Last week, we saw some big news in the Stephen M. McDaniel murder case. In a bond hearing, prosecutors told the court about another internet post allegedly made by McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate who stands accused of murdering classmate Lauren Giddings. The newest post was particularly unsettling and gory.
At first glance, the post seemed like it could be a smoking gun. But things are never as simple as they seem: rumors are going around that the post is a fake. Because, as Above the Law readers know, don’t believe everything you read in online comments…
To recap, prosecutors alleged last week that McDaniels posted the following message on the Internet:
“Graduate from law school,” the prosecutor read, addressing the judge. “Party hard by drinking alone in front of my computer. See my sexy neighbor/classmate come home late. She has talked to me occasionally in the past. Has wanted [a certain piece of my anatomy] for three years. Invite her up for a nightcap, make her a special drink called a Mickey Finn.”
[D.A. Greg Winters explained that a Mickey Finn is a drink “laced with drugs to make you unconscious.”]
Then he continued reading: “She’s out cold. I finally lose my V-card. Oh, no, she OD’d and died. I barbecue her legs and arms to celebrate losing my V-card. Not into organ meat, but throw her torso out, lose it on TV while the cops are discovering her remains, you mad virgins.”
But then we heard from an anonymous tipster that the post was nothing more than trolls trolling. And that it wasn’t even written until after McDaniel was in jail:
This was a troll post posted after he was arrested. The prosecution need to do some god damn research and not use false information.
Wait. What? Our tipster explains (lightly edited for clarity):
Sadly I do not have any documentation besides testifying that I was online when the post was made. It was posted well after McDaniel was in jail[.]
[It was made] in retaliation to amateur sleuth website site members lurking our message board. Posting nonsense like how McDaniel posted on a thread about the Westboro Baptist church with the idea of a “perfect murder” was proof that he was 100% guilty. Most of our members shot back with replies that were to be taken seriously like, “If posting about a so called perfect murder equals proof that you’re going to be a murderer some day than you better lock up anyone who commented about a perfect murder after watching horror movies/CSI drama show.”
After a while a few troll posts showed up to make fun of these amateur detectives by posting as SOL-McDaniel’s handle online. So far I’ve been neutral in this whole case and it saddens me to see the prosecution mess up this bad. If McDaniel is guilty I hope he gets the punishment he deserves. If he’s innocent, the prosecution has wasted all this damned time pulling together “evidence” out of their asses and the real killer’s still on the loose.
McDaniel has a long, documented history of oddball internet commentary. That said, what the prosecution revealed in court last Tuesday appeared to reach a new level of lurid creepiness.
Late Friday evening, we got in touch with one of McDaniel’s attorneys, Franklin Hogue. Hogue told us the defense was surprised to hear about the post at the hearing last Tuesday. He said McDaniel did not write it, and he gave us this statement:
The defense did not know until the D.A. read the post in court that such a post existed and that the D.A. attributed it to McDaniel. The State will turn over the evidence to the defense on April 20. We presume that a copy of this post and any forensic evidence that purports to tie it to McDaniel will be included in the evidence. We will review that evidence after we receive it and determine our response to it accordingly.
A couple things. First, this might help explain the weird dynamic in the courtroom during the hearing, as the Macon Telegraph reported:
During the hearing, the often wide-eyed McDaniel answered questions from his attorneys and the judge with enthusiastic nods that were snappish and almost birdlike.
During a 10-minute recess Tuesday, he sat in a third-floor room with 30 or so observers and pored over paperwork at the defense table, apparently paying no mind to the free-world conversations going on among spectators milling about and chatting at his left.
That sort of intensity might make sense if he and his attorneys were just hearing about this for the first time.
Looking at the big picture, if the post turns out to be fake it could be a big deal, or it might not. One post is not evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, of murder. Besides, McDaniel already faces some other pretty serious evidence against him.
What is more concerning: if (and that is a big “if”) the post does turn out to be fake, why did the prosecution use it? Did someone misread a timestamp? Or was it an intentional decision? Commenters on our last post suggested that the D.A. might be trying to poison a potential jury pool. (Remember, the case has not even reached trial yet. This was merely a bond hearing.)
The Bibb County D.A., Greg Winters, has not responded to our email and phone inquiries. If he does, we will update this story with his comments.
UPDATE (2:24 PM): Winters declined to comment on the facts and evidence of the case outside of court.
We have not been able to find a copy of the original post. Our tipster says the website suffered several recent DoS attacks and lost a lot of old content. If any of our readers have it, or have any other information about the case, please email us with the subject line “MCDANIEL.”
Earlier: A Creepy New Claim About Stephen McDaniel in the Lauren Giddings Murder Case
Chilling Internet Postings Linked to Stephen McDaniel
The Collected Writings of Stephen McDaniel
Prior ATL coverage of Stephen McDaniel