Eyewitness News at 6: June 28, 2013

11:10 PM, Jun 28, 2013   |    comments
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<you wonder what she would be doing with her life today, worry you'll forget the sound of her voice, those sort of things, make it a little harder.>

Lauren Giddings' mother holds on to memories of a daughter lost two years ago in a brutal murder.

Today.. The family still has questions about the case.. Including what happened to the rest of Lauren's body.

While they search for answers.. Legal teams are preparing to battle it out in the trial against the man accused of killing and dismembering Gidddings.. Stephen McDaniel.

We will have a look back at the search.. and an explanation of what happens next... In just a moment.

Two years ago Sunday.. The search for a missing mercer grad shifted into a hunt for her killer.

Tonight.. We're looking back at the lauren giddings' murder.. And ahead to the case against her accused killer.. Stephen mcdaniel.


< Friends last saw the Mercer Law graduate on June 25th, 2011. Macon police say they found surveillance video of her at a Macon Zaxby's restaurant around 6:30 that night.

Five days later... On June 30th... Police found her torso in a garbage bin outside her apartment near downtown Macon.

Giddings was 27 years old.

The next day... Her neighbor and classmate Stephen McDaniel was arrested for two un-related burglary charges.

Later that same day...police named McDaniel a 'person of interest' in the Giddings case...

On August second, he was charged with felony murder.

On the 23rd of that month... McDaniel was charged with child exploitation. Police said they found pornography on a flash drive in his apartment.

In December 2011.....Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters announced he would seek the death penalty for McDaniel.

Judge Phillip Brown set McDaniel's bond at one million dollars... But in April 2012... He lowered it to $850,000.

McDaniel's family said they still could not afford that. He remains in the Bibb County jail.

In February this year... The new District Attorney, David Cooke, took the death penalty off the table....at the request of the Giddings family.>

Katelyn Heck explains how the case moves from here... As the trial date gets closer.


The trial date has been set for January sixth.

District Attorney David Cooke says the FBI is just now starting testing on some of the evidence sent to them... almost two years ago.






<we have bombings in afghanistan and iraq, and now boston, those go ahead of us. That's one of the reasons I pushed so hard early on to get a trial date set so it would expedite our testing. If we were still on the track that we had been on, we still wouldn't have a trial date and so testing of evidence wouldn't even have begun.>









But Giddings' sister... Kaitlyn Wheeler... Says there's still one piece of evidence investigators haven't found.


<the rest of her remains. That's always going to be a top priority for her family members. We haven't had the right to a proper burial. We don't have a gravestone yet. We're just holding on to the hope that someday we'll get the rest of her remains back. That's constantly on all of our minds.>





Lauren's mother ...Karen Giddings.... says she's not confident ...That after two years ....her daughter's remains will be easily found.

She and Giddings father Bill Giddings... Filed a civil suit earlier this month... Asking to search the 63-acres in Pike County previously owned by Stephen McDaniel's grandfather.

She told me police could not find probable cause to search the property two years ago... But her family still wants them to look.


She says scheduling the trial quickly was also a major priority for her family... But setting the January date brought both relief... And fear.





{***SOT FULL***}

<we're still a little unsure about being in that courtroom and actually, for one, facing Lauren's murderer, and two, for me personally, some of the cold, hard facts that may come out of it.>

I also spoke with Stephen McDaniel's lawyer Floyd Buford... Who told me... Both he... And McDaniel are ready for the trial to begin.


<mr. McDaniel is adamant that he is innocent of these charges. He wants to have his day in court, and I am confident, very confident, that once the jury has an opportunity to hear both sides of the case, I believe that Mr. McDaniel will be acquitted>





But District Attorney Cooke says he's confident in his OWN strategy.

The trial will take place in Bibb County... Buford says he does not think moving it to another district would make a difference.

But before the trial.. A hearing will be held in September to discuss nearly 50 motions filed by the defense.

Cooke says he expects that to last about a week.

Some of those motions include... Throwing out evidence found in McDaniel's car... INCLUDING a rope.... Bleach... And latex gloves.

McDaniel's lawyers say they are irrelevant to the case and were not obtained properly.


Another motion asks the court to dismiss McDaniel's statements to police... Claiming he was interrogated before being read his rights.





Judge Brown will decide which of the motions to accept... And the next step... Is the trial in January.

As Cooke mentioned... The FBI recently began the tests on most of the evidence... And the results are not available yet.

But... We do know some of the things police collected during the investigation.

Court documents say a hacksaw with Giddings' DNA was found in a laundry room at her apartment complex... and police found a box for the same brand of hacksaw in McDaniel's apartment.


Police were also seen hauling Giddings' bathtub out of her apartment.

A 13WMAZ reporter saw the tub the day before during a tour of the apartment... And described it as having several scratch marks similar to what you would see on a kitchen cutting board.





Buford says McDaniel has not decided whether he will testify.

Neither he NOR Cooke would discuss their strategies.... But they agree the trial is likely to last about two weeks.>





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