The cast of characters in the criminal case against Stephen Mark McDaniel, the 25-year-old Mercer Law School alumnus accused of killing his neighbor and classmate, Lauren Giddings, continues to grow. Last week, the existing players — the wild-haired defendant, his super-religious mother, the good ol’ boy defense lawyer, the handsome handyman, the 58-year-old law student — were joined by a fellow with the improbable name of Thaddeus Money. Who happens to be a financial advisor, amazingly enough.
Thad Money, a former roommate of Stephen McDaniel, came to public attention last week when his name was mentioned at McDaniel’s magistrate court hearing. In building their case against McDaniel, Macon police are relying in part on Money’s recollections of the defendant.
After the hearing, Thaddeus Money gave an interview to the Macon Telegraph. Let’s learn more about this young man, and hear what he has to say about his ex-roomie….
Let’s start with some clarifications. First, based on the Telegraph story, it appears that Thad Money lived with Stephen McDaniel during McDaniel’s undergraduate days at Mercer. He was not a law school roommate of McDaniel (which wasn’t clear in our prior post).
Second, some ATL readers were mistaken about his identity. Wrote one commenter: “Apparently, Thaddeus Money is now a truck driver. Another Mercer law school graduate success story.”
Alas, wrong Thaddeus Money. The Thad Money who once lived with Stephen McDaniel is not the heavily tattooed, African-American truck driver depicted in this MySpace profile (“2010 No Talkin Str8 Hawkin,” whatever that might mean). Rather, he is a Caucasian, clean-cut financial advisor, 25 years of age, who works for the Edward Jones firm in Summerville, South Carolina.
Now that we’ve straightened that out, let’s turn to the substance of Thad Money’s remarks. From the Macon Telegraph (which has been doing an amazing job covering this case, with reporters on the ground):
The first time Thad Money met Stephen McDaniel, he couldn’t help laughing.
McDaniel was in his Mercer University dorm room playing a video game. Money, a transfer from the United States Air Force Academy, popped in to say hello, but had to retreat to his bedroom so he wouldn’t crack up in front of McDaniel.
“I walk back to my room and I double over laughing for 30 minutes,” Money recalled. “He’s sitting at his computer playing this stupid MS-DOS ‘World of Warcraft’ game. … He’s wearing chain mail.”
McDaniel’s weakness for chain mail has been noted repeatedly in these pages. But it must have come as quite a shock in August 2007 to Thaddeus Money, a new arrival from the Air Force Academy. Ah, the glory of having random roommates.
How did Money learn of McDaniel’s legal troubles? In early July, one of Money’s former professors from Mercer dropped him a line, to inform him that his ex-roommate was a “person of interest” in the Lauren Giddings murder investigation. Money eventually spoke to law enforcement about McDaniel:
[I]nformation about McDaniel that Money shared with detectives was cited in the murder warrant that authorities served McDaniel Aug. 2.
Though Money declined to divulge specifics of what he has told investigators, Money’s recollection of McDaniel portrays the 25-year-old aspiring attorney as an unusual and at times “creepy” person, but also as a young man Money came to appreciate.
Thad Money certainly appreciated McDaniel’s intellect:
“Stephen believed he was smarter than everybody else,” Money recalled. “I’ve got to be honest with you, I’ve been to schools with a lot of smart people and he’s as smart as anybody I’ve ever met.”
Based on McDaniel’s weird (and inelegantly written) emails to his classmates, Money’s assessment may be generous. It’s unlikely that McDaniel will achieve his lifelong dream of sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court. But let’s move on:
McDaniel, he said, was fascinated, often obsessed, with asking people he’d meet two questions, questions to see if they were, in his opinion, sharp enough.
The first question: Where would you go if there was a zombie invasion?
“He’d want to know if you could find a defensible position and if you could find a place you wouldn’t run out of food easily. … It was just a pure logistics question,” Money said. “Although he was completely convinced that a zombie invasion would happen.”
To lawyers out there who are conducting fall recruiting interviews right now: if you ever get tired of asking candidates about their résumés and favorite law school courses, try tossing that question in, just to mix things up.
(Seriously, where would you go if we experienced a zombie invasion? I’m not sure I know the answer myself. Aren’t zombies capable of breaking into many locations that would be generally regarded as secure?)
The second question: If you could plan the perfect murder, how would you do it?
Money said he has told police, in explicit detail, what McDaniel’s “perfect” plan supposedly was. Police have said those specifics are in line with what they believe happened to Lauren Giddings.
“I’m not gonna go into how he said he would do anything,” Money said Monday, three days after his name came up in McDaniel’s Magistrate Court hearing.
Fair enough; we’ll find out eventually. It seems to have involved chloroform. Did McDaniel steal a page from the Casey Anthony playbook?
Thad Money also had nice things to say about Stephen McDaniel:
McDaniel and Money were in a campus production of a play called “The Disciples.”
Money played “an overzealous Christian guy” and McDaniel was “a gay, Jewish psychology major who was just really confused,” Money said.
Money had, at the time, been “bitter” about missing out on becoming a pilot. McDaniel cheered him up by encouraging him to try acting.
“He helped me through a lot. … He gave me an outlet that I needed badly,” Money said, “and I really appreciate him for that.”
Maybe McDaniel should have played the “overzealous Christian guy” — but that might have amounted to typecasting. On the other hand, maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine McDaniel as someone troubled over his sexuality (in light of the kiddie porn charges he now faces).
One detects a little defensiveness in Thad Money’s remarks, perhaps a sense of guilt over selling out his former roommate:
Money said he knew that going to the police with what he said he knows about McDaniel was the right thing to do.
“If anything, I feel like Stephen betrayed himself by letting everybody know what he’d do. … I’m not here to throw Stephen under the bus,” Money said. “I’m not here to cast an undue light on him, and I’m definitely not here to help him get convicted. The only thing I’m here to do is provide information that he gave to me to the police to help the Giddings family get justice for their daughter.”
He said there was no way he could have foreseen that what McDaniel told him would play out in real life.
“If I ever thought (that), I would have called somebody and said, ‘Hey, listen, this guy said he would do this. This is how he said he would do it, and he is going to do it.’ … I mean, what am I going to do? Call somebody and say, ‘Hey, listen, my roommate, who’s super-creepy and has this plan to hurt somebody but has never hurt a fly, you know, is creepy?’ What are they gonna do?”
Fair enough. If having a creepy roommate were grounds for calling the cops, campus police officers at American law schools would do nothing but investigate weirdos.
Money feels sorry for McDaniel’s parents…. He said McDaniel’s parents were “great people.”
“I’ve posted more than once on my Facebook to have (friends) pray for them because I know this is eating them alive,” Money said.
We’re sure that the rather religious McDaniels very much appreciate the PRAAAYers. They are, to be sure, in a difficult position right now.
Thad Money confirmed Stephen McDaniel’s conservatism:
Money, who said he was one of the few Republicans in Mercer’s political-science program, recalls talking to McDaniel after the 2008 presidential election. McDaniel, a firm conservative, was none too pleased with the outcome.
“I didn’t even want to talk to him about it because if you got him started he would just rant,” Money said. “He made Rush Limbaugh look like a Democrat. He would make Rush Limbaugh look like Al Sharpton.”
That’s a frightening concept. We wonder who McDaniel supports for 2012. Perhaps Michele Bachmann?
The Telegraph article, by Amy Leigh Womack and Joe Kovac Jr., closes with these words from Thad Money:
“But am I surprised? Not at all. That something like this would happen and he’d be named the suspect? No. Not at all surprised about that. I’m just surprised that the act itself was done. If anything surprises me, it’s that he’s gotten caught already, that he got caught so easily.”
It is a bit strange, isn’t it? If McDaniel is “brilliant,” as Thad Money claims he is, shouldn’t he have covered his tracks better? This is one reason why some wonder whether McDaniel has been framed for the murder of Lauren Giddings.
But until a more compelling suspect comes along, expect Stephen McDaniel to remain in the hot seat.
Ex-roommate saw 2 sides of accused killer McDaniel [Macon Telegraph]
Thad Money profile [Edward Jones]
Thaddeus Money (2010 No Talkin Str8 Hawkin) [MySpace]