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A look back at the Giddings, McDaniel case

41NBC looked back at the timeline of major events that led to Stephen McDaniel's guilty plea.
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) -- It's been nearly three years since 27-year-old Lauren Giddings torso was discovered in a dumpster outside of Barrister's Hall.

But, before authorities concluded Giddings had been murder, her disappearance began as a missing person's case.

On June 30, 2011 Macon police found a torso, just days after Mercer Law grad, Giddings, was reported missing. She was last seen on June 25, 2011.

"They've not made a positive identification so we're treating this as dual investigations. There's a female that's missing and that there's a body that's not been ID'd yet," said former Macon police spokeswoman, Jami Gaudet.

Authorities searched for almost a week, before former Macon police Chief Mike Burns announced they had positively identified the torso in the trash bin, as Giddings'. Macon police said the body was dismembered, and investigators still hadn't found the rest of her parts.

"If you smell anything foul, call police," Chief Burns said in news conference after the discovery.

The search grew, and cadaver dogs joined in the efforts. By that point, then 25-year-old Stephen McDaniel is a person of interest, and the community is mourning the loss of Giddings.

"She was always just smiling when we were together, and when I think of her, that's what I picture in my head," said one of Giddings' friends at her memorial service.

On August 3, 2011, McDaniel is charged with felony murder. Macon police sifted through more than 200 pieces of evidence, including a hacksaw found at Barrister's Hall that had Giddings' DNA on it. It all led them to McDaniel as the one and only suspect.

"Just because we made an arrest in the investigation, doesn't mean it's over," said Chief Burns.

Four months later, then Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Greg Winters, announced he was seeking the death penalty.

The one year anniversary came and went with no answers for Giddings' friends and family, and no trial in sight for McDaniel.

In February 2013, just a month after he took office, Macon Judicial County District took the death penalty off the table.

"Lauren's mother and father asked me to withdraw the death notice. Although they believe Mr. McDaniel deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, they recognize that withdrawing the death notice will allow the case to proceed in a more timely fashion," said Cooke.

That's when things started to pick up. Both legal teams filed several motions, including a request to move the trial out of Bibb County for fear McDaniel wouldn't get a fair trial.

The case originally set for September 2013, was pushed to the new year, set to begin in January 2014. Finally, a date for jury selected was slated for Monday, April 28, 2014.

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