Lauren Giddings’ dismembered body was discovered on trash pick-up day at Barristers Hall apartments, but so far police aren’t revealing whether anyone who lived there may have had a role in her death.
For days now, Macon police have said there are two “persons of interest” in the recent Mercer University law school graduate’s slaying, but no one has been charged with Giddings’ death.
Giddings’ fellow graduate and next-door neighbor, 25-year-old Stephen McDaniel, of Lilburn, has been identified as a “person of interest” and has been charged with two counts of burglary in an unrelated case. He remains in the Bibb County jail.
McDaniel’s family in metro Atlanta has been keeping an eye on developments in the case.
“I’ve been watching a good bit of the news on it online, and there are numerous rumors going around,” his mother, Glenda McDaniel, said by phone Thursday. “That doesn’t mean they’re true.”
Glenda McDaniel also said that Police Chief Mike Burns has said police have to “eliminate suspects or people of interest.”
“He’s not a suspect at this point,” she said. “He is a person of interest simply based on the fact that he lived next door to (Giddings).”
Stephen McDaniel’s aunt, Melody Rucker, called the entire episode “totally bizarre.”
“We can’t believe it,” Rucker said.
She said her nephew is “one of the nicest, smartest people that I’ve ever known. ... We’re all very, very upset. Of course, we’re upset about the girl. But it’s like a dream really, because Stephen is just the straightest -- never been in trouble, never. ... I’ve never heard him say a cross word to anybody, very mild-mannered.”
Added Rucker: “I know that it’s gonna get resolved, and I certainly do hope that they find whoever did this. ... I can’t imagine what the parents must be going through.”
In their hunt for clues in the past week, police have scoured blocks around the Coleman Hill-area apartments and, last Friday, searched the city dump.
“A landfill might be a logical place to hide something,” police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said Thursday, a week after Giddings’ body was discovered. She was last heard from June 25, officials have said.
“(The landfill) is enormous and covered and bulldozed daily,” Gaudet said. “From an investigative standpoint, it made sense to search the landfill as soon as possible.”
Searches of city storm drains continued through Thursday morning, said Bill Causey, manager of Macon’s Engineering Department.
Police have not released information about what, if anything, they found in searches of the landfill, city storm drains, at the apartments and along the Ocmulgee River.
Parts of Giddings’ body still are missing, Burns said at a Wednesday news conference.
Giddings, 27, had been living in her apartment at 1058 Georgia Ave. after graduating from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law on May 14. She was studying for the bar exam.
There were no signs of a break-in at her apartment, said Marty Bush, co-owner of the complex.
Bush said police have searched most of the apartments in the complex, looking for signs of an attack or a crime scene.
“I don’t know what they found, if they found anything,” he said.
Each apartment has an alarm system and a dead-bolt lock, Bush said.
A Dooly County K-9 search-and-rescue team is scheduled to do a second search of the apartment complex and the surrounding area Friday, according to a police news release.
Police investigators are continuing to take statements from people who knew or knew of Giddings, who was involved in many law school and extracurricular activities and in the community, according to the release.
Investigators continue working to find out which people have alibis and can be excluded from the suspect list. Police also are reviewing statements taken as part of the investigation and are “tweaking” their timeline of events, according to police.
Giddings’ car and apartment key were returned to her parents Thursday morning, according to the release.
Police still are requesting the public’s help with the case. Anyone with information about the killing or who finds, sees or smells anything unusual or suspicious is asked to call police at 751-7500 or Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at (877) 68-CRIME.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.