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Neighbor charged with Agnes Scott alum's murder | News

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Neighbor charged with Agnes Scott alum's murder

MACON, Ga. -- Lauren Giddings' neighbor and Mercer law school classmate Stephen McDaniel has been charged with felony murder in her death, her father Bill Giddings said late Tuesday.

Macon Police scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Wednesday to update the case.

McDaniel, 25, was already in jail on two burglary charges filed less than a day after Giddings' torso was found near her Macon apartment. She was last seen alive on June 25; a friend reported her missing to police very early on June 30. Police searched around her Georgia Avenue apartment after sunrise and found her body in the trash.

Lauren Giddings was 27-years-old. The Agnes Scott alumna had just graduated from Mercer University's law school and was studying for the bar exam.

Giddings' father told 13WMAZ he was informed around 10 p.m. Tuesday in a brief phone call from Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters that authorities were serving a warrant for McDaniel on a murder charge.

In a telephone interview from his Maryland home, Bill Giddings said word of the murder charge was a relief to some extent.

"We don't feel it's an ending," he said. "It sort of does help answer a lot of questions and some doubt."

But he said many questions remain unanswered, including the location of his daughter's missing body parts.

Giddings said he hoped McDaniel might want to help with that information now that he's been charged.

Earlier Tuesday, Lauren Giddings' sister Kaitlyn Wheeler told 13WMAZ that two relatives were in Macon searching for more of Lauren's remains with the help of a search-and-rescue dog owned by Fred Golba. His website describes him as a search-and-rescue technician and says he has assisted at disaster scenes and in criminal investigations and the missing-person case of Natalee Holloway.

Late Tuesday night, Kaitlyn Wheeler wrote 13WMAZ's Lauren DiSpirito by e-mail:

"I think I can speak for all of our family and friends when I say we will all sleep a bit easier tonight! I personally think this is a big step in the right direction. I also would like to say that my heart goes out to the McDaniel family tonight and I will be praying for them."

The Bibb County Sheriff's Chief Deputy, David Davis, said McDaniel was served in jail with the murder charge between 9:30 and 10 p.m

The murder charge was filed hours after Police Chief Mike Burns and the district attorney met to review the investigation, with just two days until McDaniel's scheduled bond hearing on burglary charges.

Davis said McDaniel would continue to be kept isolated from other inmates. The Bibb County jail holds more than 900 inmates.

Authorities have said McDaniel first came to their attention through television interviews he gave on the day Giddings' body was found.

Tuesday morning, Giddings' father told 13WMAZ that investigators were leaning toward McDaniel as a suspect and that police had no other persons of interest in the case, despite their statements to the contrary.

Bill Giddings said Macon police had gotten some results back from the FBI on evidence collected in the investigation of his daughter's death, and that it "shows promise."

Macon police have said they sent more than 200 pieces of evidence to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va. for analysis. They searched McDaniel's apartment at least three times.

As weeks went by without an arrest, police had to address rumors that a serial killer was on the loose in Macon and that other victims had been found.

At a news conference last week, Chief Burns said: "We're not hiding any bodies. We don't have a serial killer running loose...It's all rumors."

Last week, investigators released Giddings' body to her family. Bill Giddings said he received the news of the murder charge on the night he picked out a burial plot for his daughter.

Her funeral will be held Saturday night.