Stephen McDaniel at his August commitment hearing on murder charges. Suzanne Lawler photo.
Floyd Buford and Stephen McDaniel at an August commitment hearing. Suzanne Lawler photo.
A judge says prosecutors have enough cause to charge Stephen McDaniel with Lauren Giddings' murder.
SLIDESHOW: Stephen McDaniel's August 26th Hearing
Judge William Shurling's ruling came just minutes after McDaniel's lawyer asked the judge to dismiss the murder charge against him.
Floyd Buford said prosecutors did not present probable cause in their arrest warrant because they failed to provide enough detail about the charges against his client.
He said, "This warrant is defective on its face...It is void. This case should be dismissed right now."
But District Attorney Greg Winters says there was enough evidence against McDaniel:
- his access to a master key;
- a bloody hacksaw found in the complex;
- a search by cadaver-sniffing dogs that found "hits" in his apartment
- and his comments to a former roommate about how he could get away with a "perfect murder."
For nearly an hour, a Macon police detective described the Giddings investigation, how McDaniel became a suspect and the evidence against him.
Shurling's ruling means that the case can proceed to the grand jury, where 23 citizens will decide whether to indict McDaniel.
He also denied bond for McDaniel.
The hearing lasted about an hour and ended just after 10:30 a.m.
DETECTIVE PATTERSON'S TESTIMONY
The only witness was Macon police detective David Patterson, who described how investigators responded on June 30 to 1058 Georgia Ave. Giddings had been missing for several days.
He described how officers found Giddings' body inside black trash bags inside a big flip-top green trash can.
He said officers secured the area and asked Giddings' friends to come to the Macon police detective bureau. One of them was McDaniel.
Police called in cadaver-sniffing dogs, and those dogs had "hits" at Giddings second-floor apartment, McDaniel's apartment next door and a vacant apartment on the first floor.
McDaniel had agreed to allow the dogs in his apartment, Patterson said.
Was McDaniel concerned? asked Buford.
Patterson testified that McDaniel said he had been in Giddings' apartment the night before, helping in the search, and he was concerned that he might have picked up something on his clothes or shoes.
He said they eventually determined the body was Giddings' after matching it to DNA provided by her family.
He then described how officers searched the Barristers Hall apartment complex and found a hacksaw with blood on it in the common laundry room.
The FBI crime lab later matched the blood on the hacksaw to Giddings' DNA, Patterson said. They found packaging for that brand of hacksaw in McDaniel's apartment.
Patterson also described how police spoke to a former roommate of McDaniel, Thadeus Money, who said he used to talk about committing the perfect murder and how he would get away with it.
He said the methods described by McDaniel matched the facts of the Giddings case.
DEFENSE LAWYER QUESTIONS PATTERSON
Defense lawyer Buford then began questioning Patterson.
Patterson said McDaniel went to the detectives bureau voluntarily and was questioned for a total of eight or nine hours in two interviews.
He said McDaniel seemed concerned about his friend's disappearance.
After being interviewed, McDaniel was told he was free to go, but Patterson said he became a "person of interest" in the case due to the search dogs' "hits" and after he gave emotional statements to the media that day.
Patterson said the person who lived in the first-floor Apartment 1 was also a "person of interest" at first. He was reportedly another law student who was living across town with his girlfriend, so that apartment was usually vacant.
The detective said landlord Boni Bush said several people, including resident David Dorer, had access to a master key. People in the complex also knew that Giddings kept a key outside her apartment, she said.
Buford then asked about statements by McDaniel's former roommate, Thadeus Money. He said McDaniel spoke of sneaking up on someone and overpowering them with chloroform.
Did you find any chloroform in McDaniel's apartment? he asked. Patterson said they did not.
Buford told Patterson that a defense investigator found a pair of blue gloves in the laundry room. Patterson said he wasn't aware of that.
District Attorney Winters objected to that question, saying the purpose of the hearing is not to investigate the investigation.
Buford also asked Patterson if they found McDaniel's DNA on that hacksaw. The detective said, to his knowledge, they did not.
Buford noted that McDaniel is charged with felony murder. That means murder committed in connection with another felony.
He asked Patterson what the other felony was, and the detective declined to answer.
Winters also objected to that question, and the judge agreed.
Buford asked several questions about how and why the original arrest warrant was issued, and why it was signed by a superior court judge, Trip Self, rather than a magistrate judge.
Patterson said there was no specific reason for that.
Patterson's testimony ended around 10:25.
THE HEARING STARTS
The commitment hearing got underway around 9:35 in a courtroom at the Bibb County courthouse before Shurling, an assistant chief magistrate judge William Shurling.
His parents, Mark and Glenda McDaniel of Lilburn, arrived at the court just after 9 and entered the courtroom around 9:25.
District Attorney Greg Winters and defense lawyer Floyd Buford arrived just after 9:30.
About 40 people were sitting in the small courtroom.
THE McDANIEL CASE
McDaniel now faces criminal charges in three different cases:
On July 1, he was accused of two burglaries at the Barrister Hall apartments where he and Giddings lived in adjoining apartments.
On Aug. 2, he was accused of murdering Giddings, a fellow former Mercer law student. Her dismembered body was found June 30 next to the apartment building where they both lived.
And earlier this week, he was also charged with seven counts of child sexual exploitation after police said they found child pornography on a flash drive in his apartment.