Detective David Patterson (right) and DA Greg Winters wait for an elevator before meeting with the grand jury Tuesday.
District Attorney Greg Winters.
Stephen McDaniel at his August commitment hearing on murder charges. Suzanne Lawler photo.
A Bibb County grand jury today indicted Stephen McDaniel for the murder of Mercer Law School graduate Lauren Giddings.
That's according to an indictment released by the clerk's office at Bibb County Superior Court, just after noon.
Bibb County District Attorney Greg Winters says he has not decided if he will ask for the death penalty when the case goes to trial.
VIEW: Stephen McDaniel Murder Indictment
FULL COVERAGE: The Lauren Giddings Case
(or at this link): http://www.13wmaz.com/laurengiddings
McDaniel, a former Mercer Law School student, faces one count of murder and 30 counts of child sexual exploitation. Those charges apparently stem from child pornography allegedly found on a flash drive in McDaniel's apartment.
The indictment charges that he killed Giddings between June 25 and June 30, "the exact date of the offense being unknown to the Grand Jury...by inflicting bodily harm in a manner unknown to the Grand Jury at this time, including decapitation of said victim with instrument or instruments unknown to the Grand Jury..."
The two-page murder indictment did not shed new light on forensic evidence collected by investigators, who sent more than 200 items to the FBI Crime Lab for analysis, according to Macon Police Chief Mike Burns.
The arrest warrant for McDaniel on murder charges said a hacksaw with traces of Giddings' DNA was found in a locked storage closet at their apartment complex, and packing material for the same-brand hacksaw was found in McDaniel's apartment.
The warrant says FBI testing confirmed the presence of Giddings' DNA on the hacksaw blade. It said McDaniel had a key to Giddings' apartment and a master key for the entire complex.
McDaniel's Defense Attorney Floyd Buford says his client maintains his innocence, but Buford says he was not surprised by the grand jury's indictment.
"On an indictment they don't hear Stephen's side of the case, they hear the state's side of the case. Stephen McDaniel insists upon his innocence on these charges, he looks forward to having the opportunity to contest these charges when the case is called for trial," says Buford.
During a grand jury, the jurors hear only from the prosecution and their witnesses. They judge whether the state has sufficient evidence to formally bring charges.
Giddings' dismembered body was found June 30 in a trash bin outside the Georgia Avenue apartment building where they were neighbors.
McDaniel was charged the next day with petty burglaries at two neighbors' apartments. Since then, he's been held in the Bibb County jail.
About a month later, police charged McDaniel with Giddings' murder. Then several weeks later, they also filed the child-pornography charge against him.
VIEW: Stephen McDaniel Child Exploitation Indictment (WARNING: Sexually-Explicit Content)
This morning, the grand jury heard from the district attorney and a police investigator presenting evidence against him.
"The next procedural thing," says Winters. "He will be set down for an arraignment, not sure of the exact date of that right now. And then after that it will be set down for a trial."
Winters says from this point forward, the pace of the case is in the hands of the court.
The district attorney's office worked closely with Macon Police on the case.
Police Chief Mike Burns could not be reached for comment after the indictment, but his office released a statement from him.
It read in part, "Today's decision by the grand jury confirms what those of us privy to the details knew would be the outcome. I was never concerned about McDaniel making bond and had no doubt he would be indicted."
Lauren Giddings' cousin Kathy Mann said the indictment comes as a relief.
"It's a very slow methodical process that the police and the D.A. have gone through," she said. "This is one more step in finding out who killed Lauren and having justice."