Aside from the stock market craziness that could signal a second recession, and perhaps the London riots, we are in a slow news period. And the story of Stephen Mark McDaniel, the 25-year-old Mercer Law School graduate accused of killing a comely classmate, Lauren Giddings, is just about the most interesting story out there.
If you’re not interested in this story, nobody is forcing you to read our coverage (which we tend to put up after regular business hours anyway). But if you are as interested in this fascinating case as we are — and our traffic stats suggest that you are very, very interested — then read on for the latest developments….
(Random aside: Who does Stephen McDaniel remind you of? Perhaps the best suggestion we’ve heard so far is Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. We’ve previously mentioned the comparison to Sideshow Bob, of course. But feel free to share other suggestions in the comments.)
Yesterday the Telegraph reported that McDaniel might have missed a bar exam review class on the morning that Lauren Giddings’s body was found:
The bar-prep course began at 9 a.m. June 30 in Classroom C on the main floor of Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, [a] neighbor [of McDaniel and Giddings] said Monday.
“I was in the class. I walked by his front door on the way to class, and when I walked by — which was typically between 8:20 and 8:40, because it started at 9 sharp, I mean sharp, every day. And when I walked, by there was nothing going on. Nothing I saw. No police. Not a creature was stirring,” neighbor David Whitmire said.
Whitmire, 58, a former University of Georgia chemistry professor who enrolled in law school in his mid-50s, lived in the building behind McDaniel’s at the Barristers Hall apartments. The 16-unit Coleman Hill complex, which caters to law students, sits just across Georgia Avenue from the law school.
McDaniel’s absence from class struck Whitmire as suspicious:
“There were some friends that were supposed to have been out searching [for Lauren Giddings] the night before. … So maybe he was sleeping in. But that would be very unusual for him because he never missed class. I don’t know that he ever missed class,” Whitmire said.
That day’s guided-preparation session was important because those who attend it typically score 15 to 20 points higher on the bar exam, Whitmire said.
(Aside: it has been a while since I took the bar exam, but I’m not aware of any single prep session that magically gets attendees to score 15 to 20 points higher than non-attendees. Bar review prep courses and other study aids are valuable on the whole, but I don’t recall any one review session being worth 15 to 20 points by itself. Am I missing something here?)
McDaniel’s mother, Glenda, has told The Telegraph that after an April storm her son took it upon himself to trim some Bradford pear limbs when he couldn’t get in touch with anyone at the apartments to take care of the task.
She said McDaniel told her the blade [of the Stanley Tools hacksaw] was too flimsy for the job and he threw away the saw, which, Glenda McDaniel says her son believes, someone else picked up and later used it to dismember Giddings’ body.
But according to David Whitmire’s comments in the same Telegraph article, the tree limbs that McDaniel supposedly cut were actually snapped by a springtime storm.
Is Whitmire going out of his way to make Stephen McDaniel look bad? Whitmire strikes some as suspicious as well (and not just because he’s a 58-year-old law student). Here is what one ATL commenter had to say:
The latest in the Macon Telegraph is that this Whitmire man (the 58 year old fellow law student) says that McDaniel missed an “important bar prep class” the day they found the torso. I hardly find this incriminating because it was the day they found the torso not the day she was last heard of.
This Whitmire man should be investigated because he keeps popping up in the news with some comment. I’m pretty sure Mercer sent a letter out asking the students not to comment on the case. Guess he didn’t get the memo or he is the freak that murdered this woman and is pissed that McDaniel is getting all the credit and attention for the job he did.
That seems like a stretch. But if they haven’t done so already, the Macon police might want to question Whitmire anyway, since he was a neighbor and classmate of both Giddings and McDaniel. They shouldn’t have any trouble getting him to talk; he doesn’t seem shy about sharing his side of the story.
Now on to today’s Telegraph article. It focuses on the fascinating character of Glenda McDaniel, the deeply religious mother of two troubled children — Stephen, now accused of murder, and Stephen’s older sister, a crack addict who turned over four of her six children to her mother Glenda’s care. It begins:
The mother of murder suspect Stephen McDaniel thinks police have scoured her son’s belongings in search of blue and gray fibers, the same colors of trace evidence she says may have been found on his alleged victim’s body.
Glenda McDaniel said she has seen copies of search warrants police left behind when they combed her 25-year-old son’s apartment in recent weeks, sifting for clues in the slaying of Lauren Giddings….
Glenda McDaniel said Tuesday that she has deduced that detectives are apparently hunting items “consistent with the color of fibers on (Giddings’) body.”
“I am assuming that based on the fact that when the police went back in Stephen’s apartment later — because they were communicating with the FBI — they went back in and they collected articles of clothing and towels that all had blue or gray fibers,” Glenda McDaniel, 56, told The Telegraph in a telephone interview.
This theorizing seems sound enough. But I have to echo a view expressed by several ATL readers in the comments: Why is Glenda McDaniel talking so much to the media about this case? How can this help her son’s situation in any way? Why hasn’t Stephen McDaniel’s lawyer, Floyd Buford, prevailed upon Mrs. McDaniel to stop giving press interviews?
The police also seem to be looking at Stephen McDaniel’s car for clues:
His car is being kept behind the Macon Police Crime Lab on Houston Avenue, between Charles and Crisp streets, a couple of blocks south of Eisenhower Parkway.
The car is tucked in the corner of an impound lot, parked facing away from a fence that is shrouded in brush, and can be seen from a Crisp Street resident’s backyard.
It has a small fish logo, symbolic of Christianity, stuck to its trunk and bears an “In God We Trust” sticker on the area of the Georgia license plate once reserved solely for county identification.
The car once belonged to his mother and had a vanity license plate that said “PRAAAY.”
But things could be worse. At the current time, the evidence against Stephen McDaniel is far from conclusive. Of the 1,400 people who have voted thus far in our reader poll, only 34 percent would vote “guilty” if they were jurors in the case of State v. McDaniel. The rest would vote “not guilty” — about 9 percent because they don’t think McDaniel killed Giddings, and another 57 percent or so because they don’t believe there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
This sounds encouraging — but Stephen McDaniel isn’t out of the woods just yet. The Macon police department may have additional evidence against him that it has yet to reveal.
In the meantime, if you are religious, you should pray — for the true killer of Lauren Giddings, whether Stephen McDaniel or someone else, to be brought to justice.
McDaniel missed key bar exam prep session, man says [Macon Telegraph]
McDaniel’s mom: Police focused on fiber evidence in Lauren Giddings case [Macon Telegraph]
Earlier: The Collected Writings of Stephen McDaniel
A Portrait of the Accused as a Young Man (Plus a reader poll: innocent?)
Has Stephen McDaniel Been Framed in the Lauren Giddings Murder?
The Plot Thickens: Say Hello to ‘Hacksaw McDaniel’
A Closer Look at Stephen McDaniel, Lauren Giddings, and Mercer Law School
Breaking: Stephen McDaniel Charged With Murder of Lauren Giddings
An Update On a Mercer Law Student’s Untimely Death
Grisly Scene Developing At Mercer Law School