Mercer University Law School student Lauren Giddings, 27, was preparing to take the bar exam and graduate from law school in June 2011. Her friends began to worry that something terrible had happened to her when she failed to show up for regularly scheduled study sessions and she hadn’t answered her phone in several days. Her friends were right.
About Lauren Giddings
Lauren was a 27-year-old law student about to graduate from Mercer University Law School in Macon, Georgia when she vanished in June 2011. She regularly met up with her study group at the school library, could often be seen jogging around her apartment complex, and was a social, friendly and cheerful person.
When Lauren suddenly stopped her regular routine, her friends became concerned and stopped by her apartment to check on her. She wasn’t home and nothing looked out of place, but Lauren’s purse, keys and cell phone had been left behind.
The Investigation of Her Disappearance
After Lauren had been reported missing, police came to her apartment to investigate. They, along with several news crews, interviewed neighbors to see if they had seen Lauren since anyone had last heard from her on June 26.
While police were analyzing Lauren’s apartment, they caught a whiff of the smell of death.
One of the detectives on the case described the smell, “While we were standing there, the wind started to turn. Immediately, I smelled an odor that I was very familiar with,” he said. “We all smell things in life that smell bad. And that of a body, or a decomposing body, is one of the worst things you’ll smell, but it has a very distinct smell.”
After following the “smell of death,” as officers describe it, they were lead to a trash can just outside of the apartments. Inside, they found the torso of a white female that would later be identified as Lauren Giddings.
Her legs, arms and head have never been found, though search crews spent hours in dumps looking for anything else that was left of Lauren.
Her torso most likely would have never been found had police not been blocking the parking lot entrance from allowing the garbage truck to enter on that garbage day.
Stephen McDaniel Investigation
One of the neighbors interviewed by police and news crews after the discovery of the torso was Lauren’s ex-classmate Stephen McDaniel. Throughout the interview, McDaniel creates an image of a distraught neighbor who was shocked by the disappearance of is ex-classmate.
Later that day (June 30, four days after Lauren’s disappearance) police search McDaniel’s apartment, and police notices he was nervous, sweating heavily and acting very odd.
In interrogation, McDaniel began acting even more odd.
In the days following June 30, police found the packaging to the hacksaw used to dismember Lauren’s body in McDaniel’s apartment along with a master key to all the apartments in the complex.
They also found several blog posts McDaniel’s had written about torture and violence against women, and a pair of Lauren’s underwear.
McDaniel was arrested and in police custody for 10 months. At the 10 month mark, he confessed to the murder and pleaded guilty on April 21, 2012. He is serving life in prison.
Details of the Murder
McDaniel recounted how he had stalked Lauren, mostly by using a camera attached to a long stick to film her through her second-story window. When he concluded that she was alone, he used the stolen master key to enter her apartment.
She awoke and saw him there, and he began to strangle her to death. He then put her body in her bathtub and used his hacksaw to dismember her body.
He placed her body parts in different trash bags and threw them in dumpsters around the area, fully expecting them to be taken to the dump, never to be seen again. When the garbage truck was unable to take the trash can where her torso was found, his plan was foiled.
Due to McDaniel’s careful planning and the little contact he had with his victim I, along with many others believe, that he was a budding serial killer who happened to get caught on his first and only victim. It is also believed that he would have continued killing women had he not been caught.