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Giddings family files suit against accused killer of daughter

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Lauren Giddings' final resting place in the Emmanuel Methodist Cemetery on Scaggsville Road still doesn't have a gravestone.

It's been two years since Giddings, then 27, disappeared from her Macon, Ga., apartment on June 25, 2011. Her body — specifically, her torso — was found in a trash bin five days later. Her other remains have never been found.

In an effort to find the rest of Giddings' remains, her parents have filed a $5 million civil suit against Stephen McDaniel, the man accused of her murder and dismemberment. Billy and Karen Giddings, of North Laurel, hope a judge will allow a search of a 63-acre wooded property owned by McDaniel's late grandfather, where the Giddings believe McDaniel may have hidden other parts of their daughter's body.

"This has deprived us from giving our daughter a private burial," said Karen Giddings. "We designed the grave site in such a way for her body parts to be added, but she doesn't even have a gravestone yet. It's not something we've spoken about or made any conscious decision about, but in my mind, this has kept us from doing that."

Giddings, a 2002 graduate of Atholton High School in Columbia, had recently graduated from Mercer University in Georgia, where she and McDaniel, her neighbor, were both law students.

The 24-page lawsuit filed June 17 in Macon's U.S. District Court contends that "McDaniel intentionally dismembered (Giddings) to satisfy his own depraved motives" and that he knew dismembering Giddings "would prevent a proper burial, would prevent her parents from returning Lauren's body to its final resting place where she grew up in Maryland and would cause her parents severe emotional distress."

The lawsuit also states that McDaniel visited his grandfather's property on or about June 19, 2011, "to inspect the woods on the property by car" and "surveyed the property for locations where he could scatter dismembered body parts through the woods in accordance with his murder plan."

According to the lawsuit, McDaniel had plotted to commit what he called "the perfect murder" since at least fall 2007, when he told his college roommate exactly how he would go about doing so.

"McDaniel said that after he killed someone, he would dismember them and then scatter the parts through the woods so that no one would ever find them," the lawsuit states. "McDaniel then bragged to his roommate that he would never get caught."

Karen Giddings said the 63-acre property had never been searched and despite the family's previous efforts, authorities said there was no probable cause to warrant a search.

"There was a huge search throughout the area, but we feel it's a no-brainer: The farm should have been the first place to look," she said.

Meanwhile, the parents want to honor and celebrate their daughter's life. A softball tournament held last year was met with such success, Karen Giddings said, that a second Butterbean Tournament in Memory of Lauren Giddings is set for Sept. 14 at McCullough Field in Laurel. Proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics.

"We try to celebrate, rather than mourn," Karen Giddings said. "We're trying to focus on positive dates, like her birthday."

Giddings would have turned 29 in April. With the second anniversary of her death this week, Karen Giddings said Giddings' two sisters will be with the immediate family in their North Laurel home "just to be together."

All the while, the criminal case against McDaniel is proceeding. Motions hearings are set for September, with a trial scheduled for January 2014, Karen Giddings said — two-and-a-half years since McDaniel was charged with premeditated murder.

"We've been deprived of her companionship, and that's huge. There's such a larger void with two years gone by," Karen Giddings said. "We just take it day by day, and when you get down to it, try to remember what a spectacular life she had and how blessed we were to have her for as long as we did. But when you let your mind go to that darker place, it's harder because so much time has passed. You feel that you'll forget what she looked like, or you think about what she would look like now or what she would be doing with her life. You miss her even more."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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