For a month and two days, Stephen Mark McDaniel sat in isolation at the Bibb County jail, a “person of interest” in the slaying and dismemberment of Lauren Giddings, his next-door neighbor and fellow Mercer University law school graduating classmate.
McDaniel has been held on unrelated burglary charges.
Tuesday night, the stakes got higher, when Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters stepped up to McDaniel’s cell at about 9:30 to serve a murder warrant.
McDaniel, a 25-year-old Lilburn native who had declined to talk to police during his monthlong incarceration, again kept his mouth shut.
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“He didn’t say a thing,” Winters said.
“It’s at the point now since there has been an arrest that I won’t make much of a comment,” Winters said late Tuesday.
Reached by telephone in Giddings’ native Maryland, her sister, Kaitlyn Wheeler, said word of the murder charges being levied came at about the time the warrant was served.
“It’s not a good feeling, but it feels like a step in the right direction toward closure. It’s exciting in a way that you feel sick, not happy,” Wheeler, 24, said.
“We know this is going to be a long, hard process,” she said. “It’s one more step toward him facing judgment. It doesn’t mean he’s been convicted.”
Giddings’ father, Bill Giddings of Laurel, Md., said the Bibb DA’s call came in at about 9:30 with news he and his family had been waiting for.
“It was expected,” the 56-year-old father of three girls said. “I have expected it because it had been a month now. And after the first week, there was no other ‘person of interest,’ at least not to me. Everything kept coming back to (McDaniel). But there are still just so many questions unanswered. Hopefully (McDaniel) will come forth with that.”
Bill Giddings said that over the years he had worried so much about Lauren getting in a car accident – she always drove home from college in Atlanta and, later, at the Walter F. George School of Law across the street from her Barristers Hall apartment in Macon – that “I’ve got gray hair.”
And now, he said, to be faced with her death at the hands of a killer, “it’s just so bizarre. This is just so off-the-wall bizarre.”
McDaniel’s arrest is the latest development in an investigation into Giddings’ death. She was last heard from the evening of June 25. Five days later while investigating a missing persons report filed after her friends and family hadn’t heard from her, police discovered her torso wrapped in plastic in a garbage bin beside her Georgia Avenue apartment building. The 27-year-old’s body was released to her family for cremation last week.
A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Macon Police Department.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.