. Phillip Brown, who announced his retirement last month.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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