An apparent trove of recently unearthed computer data hints at accused dismemberment killer Stephen McDaniel’s sexual curiosities and, perhaps more damning, Internet searches that may link him to his alleged victim.
McDaniel visited websites about violent sex acts and intercourse with dead people, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
He also viewed Lauren Giddings’ Facebook page and appeared to research a device similar to the burglar bar that Giddings used to secure her apartment door, the source said.
Giddings’ torso was discovered June 30, 2011, in a trash can outside the Georgia Avenue apartments where she and McDaniel lived. The 27-year-old’s other remains have not been found.
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McDaniel, Giddings’ now 28-year-old Mercer University law school classmate and next-door neighbor, is charged with her murder.
In a Friday hearing, lawyers for McDaniel argued that prosecutors should be required to disclose which of the thousands of websites McDaniel allegedly visited will be mentioned during his trial.
A final GBI forensics report detailing what was found on McDaniel’s computer has not been completed.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms said the trial, which had been scheduled to begin Feb. 3, will be postponed due to the volume of new computer evidence. A new trial date has not been set.
In court Friday, prosecutors revealed snippets of McDaniel’s Internet activity, including his visiting websites about gynophagia, sexual arousal from seeing someone eaten.
At a Monday hearing, a prosecutor told of an Internet search query that the GBI had discovered on McDaniel’s Dell laptop worded “molest ... sleeping girl.”
District Attorney David Cooke, in responding to claims that the defense was being inundated with “mountains” of eleventh hour computer evidence, said his office had been pointing out topics of note in the GBI’s extensive report as prosecutors came across it.
Giddings was last seen alive, at least by anyone close to her, on June 25, 2011. In court Friday, Cooke mentioned gynophagia as having been looked up on McDaniel’s laptop computer “around the 22nd.”
Cooke then added that “yesterday I called up (one of McDaniel’s defense attorneys) Mr. (Franklin) Hogue and said, ‘You might want to look up the story of ‘The Three Apples,’ an ‘Arabian Nights’ story about the dismemberment of a woman done in order to hide her murder.”
Cooke said he isn’t sure yet which of the websites McDaniel allegedly visited or typed web-search queries for that the state plans to bring up at trial.
The DA did, however, say the defense can expect prosecutors to introduce some of the websites, “particularly the ones that show the condition of a body very similar to the way Miss Giddings’ body was found.”
Simms told prosecutors and McDaniel’s legal team, which now includes four lawyers, to come to an agreement about sharing information about the computer data.
The judge explained that the raft of newly discovered computer evidence leaves no choice but to postpone the trial.
Simms said he thinks the evidence on McDaniel’s computer may have gone undetected because the GBI didn’t get around to scouring it until late last year.
“This started out as a death penalty case. Somebody somewhere assumed, ‘We’ve got plenty of time,’” the judge said. “And over the course of this two and a half years, what should have been done didn’t get done.”
The judge also granted a motion filed by The Telegraph’s lawyer seeking to quash the defense’s attempts to obtain unpublished Telegraph photos taken outside the apartments.
Under state law, news photographers’ photos are protected from disclosure by reporters’ privilege.
The judge did order that The Telegraph make published photos available for prosecutors and McDaniel’s lawyers.
Hogue said he was seeking access to the unpublished photos because they might be relevant to show whether the crime scene was secure and if any strangers were present in the days after Giddings’ torso was found.
The judge has yet to rule on whether he will grant a motion filed by McDaniel’s lawyers requesting that Giddings’ family be banned from wearing pink, her signature color, during the trial.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.