Friday, 8:36 a.m. - Stephen McDaniel, one of Lauren Giddings neighbors, has been arrested by Macon police on a burglary charge.
Friday, 12:04 p.m. - The Macon landfill has been closed since early Friday morning for a police investigation. The city would not confirm it was related to the investigation into the body found on Thursday.
Friday, 1:13 p.m. - An initial hearing for Stephen McDaniel on the burglary charge will be held shortly. A Telegraph reporter is on the scene. McDaniel is being held on an $8,450 bond.
Friday, 2:29 p.m. - During his initial hearing, a second burglary charge was added against McDaniel and the earlier bond rescinded.
Friday, 5:32 p.m. - During a 5 p.m. news conference Macon police Chief Mike Burns said officials are "pretty sure" the body found is that of Lauren Giddings.
Lauren Giddings was worried about her safety. Late Saturday night, she sent an e-mail to a friend, saying she was afraid to stay in her apartment on Georgia Avenue.
“She thought someone had tried to break into her apartment,” said Stephen McDaniel, a neighbor and classmate of Giddings’ at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law.
Giddings, 27, had just graduated from law school and was preparing to take the bar exam, friends said.
When a good friend had not heard from Giddings by early Thursday morning, she filed a missing person’s report with the Macon Police Department. Police who came to Giddings’ apartment at 1058 Georgia Ave. several hours later found a body outside the apartment building.
Police said they had not identified the body by Thursday night. All they would say was that the body was that of a woman, and that they were treating the case as a homicide.
Thursday night, Macon Police Chief Mike Burns said the department had two “persons of interest” in the case.
“We don’t know if they were involved or not, but we’re talking to them,” he said.
After discovering the body, Macon police spent the day investigating inside, outside and around Giddings’ Barristers Hall apartment.
Burns, in a statement late Thursday afternoon, acknowledged the difficulty in trying to identify the body.
“The condition of the body is making positive identification difficult,” he said without elaborating. “We hope to have positive identification” Friday.
The body, which a local law enforcement officer said had been dismembered, was turned over to the GBI crime lab.
Police were still canvassing the neighborhood near the law school Thursday night, questioning neighbors and those who may have seen or known Giddings or who had any information in the case. They searched Giddings’ apartment, No. 2, as well as apartment No. 1, which was vacant. Late Thursday, investigators searched a third apartment.
According to the missing person’s report, a friend of Giddings notified police just before 1 a.m. Thursday that neither she nor any other friends to her knowledge had been in contact with Giddings since Saturday, and that family members had also been unable to reach her.
The friend went to Giddings’ apartment and knocked, but got no answer. She used a spare key that Giddings had left outside the apartment to enter it. She found that Giddings’ belongings were still inside, including her car keys, her cell phone, textbooks and her laptop.
Her car, a Mitsubishi Galant with her sister’s name, Kaitlyn, on its Maryland plate, was still in its parking space outside.
According to the police report, authorities also tried to contact Giddings’ boyfriend, an Atlanta lawyer, whom her friends said had just traveled to California.
Boni Bush, one of the building’s owners, said she went into Giddings’ apartment Wednesday after Giddings had failed to return messages asking about her plans to move out.
Nothing seemed out of place, but Giddings’ belongings also hadn’t been packed, Bush said.
A friend of Giddings’ called Bush about 3 a.m. Thursday after finding a note that Bush had left on Giddings’ door with Bush’s phone number.
McDaniel, the apartment neighbor, said he had joined a group of Giddings’ friends early Thursday searching for her. After finding no sign of her at her apartment, the group checked at the law school, but she was not there.
“She was just gone,” he said.
Giddings went to see friends on Walnut Street on Saturday morning, but she hadn’t been seen since, McDaniel said.
He said he was in his apartment, next to Giddings’, all night Wednesday and most of the week, studying for the bar exam.
“I hadn’t seen anyone or heard anything,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who would want to hurt her.”
Police questioned McDaniel and other residents of the apartments Thursday.
Joseph Mann, Giddings’ cousin, said her family last heard from her Saturday.
“It’s just really odd for no one to (be able to) reach her,” he said.
Giddings had planned to move to a friend’s apartment in Atlanta on Thursday as she searched for a job, said Mann, who lives in Blue Ridge.
“She just loved Georgia so much,” he said. Giddings, originally from Laurel, Md., often visited family in Blue Ridge.
Mann said police have not confirmed that his cousin is the woman found dead outside her apartment.
“We’re all kind of waiting and seeing,” he said late Thursday afternoon. “No one really knows what to do.”
Giddings’ sister, Kaitlyn, who set up a Facebook page to notify people of Lauren’s disappearance, said Thursday that their father was on his way to Georgia to meet with law enforcement authorities, perhaps by late Thursday. She said the family had received no updates in the case as of late Thursday afternoon.
The section of Georgia Avenue between Orange Street and Nisbet Place was closed for much of Thursday during the investigation. Dogs from Villa Rica-based K9 Search & Rescue Specialists searched the area Thursday afternoon.
Police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said she couldn’t confirm what type of dogs were being used or what exactly the dogs were searching for.
“They’re looking for clues,” she said.
Several investigators from the Macon police criminal investigations division and several prosecutors from the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office were at the scene during the day.
Gaudet said FBI agents also helped with the investigation, but she wouldn’t say why the FBI was involved.
“This is a sensitive investigation,” she said. “We want to make sure everything’s covered.”
Thursday evening, a group of Giddings’ friends gathered at a house on Orange Street -- just a couple of blocks from the crime scene -- to commiserate.
Jason Keith, who knew Giddings from a local running club, said she was scheduled to go camping with him and his friends this weekend.
“She’s very close to all of us,” Keith said. “I texted her this morning (about camping), then I saw the post on Facebook. ... There’s been all kinds of speculation.”
Mann said Giddings had served as an intern at Atlanta’s King & Spalding law firm. She also worked as a law clerk at the Bibb County Public Defender’s Office from June 2010 until she graduated in May, said Rick Waller, a public defender there.
Giddings assisted in the property division, helping with the defense of people accused in cases such as burglaries and shopliftings.
Mercer law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore said she was one of Giddings’ instructors at Mercer. Giddings had been in the process of trying to get a job with the Georgia Capital Defenders Office or in the Atlanta Public Defender’s Office.
She described Giddings as “an unbelievably good-hearted girl.”
“She spent most of her three years (in law school) helping people at the jail,” Gerwig-Moore said.
In the fall of 2008, when Giddings made it known that she was heading to law school at Mercer, one of her longtime friends from her undergraduate alma mater Agnes Scott College in Atlanta made a video and posted it on YouTube. The video includes a quote from a self-assured, ever-confident Giddings, who played catcher and second base on the Scotties’ softball squad: “I’m good at everything, even golf, so I’ll definitely be good at law school.”
The friend who made the video, Kristin Miller of Atlanta, fought back tears on the phone Thursday evening as she talked about Giddings.
“She was just the most bright, beautiful, poised, articulate person that you’d ever want to meet. She had a huge heart. She loved her family. She was a good friend to every single friend she had,” Miller said.
“She took on everything in life and just conquered it. She was good at everything. She ended up doing quite well at law school, just like she said she would.”
Miller, 28, met Giddings in 2002. During her years at Agnes Scott, Giddings spent a summer with Miller and her parents.
She called the prospect of Giddings’ death “devastating, very surreal.”
“She was incredible,” Miller said. “I’d never met anybody like her, and now I never will again.”
Staff writers Oby Brown, Caryn Grant and Liz Fabian contributed to this report.
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