Stephen McDaniel, 25, is accused of dismembering his next-door neighbor and Mercer Law School classmate, Lauren Giddings.
“This is not something that Stephen would be capable of. We are trusting God that the truth will come out and that he will be cleared,” Glenda McDaniel told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
Giddings was last seen after a night out with friends on June 25. Police found her torso in a trash bin next to her apartment building five days later. Her family and investigators are still searching for the rest of her remains.
“I am sorry for what they’re going through,” said Glenda McDaniel. “Lauren was and always will be Stephen’s friend.”
Stephen McDaniel grew up in the Lilburn area of Gwinnett County. He graduated from Parkview High School, went to church in Stone Mountain and was a member of the Atlanta Boy Choir.
“He’s a very bright, very gentle, very loving person,” said his mother.
She added, “We believe that he is innocent, because we do not believe that a Christian could murder and cut somebody’s body up.”
Giddings, a vibrant 27-year-old, graduated from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, then worked at a midtown law firm before starting law school in Macon. She had just graduated, and friends say she was planning to move back to Atlanta.
“I hope this arrest will bring comfort to the family and to our community,” said Macon Police Chief Mike Burns.
Investigators arrested Stephen McDaniel on July 1 on an unrelated charge but held him as a person of interest in Giddings’ death. On Tuesday night, they charged him with murder.
“I do not know why they are pursuing Stephen, who they zeroed in on from the time they first saw him and took one look at his hair,” said his mother.
She believes her son’s appearance may have influenced detectives.
Stephen McDaniel helped in the search for Giddings before her body was found. He told reporters in Macon that he hadn’t heard anything in the nights leading up to her disappearance, but he told his mother something else.
“Stephen is innocent, but he ran into the killer face to face on Thursday night,” she told Fleischer.
Glenda McDaniel said her son caught an apartment maintenance worker on Giddings’ balcony at midnight two days before she vanished. Stephen McDaniel gave that man’s name to the district attorney.
“He was given his termination notice on May 25. She was last seen on June 25. Her body was found the last day that he was officially employed at the Barrister Hall Apartments. He had master keys. He had access to all of the apartments,” said Glenda McDaniel.
But Wednesday, police announced they have enough evidence to prosecute her son in the killing; they did say they will keep searching for more. Glenda McDaniel hopes it leads to someone else.
“If his being in jail in any way helps in revealing and bringing to justice the man who did kill Lauren, then it will be worth it,” she said. “I want them to be in such torment that they will either come forward and turn themself in or that they will behave in such an unusual way that it will attract attention and it will be known that they are the killer,” she said.
Investigators have refused to release a motive for the crime.
Stephen McDaniel’s mother told Fleischer the two were never romantically involved and that they were not just classmates and neighbors, but that McDaniel considered Giddings a friend.