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Georgia police confirm North Laurel law school graduate was killed

Georgia authorities confirmed Wednesday, July 6 that a body discovered outside an apartment complex in Macon last week was that of Lauren Giddings, a 27-year-old North Laurel woman and recent Mercer University Law School graduate who had been missing since June 25.

A missing person report for Giddings, an Atholton High School graduate, was filed on Wednesday, June 29. The next day, the Macon Police Department found a body outside her apartment building in downtown Macon, across the street from the law school.

Macon Police Chief Mike Burns said at news conference Wednesday that the body had been dismembered and that "we have not found all the body parts yet," according to the Macon Telegraph. He added that police do not know how Giddings died because of the condition of the body, the newspaper said.

Though they have at least two persons of interest in their investigation, police continue to search for clues in the case.

"The investigative process is painstaking — a marathon, not a sprint," police said in a news release.

Police said Giddings' family members, who traveled to Macon last week, have "requested privacy and compassion at this difficult time."

The family is "in seclusion and we are respecting that," police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said.

"We're really in a deep state of shock right now," Nancy Vawter, director of youth ministry at St. Mary of the Mills Catholic Church in Laurel, where Giddings attended services, said July 1, before police said they believe that the deceased woman was Giddings.

Vawter declined to comment further this week.

Prayers in Laurel

On June 30, when police began to search for Giddings and discovered the body, the church held a prayer service for the family, who had flown and driven to Macon that day.

"A friend called (the family) last night and asked if they had heard from her. She has been holed up studying for the bar (exam) so she was not expected to be at work or school. No one had talked to her and had seen her since Saturday," Vawter explained to parishioners in an email. "The police went to her apartment, there was no sign of forced entry and her wallet and keys were there."

Police consider Stephen Mark McDaniel, 25, who lives at Giddings' apartment complex, a "person of interest" in their investigation.

"However, no one is being excluded at this early investigative stage," a news release stated. "This remains an open, active investigation."

On July 1, McDaniel was arrested for burglary stemming form an incident that occurred two-and-a-half years ago. According to police, McDaniel admitted to the burglary when speaking with police about their missing person and homicide investigations.

On the evening of June 30, after the body was found, police continued to hold out hope, searching for Giddings within a five-block radius of her apartment complex, along the Ocmulgee River, which is near Giddings' apartment complex, police said. Police also searched a nearby landfill. Neither the landfill nor the river produced any information, police said.

Investigators also searched Giddings' apartment and a vacant apartment in her complex for clues, police said. Additionally, police said that investigators have spoken with two persons of interest, including McDaniel, and taken statements from several individuals who know Giddings, live in the area or offered tips.

In a release dated July 3, police said Giddings' apartment "will continue to be a focal point of the investigation."

"Everyone involved in the investigation has tremendous sympathy for Lauren's family. We intend to find the person who perpetrated this crime," said Burns. "Our entire department is on alert looking for anything and/or anyone who can shed light on this homicide."

Added Gaudet: "This is Macon, Georgia. This kind of stuff doesn't happen."

While the Giddings family has declined to discuss their daughter, Macon police say they have requested any cards or expressions of sympathy be sent to: St. Mary of the Mills Church, 114 St. Mary's Place, Laurel, MD 20707.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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