Footage of Stephen McDaniel’s stalking Lauren Giddings in the hours before he strangled her offers a glimpse at the painstaking steps he took to slip inside her apartment.
His elaborate measures to kill her and elude detection have no bearing on the multimillion-dollar, wrongful death lawsuit Giddings’ family filed against him, a case all but settled this week.
Even so, the surreptitious video only further shows the lengths McDaniel went to snuff out the life of a young woman, an aspiring attorney like himself.
Kristin S. Miller, a close friend of Giddings who represented her family in the lawsuit, on Thursday deemed McDaniel’s spy video “harrowing,” and his actions “the most horrific, hideous ... premeditation I’ve ever seen.
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“He was and is a coward and a loser.”
The lawsuit filed against McDaniel by Giddings’ parents essentially ended in a consent judgment filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
As part of the settlement, which awaits a judge’s signature, McDaniel admits liability for Giddings’ death. With McDaniel unable to seek parole in her murder for 30 years, the Giddingses reserve the right to petition for compensatory and punitive damages if McDaniel is ever released from prison.
In the meantime, if McDaniel receives money in an amount greater than $1,000, the money must be deposited into a court-held escrow account and will be applied to any future judgment ordered by a judge.
“There is nothing that will ever be enough,” Miller said. “I feel good knowing that every avenue the law allows has been brought down to bear upon him. That we have taken his freedom and any monetary, worldly reward or comfort he might have makes me happy. Lauren deserved that.”
McDaniel’s late-night surveillance of Giddings’ apartment, recorded through the half-drawn blinds of her second-story living room, focuses mainly on her front door and how it was secured.
McDaniel shot the video while standing on the ground floor outside Giddings’ apartment. He hoisted a 6-foot wooden stick with a camera duct-taped to the end.
The chilling video, nothing short of a killer’s reconnaissance, was obtained by The Telegraph this week.
In April, the newspaper reported exclusively on the existence of several short videos, but Telegraph reporters hadn’t viewed the footage.
Giddings was slain three years ago Thursday in the predawn hours of June 26, 2011. She was 27.
The video clips of the inside of her Georgia Avenue apartment had been deleted from McDaniel’s camera, but investigators recovered them just before he was to go on trial in late April.
The discovery of the surveillance footage, buttressed by a wealth of other evidence, prompted McDaniel, 28, to plead guilty April 21. He was sentenced to life in prison.
McDaniel and Giddings were next-door neighbors at the Barristers Hall apartments across the street from the Mercer University law school where they were classmates. They graduated in May 2011, a month and a half before Giddings was slain.
McDaniel, a wild-haired, reclusive misfit said to have had a fascination with zombies and the so-called “perfect murder,” dismembered Giddings in her bathtub. He disposed of her limbs and head. Macon police found Giddings’ torso in a trash can outside her apartment on June 30, 2011, after friends reported her missing.
The 23 clips, each lasting a few seconds, begin with darkened images of the camera being raised to Giddings’ window.
Headlights reflect off the window during the videos, taken between 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
The only sound comes from passing cars.
The camera gravitates toward Giddings’ front door and her burglar bar. McDaniel had researched methods of disabling the security device.
It’s unclear from the video clips whether the floor-to-doorknob brace was engaged. McDaniel later used a master key to creep into the apartment while Giddings slept in a rear bedroom.
McDaniel apparently went unnoticed by everyone except a neighbor’s girlfriend, who later told police she’d seen him toting a long stick.
Two months after his sentencing, McDaniel is being held at the state prison near Jackson.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.