A few days after murdering Lauren Giddings, Stephen McDaniel posed as a concerned neighbor on the local news — but his charade crumbled when he learned from the reporter that her body had just been found.
In the early hours of June 26, 2011, Stephen McDaniel broke into the apartment of his neighbor and fellow Mercer University law school graduate Lauren Giddings, then murdered her and dismembered her body.
On June 29th, Giddings’ family and friends reported her missing. When local news media in Macon, Georgia heard about her disappearance, they sent a camera crew to her apartment complex. There, on June 30th, reporters from the television station WGXA conducted an interview with McDaniel.
During the interview, McDaniel posed as a concerned neighbor. He described Giddings as “nice as can be” and “very personable.” But shortly into the interview, McDaniel’s behavior took a dramatic turn. After he learned from the reporter that “a body” had been found, his worry turned to utter panic. “Body?” he said, visibly anxious. “I think I need to sit down.”
Though some may have initially thought that McDaniel’s reaction was merely the shock of losing a friend, police named him as a person of interest in the investigation just one day later. And it was later revealed that McDaniel was indeed the one who had killed Giddings and butchered her body.
Given the nature of the crime, the brutality of it, and how little contact McDaniel had with Giddings prior to the murder, many believe that had he not been caught, he would have gone on to kill even more women.
Inside The Twisted Mind Of Stephen McDaniel
Stephen McDaniel was born on September 9, 1985, and grew up near Atlanta, Georgia. His early life was unremarkable, but, as a young man, he was academically inclined enough to graduate from Mercer University’s law school. His future victim, Lauren Giddings, was another graduate.
By 2011, both 25-year-old McDaniel and 27-year-old Giddings lived in the same apartment complex, a short distance from the school’s campus. At the time, Giddings was preparing to take the bar exam and then start a promising career as a defense attorney. But tragically, while Giddings had been preparing for the bar, McDaniel had been preparing for her murder.
At first glance, McDaniel didn’t seem like he had it in him to commit such a heinous crime. As the Macon Telegraph reported, it didn’t even seem like he was staying in town for much longer. The lease on his apartment was up in two weeks, and he reportedly planned on moving back in with his parents.
But as police would later discover, McDaniel had been posting on the internet about his hatred of women and his desire to torture them. Oddly enough, he was also something of a “survivalist,” stockpiling food and energy drinks in his apartment. And as he told police during an interrogation, he often wore the same pair of underwear for more than one day at a time.
McDaniel didn’t have much luck when it came to women. He was on eHarmony, but he didn’t land many dates. He was also a self-professed virgin, claiming that he was saving himself for marriage — and yet he had condoms in his apartment, a fact that would later prove to be very important in the investigation of Lauren Giddings’ murder.
That said, McDaniel caught the attention of the authorities shortly after the investigation began. Shortly after Giddings’ dismembered torso was found in a trash can near her apartment complex on the morning of June 30th, McDaniel and Giddings’ other neighbors had been taken to the police station to give statements about the young woman’s disappearance. At the time, none of them knew that her remains had been found.
Each neighbor agreed to have their apartment searched — except McDaniel. “It’s the lawyer in me,” he said. “I’m just always protective of my space.” He eventually allowed one detective to walk through his unit, but only if McDaniel was there at the same time. Given the damning evidence that police would later find in his apartment, it’s not surprising that he would want to keep them out. After all, he had Giddings’ underwear in there — and a stolen master key that he had used to break into her apartment.
Because of McDaniel’s secretive behavior, police kept an eye on him. But he wasn’t going anywhere. Throughout the day, he hung around the apartment complex as authorities searched through the other units. It was around this time that he gave his infamous interview with the local news station.
Stephen McDaniel’s Infamous TV Interview
As Stephen McDaniel stood by while police searched the apartment complex for clues, a local television news station called WGXA sent a crew to the building to report on the story. When they spotted McDaniel standing around, they asked if he would give an interview — and he agreed.
At first, McDaniel seemed like any other concerned local who was worried about his missing neighbor. “We don’t know where she is,” he told the reporter behind the camera. “The only thing we can think of is that maybe she went out running and someone snatched her. One of her friends had a key, we went inside and tried to see anything that was amiss. She had a door jam that was sitting right by it, so there was no sign that anyone broke in.”
But by the time McDaniel learned from the reporter that a “body” had been discovered in a nearby trash can, his demeanor completely changed. Visibly panicked, he was silent for a moment before telling the reporter that he needed to sit down. It was later revealed that only Giddings’ torso had been found, and the other parts of her body had been discarded elsewhere.
As McDaniel failed to maintain his composure, police learned more about their person of interest — and the disturbing details of his personal life.
Authorities would eventually uncover evidence from McDaniel’s laptop that showed he’d been gathering information on Giddings and her whereabouts leading up to her death. There was also a series of videos that indicated he’d been stalking Giddings, looking into her apartment unit through a window.
“The case took a turn for the worse for McDaniel when the computer evidence started coming out, and it just kept coming,” McDaniel’s attorney, Frank Hogue, later explained to CBS News. “They were continuing to find more and more evidence related to his computer and camera.”
The fact that McDaniel had posted on a number of internet blogs and forums about his general hatred of women and his desire to hurt them only strengthened the case for his involvement in the horrific murder.
But even before police had collected this information, they felt certain they’d found their man based on their initial conversations with him. So, on the same day they discovered Giddings’ body, they brought McDaniel into the police station for another round of questioning less than 12 hours later.
How One Slip-Up Put Him Behind Bars
When Stephen McDaniel was brought into the police station again on the night of June 30, 2011, his demeanor was eerily still. He was also tight-lipped, only answering a few questions, most often responding, “I don’t know.” Even when detectives were out of the room, McDaniel sat perfectly still.
The interview stretched on into the early hours of July 1st, and McDaniel still had nothing to say. Detective David Patterson grilled McDaniel for hours, asking about Lauren Giddings’ location, asserting that he knew McDaniel knew what had happened. He also acknowledged McDaniel’s shift in demeanor from how willing he’d been to talk earlier in the day on June 30th.
“Why are you shutting down?” Patterson asked.
“I don’t know,” McDaniel replied.
Eventually, Detective David Patterson left the interrogation room and Detective Scott Chapman entered. After another series of questions and no real answers, Chapman attempted to appeal to McDaniel’s humanity.
“We want to give you the opportunity to tell it,” he said. “So you don’t look like a monster at the end… I know you feel bad about it.”
Though the gravity of the situation was clearly weighing on McDaniel, he still refused to share any meaningful information with Chapman. It was only when Detective Carl Fletcher entered the room that McDaniel slipped up.
McDaniel didn’t admit to murdering Giddings that night. But he did admit to an unrelated crime. At one point during the interrogation, Fletcher mentioned condoms that had been found in McDaniel’s apartment. Since McDaniel was supposedly a virgin who was saving himself for marriage, why did he have condoms? And where did he get them?
As McDaniel put it, he had previously entered a few of his classmates’ apartments while they were out and taken condoms from them. In other words, he confessed to burglarizing his classmates’ residences. Because of this, he was arrested on burglary charges as police gathered all the evidence they needed to prove his involvement in Lauren Giddings’ murder.
In 2014, McDaniel pleaded guilty to murdering Giddings. He admitted to breaking into her apartment using a stolen master key, strangling her to death, and dismembering her body with a hacksaw in the bathtub. After his guilty plea, he was sentenced to life in prison for the grisly crime.
Since then, Stephen McDaniel has attempted to appeal his conviction on numerous occasions, making allegations about ineffective counsel and the theft of defense trial preparations by the state. So far, he has failed with all of his appeals. And though he will be eligible for parole in 2041, legal experts strongly believe that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Now that you’ve read about Stephen McDaniel, learn the horrifying story of Rodney Alcala, the serial killer who won “The Dating Game” in the middle of his murder spree. Then, read about the twisted crimes of Edmund Kemper.