A landfill search for the possibly discarded remains of Lauren Giddings, the Mercer University law graduate who was killed and dismembered in late June, is expected to begin early next week, likely on Monday, the slain woman’s family says.
The whereabouts of the 27-year-old aspiring prosecutor’s body parts have been a mystery since her torso was found June 30 in a roll-away trash cart outside her apartment.
Police have previously scoured the Wolf Creek Landfill in Twiggs County, where garbage from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law, across the street from where Giddings lived, is hauled. However, no additional remains were discovered.
Although authorities, FBI agents believed to be among them, have not divulged many details, this new search, in the works since mid-August, is expected to be more thorough. It will employ more earth-moving machinery and better-equipped searchers.
Since the first search, the portion of the Dry Branch-area landfill where Mercer’s trash was taken in late June has been kept clear of other garbage in case authorities were to return for a more in-depth search.
One source familiar with the case has said that cadaver dogs that sniffed around commercial trash bins on the Mercer campus soon after Giddings’ torso was found had no “hits” or alerts. Had any of Giddings’ remains been inside the bins at or about that time, the dogs would probably have sensed them, the source said.
The Twiggs landfill lies just north of U.S. 80 near Dry Branch, about four miles northeast of the Sgoda Road exit off Interstate 16.
Of the upcoming search, Giddings’ father, in a telephone interview from his Maryland home Friday, said, “I’ve tried to stand back from this a little bit. I don’t want to take a lead in this.”
One of the reasons, Bill Giddings said, is that if a credible tip ever emerges about where his daughter’s remains might be, “we may have to ask for a lot of help and a lot of volunteers.”
“I don’t mind looking for a needle in a haystack,” he added, “but I do want to find the right stack to look in.”
Bill Giddings said he isn’t sure of the scope of the upcoming landfill search or how long it may last.
“I guess the major point is, as far as I know, there’s no real evidence that she may be there. Other than just a hunch,” he said. “I certainly don’t mind them looking. I appreciate it. ... I wish them luck.”
Joseph Mann of Blue Ridge, whose mother is a first cousin of Giddings’ mother, Karen, said Friday that the Twiggs landfill is supplying equipment to help in the search.
He described it as “a donated and voluntary” effort.
However, he said, family members have been told by authorities that they will not be needed to help look for Giddings’ remains, that instead they “could stand at the (landfill) gate” during the search.
“I know that her family would like to recover the rest of her body, ... to know at least that we had tried,” Mann said.
Lilburn native Stephen McDaniel, 25, was charged with murder Aug. 2 in connection with Giddings’ death.
Giddings, who was McDaniel’s next-door neighbor for nearly three years and a law school classmate, was from Laurel, Md.
Detectives have said they found a hacksaw with Giddings’ DNA on it in a locked laundry-room closet at the apartment complex on Georgia Avenue, half a mile west of the Bibb County Courthouse.
Police have also said they found packaging for the saw in McDaniel’s apartment when they served a search warrant there in the early days of the probe. They said the packaging for that brand and model of saw was found in McDaniel’s apartment, as were a master key to the complex and a key to Giddings’ residence.
McDaniel is being held at the Bibb County jail, where he has been detained since July 1 when he was arrested on a pair of unrelated burglary charges.
Waiting for lab results
As of Thursday, authorities trying to piece together the circumstances surrounding Giddings’ slaying hadn’t received any additional lab results from the FBI, said a law enforcement source close to the investigation.
The FBI hasn’t returned any results since those that revealed the presence of Giddings’ blood on the hacksaw, the source said.
The FBI’s Quantico, Va., lab is testing more than 200 pieces of potential evidence collected by detectives.
While the GBI has completed the bulk of its examination of McDaniel’s computer, flash drives, cameras, memory cards and other electronics, official results haven’t arrived in Macon. Giddings’ computer also was submitted for testing.
On Aug. 23, McDaniel was also charged with seven counts of sexual exploitation of children after images of kids involved in sex acts were allegedly found on a flash drive that police seized from his apartment.
McDaniel is scheduled to appear in Bibb Magistrate Court on Friday for a commitment hearing related to the sexual-exploitation charges. At the hearing, a judge will hear testimony and determine whether there is enough evidence for a case against McDaniel to proceed.
A judge ruled during an Aug. 26 Magistrate Court hearing that enough evidence exists for the murder charge against McDaniel to go to a grand jury, a group that would then decide whether to indict McDaniel.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this article. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.