In last night’s story about Stephen Mark McDaniel, the recent Mercer Law School graduate accused of murdering his former neighbor and classmate, Lauren Giddings, we tried to come up with a Nancy Grace-style nickname for the accused. Inspired by Tot Mom, Nancy Grace’s moniker for Casey Anthony, one reader suggested “Chain Mail Man” (based on McDaniel’s penchant for wearing chain mail to his law school classes).
In light of new evidence that has come to light, however, a better nickname has emerged for Stephen McDaniel. Until a superior option presents itself, the defendant may occasionally be referred to in these pages as “Hacksaw McDaniel.”
What is the basis for this new handle? Let’s take a look at the arrest warrant for Stephen M. McDaniel, which lays out the gruesome particulars….
Here is, in pertinent part, the arrest warrant that was issued on Tuesday evening for 25-year-old Stephen McDaniel (click to enlarge):
(You can view the entire document — we removed the boilerplate at the bottom — over here.)
Focusing on the hacksaw, here’s how the Macon Telegraph summarizes the situation:
An arrest warrant issued late Tuesday charging McDaniel with murder says police recovered a hacksaw at the Barristers Hall apartment complex where he and Giddings were next-door neighbors. The warrant says investigators also found the saw’s packaging material inside McDaniel’s apartment.
Subsequent tests on the hacksaw by FBI experts revealed traces of Giddings’ DNA, according to a law enforcement officer familiar with the warrant.
A report from 41NBC picks up on different details from the warrant:
[The warrant] says [McDaniel] had a key to [Giddings's] apartment and a key that unlocked every door in the apartment complex on Georgia Avenue, where both Giddings and McDaniel lived…. Police also indicated in the arrest warrant that McDaniel had previously commented that he could commit murder and avoid detection.
One issue that remains open in this case is motive. Even if Hacksaw McDaniel had the means and the opportunity to murder Lauren Giddings, what would motivate him to do such a thing? It seems that the two were on friendly enough terms (even if they were not close, according to their Barristers Hall landlady, Boni Bush).
This is why the claim from the warrant that McDaniel “previously commented that he could commit murder and… avoid detection” stands out. Is it possible that McDaniel killed Giddings simply to prove that he could commit a murder and get away with it? The prospect is deeply chilling.
[A]s he and his family prepare for the funeral [on Saturday] of the eldest of his three girls, Bill Giddings worries that her remains might never be found. He isn’t to the point of making a personal plea to see if “he (McDaniel) would tell where the rest of her is.”
“You know, I’m not a big death penalty guy, but … if his lawyer said something about it, that they’ll be cooperative if we don’t ask for the death penalty, I probably wouldn’t hesitate,” Bill Giddings, 56, said.
Mercer law professor David G. Oedel, who taught 1L Contracts to Stephen McDaniel and Lauren Giddings, echoed this sentiment: “Assuming it’s true, I wish he’d fess up, and relieve the family of their concerns of where her body parts are.”
It should be noted, though, that Professor Oedel did not express a view on his former pupil’s guilt or innocence. David Oedel added that Hacksaw McDaniel “looked like a normal law student” back in his 1L year and was “liked by the other classmates.”
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: remember that Stephen McDaniel remains innocent until proven guilty. History is full of cases where early suspects turned out not to be guilty of the crimes they were suspected of (and convicted of in the court of public opinion). See, e.g., Gary Condit; Richard Jewell.
(Our occasional use of the colorful nickname “Hacksaw McDaniel” should in no way be construed as a commentary on McDaniel’s innocence or guilt. It is merely a reference to the content of the McDaniel arrest warrant, nothing more.)
For his part, Stephen McDaniel maintains his innocence. At his arraignment on Wednesday, his attorney, Floyd Buford, had this to say about McDaniel: “He is adamant that he is innocent of these charges. He is disappointed the charges have been placed on him.”
“This is not something that Stephen would be capable of. We are trusting God that the truth will come out and that he will be cleared.”
“I am sorry for what [the Giddings family is] going through. Lauren was and always will be Stephen’s friend.”
“[Stephen is] a very bright, very gentle, very loving person. We believe that he is innocent, because we do not believe that a Christian could murder and cut somebody’s body up.”
“I do not know why they are pursuing Stephen, who they zeroed in on from the time they first saw him and took one look at his hair.”
(Random aside: societal perceptions are one reason why I maintain a traditional hairstyle. I also do not have piercings or tattoos. I recommend that men follow my lead.)
According to Mrs. McDaniel, the real killer of Lauren Giddings is a maintenance worker at the Barristers Hall apartment building:
Glenda McDaniel said her son caught an apartment maintenance worker on Giddings’ balcony at midnight two days before she vanished. Stephen McDaniel gave that man’s name to the district attorney.
“He was given his termination notice on May 25. She was last seen on June 25. Her body was found the last day that he was officially employed at the Barrister Hall Apartments. He had master keys. He had access to all of the apartments,” said Glenda McDaniel.
Finally, she expressed the hope that her son’s incarceration could lead to apprehension of the true murderer:
“If his being in jail in any way helps in revealing and bringing to justice the man who did kill Lauren, then it will be worth it,” she said. “I want them to be in such torment that they will either come forward and turn themself in or that they will behave in such an unusual way that it will attract attention and it will be known that they are the killer,” she said.
Glenda McDaniel expressed the belief that her son could never do such a thing as murder Lauren Giddings. But classmates of Hacksaw McDaniel from Parkview High School shared different views with the Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch (emphases added):
[McDaniel] was described as “quiet,” “kind of socially awkward” and “weird” by former classmates….
[Parkview graduate James] Yount said he remembers that McDaniel attended church often and that he randomly scratched people with his long fingernails.
“He was well-known for scratching people at the church,” Yount said. “He was a very, very interesting fellow. He wasn’t super anti-social, but he was kind of socially awkward.” ….
Nick Porter, a Parkview graduate who had Latin class with McDaniel, recalled him as being a “freak with crazy eyes” in high school.
“If he got mad at you, he would hiss at you,” said Porter. “I even tried talking to him, and it would be OK for a few minutes, but then it would just get weird.”
This may be the most incriminating part of the entire Patch piece (which is very interesting; read it in full here):
[Classmates Alex] Hodgson and [Nick] Porter said they both remembered McDaniel carrying a metal briefcase around Parkview. They said it contained a fantasy novel McDaniel was writing, which he claimed would “rival ‘Lord of the Rings.’”
“He even made up his own elfish language,” added Porter.
Both said they would not be surprised if McDaniel was responsible for Giddings’ death, even after seeing his emotional June 30 interview with Macon television station WMAC.
It is not a good thing when former classmates say they “would not be surprised” if you turned out to be a murderer. See also the reaction of Hacksaw McDaniel’s former landlady, Boni Bush, who told the Macon Telegraph that when she got a phone call informing her that McDaniel had been charged with murdering Lauren Giddings, “I was not surprised, but it did make me feel sad.”
Meanwhile, the investigation into the death of Lauren Giddings continues. Today crime scene investigators and city workers removed the bathtub from Giddings’s former apartment. According to a reporter for 13WMAZ, the tub “had unusual scratches along the outer edge…. about a foot long, and like the scratches seen on a kitchen cutting board.”
We will keep you posted. If you have information about this case that you’d like to share with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
P.S. In last night’s story, we linked to a video interview of Stephen McDaniel on June 30, the day that Lauren Giddings’s torso was found. Several readers brought our attention to this video clip, which is more complete than the one we previously mentioned. Said one tipster: “[Check out] when the reporter mentioned to him that a body was found. His reaction to the news is quite telling, I think.”
Arrest Warrant for Stephen Mark McDaniel [Bibb County Superior Court]
Warrant: McDaniel said he could get away with murder [11alive.com]
Hacksaw linked to McDaniel in Giddings case, warrant says [Macon Telegraph]
Giddings Investigation: McDaniel Arrest Warrant Explains Murder Charge [41nbc.com]
Stephen McDaniel, Lauren Giddings Part of a Tight-Knit Mercer Law Class [13wmaz.com]
Classmate Charged In Mercer Law Grad’s Killing [WSB Atlanta]
Murder Charge Draws Local Reaction [Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch]
Update: Tub removed from Lauren Giddings’ apartment [Macon Telegraph]
Lauren Giddings’ Bathtub Hauled Away to Crime Lab [13wmaz.com]
June 30th Interview with Stephen McDaniel [Fox24]
Earlier: 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