Stephen McDaniel’s family gave him a small memento to keep in his apartment as he started law school and moved into his Barristers Hall apartment three years ago.
It was a family photo, taken at Mountain Park First Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, the church the family attends. In the photo, McDaniel stands smiling in an American flag T-shirt behind his parents and four adopted siblings.
McDaniel kept the photo in apartment No. 4, where he lived while studying at Mercer University law school to become a prosecutor. Folded and tucked in the frame behind the picture was the three-year-old church bulletin.
McDaniel’s mother, Glenda, stuffed the picture frame into her purse Saturday as the family moved McDaniel’s belongings out of his apartment and into a Budget rental moving truck.
The apartment has been one area of focus during an investigation into the murder of McDaniel’s neighbor, 27-year-old Mercer law school graduate Lauren Giddings, whose torso was found nearby at the apartment complex last month.
McDaniel, also a Mercer law graduate, lived next door to Giddings in the complex at 1058 Georgia Ave., just across the street from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law.
Police have searched McDaniel’s apartment at least three times since Giddings’ dismembered body was discovered on June 30. They have named McDaniel a person of interest in the Giddings murder investigation but have not identified him as a suspect.
As the family carried furniture, a weight bench and barbells, boxes and bedding from the upstairs apartment and loaded them into the moving truck, Mark McDaniel stopped at the foot of the stairs to say his son is “doing as best as can be expected.”
Stephen McDaniel, 25, is being held at the Bibb County jail, charged with two counts of burglary stemming from two incidents at the Barristers Hall apartment complex two winters ago. He is accused of entering two apartments and taking a condom from each.
McDaniel has been held for more than three weeks on the burglary charges. He is being held in isolation at the jail.
“We’re praying a lot and trusting God,” Glenda McDaniel said. “We’re praying that the investigation will reveal the real killer.”
In addition to McDaniel’s apartment, police have also scoured Giddings’ number No. 2 unit and another unit below Giddings’, as well as various areas near the downtown apartment complex and around the city, including the city landfill, Ocmulgee River and storm drains.
Officials are still awaiting test results from forensic evidence sent to the FBI crime lab in Virginia.
McDaniel’s parents attended a conflict-of-interest hearing tied to the burglary charges Friday in Bibb County Superior Court. McDaniel’s attorney, Floyd Buford, contends that the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office should not be allowed to prosecute McDaniel on the charges because McDaniel worked for the prosecutors’ office for about three months earlier this year.
Superior Court Judge Tripp Self did not issue an immediate ruling, but said he would consider over the weekend the arguments heard Friday.
McDaniel’s brother-in-law, Erik Anderson, helped move larger items into the truck Saturday. He said his wife, McDaniel’s sister, is very “torn up” over the ordeal.
Anderson’s four children, who were adopted by McDaniel’s parents, ran up and down the stairs Saturday as they helped load smaller things onto the truck.
“We’re trying to keep things low-key for them,” Glenda McDaniel said of the children, ages 10, 8, 6 and 5 years old. “We’re trying not to go into details that would frighten them. And we’re trying to maintain our cool for their sake.”
After most of the boxes and furniture were loaded, Glenda McDaniel stopped to pull the family photo back out of her purse, prompting one of the young girls to say she wanted to keep the picture for herself.
“Well, you can keep it for Stephen,” Glenda said, “because he’ll want it back.”
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 744-4347.