Macon police say Stephen McDaniel, Lauren Giddings neighbor and a "person of interest" in her killing, had a master key to their Georgia Avenue apartment complex.
Police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet says investigators learned "early on in the investigation" that the 25-year-old former Mercer law student had the key to Barristers Hall, the complex where he and Giddings lived. Police do not know how McDaniel got the key, she said.
Police have not spoken with McDaniel since he was arrested on burglary charges July 1, the day after Giddings' body was found beside her apartment building. Police have said McDaniel admitted to stealing items from apartments in the complex. Gaudet said they do not know if the master key was used in any burglaries. Police think McDaniel entered some apartments that may have been left open.
McDaniel has not been charged with killing Giddings and his lawyer, Floyd Buford, said Thursday his client is innocent of murder and of two burglary charges.
"I hope people realize he's presumed innocent...and keep that in mind," Buford said.
Wednesday, Buford filed a motion asking a judge to decide whether the Bibb County District Attorney's Office has a conflict of interest prosecuting the case because McDaniel used to work there as a law clerk.
Buford said a hearing date yet has not yet been scheduled to resolve that. A bond hearing for McDaniel is on hold until that's decided.
Owners of the Barristers Hall apartment complex say they're beefing up security. They took price quotes Thursday from three companies to install outdoor surveillance cameras, co-owner Boni Bush said. She also plans to upgrade the alarm systems to address new tenants' concerns.
13WMAZ's Lauren DiSpirito spoke to the father of an incoming Mercer law student who was scheduled to move into Giddings' old apartment but now has a different one. He said he is worried about his son's safety and would like to see security gates added there.
"That this can happen to any human is unthinkable," the father said, who asked us not to reveal his name due to safety concerns because the case is unsolved.
When police release the keys to Giddings' old apartment, Bush says she plans to live there. She says she doesn't know when that will be.
Police did not conduct searches Thursday in the case, Gaudet said. Investigators are working on statements, reviewing documentation, drawing up a timeline, and comparing statements, she said.
"As they talk to the FBI, if they hear that more information is needed, they may search again if it leads them there," Gaudet said.
Bush says during their searches, police checked refrigerators in three apartments-- Giddings', apartment 2, McDaniel's, number 4, and a vacant unit, number 1, below Giddings'.
Police removed the refrigerator from the vacant apartment, according to Gaudet, but she did not say why. Macon Police Chief Mike Burns and Major Charles Stone say investigators also removed drains from some of the apartments.