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Lilburn man charged in Macon law grad's killing

Stephen McDaniel

Stephen McDaniel

LILBURN -- Authorities in Macon have pinned the gory, high-profile slaying of a Mercer University law school student on her classmate from Lilburn.

Gwinnett school records show that Stephen Mark McDaniel, 25, graduated from Parkview High School in 2004, while living at a Collie Court home off Killian Hill Road.

McDaniel has been charged in the murder of his neighbor in Macon, 27-year-old Lauren Giddings. She was last seen alive the evening of June 25. Five days later, police found her torso wrapped in plastic in a garbage bin beside her apartment building.

A message left at McDaniel's family residence in Lilburn was not returned Wednesday.

Investigators pointed to McDaniel as person of interest early in the murder probe. He was arrested on burglary charges involving two previous break-ins at the apartment complex the day the body was discovered.

Both recent graduates, Giddings and her unshaven, bushy-haired neighbor lived in an older apartment complex near the university.

McDaniel is charged with murder and two counts of burglary. During a press conference streamed online Wednesday, Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters balked at saying what evidence tied McDaniel to the killing. Officials previously said DNA samples were being analyzed at the GBI crime lab.

Police have not revealed a motive or cause of death.

"I hope this arrest will bring comfort to the family and the community," Macon Police Chief Mike Burns said in the press conference.

McDaniel was outspoken in the days after Gidding's disappearance, tearfully telling one Macon television station he'd offered to let Giddings borrow his handgun for protection after she feared someone had tried to break in her apartment. She'd blamed the burglary attempt on "Macon hoodlums," McDaniel told the television station.

Authorities said Giddings was last seen with friends during a night out. Her keys, cell phone and wallet were found inside her apartment, which showed no signs of disturbance. In an e-mail to her boyfriend, an Atlanta lawyer, Giddings expressed fear that someone tried to break in her place the week before, the Associated Press reported, citing Macon police.

McDaniel remains at the Bibb County Jail without bond.