Stephen McDaniel almost didnt plead guilty last week.
Though his attorneys have said he drafted a confession -- a portion of the plea that prosecutors insisted on -- the plea hung in the balance as the hearing was about to begin Monday morning.
The courtroom filled with Lauren Giddings family, friends, cops and others.
But McDaniel wasnt there.
Negotiations were still in the works.
Floyd Buford, one of McDaniels lawyers, said while theres always uncertainty leading up to a guilty plea, McDaniels was tenuous, more iffy than most.
McDaniel, 28, was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder in Giddings death. The 27-year-old Maryland natives dismembered torso was found June 30, 2011.
On the Thursday before the hearing, McDaniel offered to plead guilty and write out a confession if Giddings parents dropped a wrongful death lawsuit theyd filed against him and if prosecutors dismissed the additional burglary and sexual exploitation of children charges.
Buford said McDaniel was seeking a global resolution.
We just wanted to have everything wrapped up, he said.The Giddingses agreed to the dismissal if the confession was fulsome, truthful and verifiable, said Kristin Miller, Giddings close friend who, along with her father, represents Giddings parents.
On the Saturday before McDaniel was scheduled to appear in court, about a week before his trial was set to begin, the Giddings family received a draft of the confession.
We thought it was written backwards to fit the known evidence, Miller said. It fits all we know.
Miller said she and the Giddingses were suspicious of McDaniels claim that Giddings wedged herself under her bed. With her lower body strength, she would have been able to fight free, Miller said.
They also found it odd that he didnt admit to taking a weapon -- or something -- to subdue Giddings.
Miller said it was troublesome that McDaniel said he disposed of Giddings head, arms and legs in a trash bin at Mercers law school, knowing that police had searched the part of the landfill where that trash had been dumped and found nothing.
The Giddingses sent Buford a counteroffer.
They didnt hear back from Buford until Monday morning, moments before the hearing was to begin.
The Giddings family and its lawyers were called into the hall for an impromptu meeting with Buford.
Miller said Buford threatened to pull the entire deal off the table if the Giddings family didnt dismiss the suit.
Kaitlyn Wheeler, Giddings sister, said McDaniel took advantage of us in our most vulnerable state. He had no respect for us.
The parties agreed to a consent judgment against McDaniel in which he was found liable for Giddings death. The Giddingses are entitled to a hearing to determine monetary damages if McDaniel is ever paroled.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.