On Nov. 15, 2011, a Bibb County grand jury indicted Stephen Mark McDaniel on one count of murder and 30 counts of child sexual exploitation. The indictments were released by the Bibb County Clerk’s Office just after noon.
McDaniel is formally charged with the alleged murder of Lauren Giddings, a member of the 2011 graduating class of the Walter F. George School of Law.
On June 30, 2011, officers found Giddings dismembered body in a trashcan outside of her Georgia Avenue apartment, which is located directly across from the law school.
McDaniel was Giddings’ neighbor and fellow student.
Since Giddings’ body was found within the city limits of Macon, the Macon Police Department is the lead investigatory office on the case.
McDaniel was originally arrested on charges of burglary and has been held in jail since the first week of July. He had a master key to every apartment in the building.
The arrest warrant taken out against McDaniel for the charge of murder said that a hacksaw was found in a storage closet at the apartment complex. The hacksaw had traces of Giddings’ DNA on it. Packaging material for the same brand of hacksaw was found in his apartment.
The indictment charges that the murder occurred sometime between June 25 and June 30, 2011. However, the exact date of the murder is unknown.
Later in the investigations, a flash drive containing child pornography was allegedly found in his apartment.
According to a report from 13WMAZ, more than 200 items were collected and sent to the FBI Crime Lab.
In a capital felony case such as this one, the case is presented to a group of 23 grand jurors by the District Attorney and a number of witnesses testify as to the evidence in the case. The jurors then decide whether or not there evidence is sufficient enough to warrant a trial.
When a “true bill of indictment” is returned by the grand jury, the defendant is formally charged with the offenses and must then appear at an arraignment hearing where he or she is required to plead guilty or not guilty. Of the 23 jurors, 12 are needed to “true bill” an indictment.
If the defendant chooses to plead not guilty a trial date will be set.
Due to the gruesome circumstances surrounding the murder, the prosecution can seek the death penalty in this case.
Greg Winters, District Attorney of the Macon Judicial Circuit, said, “The announcement has to be made prior to arraignment to the Court and his [McDanielís] attorney. Right now we do not have a time or date set for arraignment.”
If the State does not choose to seek the death penalty, McDaniel can receive life with or without parole if convicted.
During his studies at Mercer Law, McDaniel interned with the prosecuting office. Earlier in the caseís progression, the defense attorney for McDaniel filed a motion to disqualify the Macon Circuit District Attorneyís Office from prosecuting the case.
McDanielís attorney claimed that the internship presented a conflict of interest.
According to a report by the Macon Telegraph, however, a Macon judge denied that motion.
McDaniel is from Lilburn, Ga. and was a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Scholarship during his undergraduate studies at Mercer University. He then enrolled at the Walter F. George School of Law in the fall of 2008 and graduated this past May.