Glenda McDaniel says her son, Stephen, admits buying the hacksaw on which authorities found traces of Lauren Giddings’ DNA.
But, she says, he has told her that he threw away the saw months ago, that Giddings’ “real killer” must have plucked the saw from the trash and used it to frame him for a crime that she says detectives have -- in questioning her son -- threatened to seek the death penalty.
Stephen Mark McDaniel, 25, was charged with murder Tuesday night in connection with Giddings’ slaying and dismemberment in late June. He had been held at the Bibb County jail on unrelated burglary charges since June 30, the day Giddings’ torso was found wrapped in plastic in a roll-away trash can at the Georgia Avenue apartment complex where they were next-door neighbors and recent graduates of Mercer University’s law school.
While interviewing McDaniel early on, around the time the burglary charges were levied, detectives “threatened him, that they were going to charge him with capital murder, that they were going to charge him with malice murder and they were going to execute him,” his mother said.
Never miss a local story.
“This was before he had been booked on anything,” the 56-year-old mother said in a telephone interview from her home in Lilburn on Friday.
She said that around midnight June 30, more than 14 hours after Giddings’ remains were discovered, investigators called her and put Stephen on the phone.
“And Stephen, in almost a hypnotized, very flat voice said, ‘They told me I did something bad. They told me I hurt someone.’ For 20 hours, they had been trying to pressure and threaten and coerce him into confessing for a murder,” Glenda McDaniel said. “And they had nothing to come to this conclusion, other than that he did the horrible, horrible thing of injecting, inserting himself in the search for his missing friend.”
McDaniel, who had granted interviews to reporters June 30 as police combed the apartment complex across from the Mercer law school where he and Giddings graduated in May, was declared by police the next day as a person of interest in Giddings’ death.
Late last month, McDaniel’s family showed up to move his belongings out of his apartment. His lease was up. He had stayed in town after graduation, as had Giddings, to study for the bar exam.
Glenda McDaniel said police, armed with search warrants, had taken some of her son’s clothing and towels by the time she and his father drove to Macon to move his things.
“Probably the FBI was looking for fibers is my guess,” she said.
Investigators also took McDaniel’s collection of knives, swords and his three guns, she said.
“He had a small handgun that he used for protection. He had one other handgun, and he had a larger gun. He had permits for all of them. They had never been fired,” Glenda McDaniel said.
She said her son collected the knives and swords “because he’s into knights and King Arthur ... and he also likes samurai movies.”
Other items taken by police included his video games, video game system and his computer, Glenda McDaniel said.
“They took his sofa, threw it across the room on top of a chair. They took every plastic bag that he had from the grocery store and pulled all of them out and threw all over the place. They turned his bookcase over and threw his books and his papers all around on the floor in piles. I mean, they trashed the place,” she said.
Authorities also found hacksaw packaging for a saw made by Stanley Tools in his apartment, according to McDaniel’s arrest warrant. But, his mother says, it wasn’t uncommon for her son to keep packaging for items.
She said he bought the saw to cut and remove a fallen Bradford pear tree limb at the Georgia Avenue complex after April storms swept through Macon.
“The hacksaw was flimsy, and it bent and twisted and did no good at all, and he threw it in the garbage,” Glenda McDaniel said.
She says it wasn’t until after her son recovered from the shock of his arrest and was “able to focus and process things” that he recalled hearing a noise and seeing someone standing on Giddings’ balcony one night.
It was June 23, two days before Giddings went missing, Glenda McDaniel said, the night she says Giddings supposedly noted in an e-mail that someone had tried to break into her apartment.
Glenda McDaniel said her son told her that “he had heard a loud noise, got up, got dressed, went out and saw (another apartment resident) standing on Lauren’s balcony” at midnight. Glenda McDaniel says her son claims the man told him he was thinking about cutting the grass.
“There is no grass on the property anywhere near (Lauren’s) apartment. It’s all near the back of the property,” Glenda McDaniel said. “He had no reason to be on her balcony. But Stephen, having been woken up out of the sleep and ... not being a suspicious person, he responded, ‘Well, it won’t bother me because I would sleep through anything.’”
McDaniel’s mother said she’s sure he kicked himself after he realized the man could have been up to no good.
“It was only later, when he started recovering from the shock that his friend was dead, that he started processing that and realized, ‘No. No one cuts the grass at midnight,” she said.
“And at that point, (Stephen, in jail) contacted his lawyer and said, ‘I need to talk to you,’” Glenda McDaniel said.
She thinks that it was “by divine appointment” that her son went outside and noticed the man on Giddings’ balcony.
“God loved Lauren and he wanted justice for Lauren, and he wanted somebody to be there who would know something and be able to bring justice for her and whoever did this to her,” she said.
Glenda McDaniel reasoned that the resident her son saw on the balcony that night would know that her son was smart enough to “connect the dots” and that the man planted a master key and a key to Giddings’ apartment inside her son’s apartment. She contends the man could also have plucked from the garbage the hacksaw McDaniel had bought in the spring at a nearby Wal-Mart.
David T. Dorer, who lived in the same apartment complex as Giddings and McDaniel, walked out of the Macon police detective bureau just before 3 p.m. Friday as reporters gathered for a police announcement about another, unrelated murder investigation.
Police had asked Dorer, a Mercer law student, to drop by their headquarters to answer questions, and he was being “completely cooperative,” said Brett Steger, Dorer’s attorney.
Dorer is not a suspect or a person of interest in Giddings’ slaying, and the questioning was brief, Steger said.
Asked about Dorer’s questioning, Macon police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said police won’t speak about who they are or aren’t scrutinizing in the Giddings’ investigation.
Gaudet said complete results of the FBI’s analysis of evidence in the Giddings case have not been received by police.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.