June 30, 2011 was a busy day for 25-year-old Stephen Mark McDaniel. That day, McDaniel was charged with burglary for stealing condoms from neighbors in the Macon, Georgia apartment complex where he lived. He had used a master key to enter the apartments and help himself to whatever trinkets he found inside.
One year earlier, the woman who lived next door to McDaniel, 27-year-old Lauren Giddings, had complained to a friend that when she returned to her apartment from a trip, it seemed someone had moved her belongings around. Giddings and McDaniels had both graduated from Mercer University Law School earlier that spring and were next door neighbors.
Earlier that week, Giddings had gone missing. Her wallet, keys, ID and purse were found locked inside her apartment. Then, the morning of June 30, 2011, Giddings’ dismembered torso was discovered in one of the apartment building’s trash cans. Her head, arms, and legs were never found.
At noon that day, McDaniel went to the police station with friends. The group said they were there out of concern for Lauren, who had been missing for four days, and gave statements to help the investigation. Some of McDaniel’s neighbors volunteered to allow their apartments to be searched by police, McDaniel first declined then walked police through his apartment himself.
In the afternoon, McDaniel gave an interview to a local news station, again under the pretense that he was concerned for Giddings. At first McDaniel appears confident, saying that Giddings was “just gone” and that no one had been able to find her. However, when the reporter mentions that Giddings’ body had been found, McDaniel turns white. You can see the moment he realizes that he might be incriminating himself in the full interview here:
McDaniel was known on campus to ask fellow law students how they would commit the “perfect” murder.
After a more thorough search of McDaniel’s apartment police found hundreds of Giddings’ personal photos, her underwear, the key to her apartment, and a master key to the whole apartment complex. His search history showed he alternated between Giddings social media pages and “violent” porn. Police also found a video McDaniel had made by attaching a camera to a stick and raising it up to Giddings’ apartment’s window. Eventually, police even found the saw McDaniel used to dismember Gidding’s body in his apartment.
McDaniels was then questioned again by police and true crime fans find this video of the interrogation remarkable because of his strange behavior. Take a look at how still he is, especially when he is alone in the room:
Eventually, McDaniel confessed to strangling and dismembering Giddings, and dumping pieces of her body in the trash dumpster. He had known Giddings for 3 years and she had repeatedly passed on his romantic advances. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In 2018 he tried to appeal his case, saying his rights were violated when police failed to inform him of his rights. The appeal was denied.