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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  January 1, 2021 2:00am-3:00am PST

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>> a few feet, but an unbridgeable divide, when it's a matter of father versus son. ♪ i would tell her how much i miss her and that i love her and that she's the reason why i am who i am today. i would tell her thank you. >> lauren giddings, law school grad with the world at her feet. fiercely intelligent -- >> and fierce with her opinion. >> she made friends wherever she went. >> so, it was strange when she dropped out of sight. >> didn't take her car, didn't
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take her purse. we realized there was something wrong. >> they couldn't possibly have guessed how wrong. >> there's another level of evil here. the person who did this was trying to create a vanishing. >> who could do such a thing? >> first thing you look at, who's closest to her, romantically or geographically? >> the list was long. a boyfriend, an ex, fellow students. had somebody been studying more than textbooks? >> he would ask the people, how would you commit the perfect murder? >> said he always thought he was smarter than everybody else, smarter than law enforcement. >> smart, maybe. but had he slipped up? >> what they found told us everything we needed to know. >> a confounding case that would come down to a damning piece of video that no one was supposed to see. >> sick, twisted. >> what was it like to see that? >> i knew we had him.
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>> it was a summer morning in the heart of georgia. heat rose thick and damp among macon's grand old antebellum mansions as the slow, heavy traffic crawled by. something in the air that morning, something off. maybe just the trash truck. >> this was a 90-degree day, toward the end of june. there was a hot wind blowing that day. >> joe kovach was down at the local paper, crime reporter there. and all of a sudden -- >> i can remember the buzz in the newsroom. >> oh, this would be big, big and disturbing, like sometimes things can be in the south, said joe. >> it was a shock, a shock to the system, yeah. ♪ >> but there's something else about the south, something sweet, magnetic. it draws people in. and macon, with its storied
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history and its cherry blossoms, is its very heart. >> it's slow, relaxing. everyone here is welcoming. >> even for a new yorker named ashley mueller, who signed up at the mercer law school here. >> you never meet a stranger, i guess, in the south. that's what makes it so wonderful and comforting. >> it's where she met lauren giddings. >> when we found out we both were from the north, we just instantly connected on that. >> but then, why wouldn't she want to connect with lauren? she was bigger than life. >> she was infectious. i mean, you couldn't be around her for more than five minutes and not already be having a good time. >> she was the adored eldest of three sisters. youngest, sarah. >> we would always go on runs together. >> kaitlin in the middle. >> she was more like a bookworm. she loved to read, academics.
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>> lauren grew up in maryland, halfway between baltimore and d.c., with her friend, katie o'hare. >> we knew each other inside-out. i'd always know she could cheer me up. she was a funny girl. >> funny girl? >> oh, yeah. she was a riot. >> how would she make you laugh? >> the things that would come out of her mouth sometimes didn't have a filter. >> why did she go south to go to school? >> she loved the south. she was a country girl at heart, and when she got there, she loved it. she didn't want to come back up here. >> and lauren certainly knew what she wanted -- wanted to be a lawyer, but not one of those corporate types or even a crusading prosecutor. lauren wanted to be a public defender, a voice for the poor and the accused. why did she want to do that? >> she always wanted to help people, always. >> and mercer law school, perched on its hillside a lot of macon's sweet spots seemed just right for her. >> she was a fan of nancy grace.
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nancy grace graduated from there. >> oh, well. lauren found a great apartment right across the street from the law school. it was full of aspiring lawyers. the next door neighbor was a classmate. even the maintenance man was a student. and soon, she was everywhere, running in the park, active in her church, eventually, president of her law school's federalist society. she was hard to miss. >> she showed up in her pink outfit. >> always pink? >> always pink, or even seersucker. >> and always with her dog, butterbean. >> fluffy, blond-haired, just like she was. >> and she carried it around all the time? >> always. she basically was elle woods in "legally blonde," so, we always kind of jibed her for that. >> it was no surprise she attracted a lot of men. >> she always had people kind of infatuates with her. that's how she was. >> like david. she interned at his law firm in
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atlanta. he was 20 years older, but their relationship seemed pretty serious, until, apparently, it wasn't. >> they met the year before she went to law school and then dated for a long time. they had broken up at some point and gotten back together. >> going through that, do we do this, do we not do this? it's a complicated time. >> yeah, i think, you know, being in school is hard, and they weren't living in the same city or anything. >> and besides -- >> lauren was a flirt. i mean, she liked attention. >> and she got it from a classmate named joe. >> he was more the goofier side, and you know, her age. >> so, they became an item. but there was something about david, some chemistry that drew her back, and she gave joe the bad news. >> lauren was up front and told joe, and that was that. >> a little bit broken hearted on joe's part? >> i think so. i think so. he really liked her. >> yeah. >> who wouldn't?
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>> anyway, at graduation time, may 2011, david was there to cheer her on. it was a big event for the whole family. >> we went out after her graduation with her friends and got to know everybody. >> and just a month later, another celebration up north, her sister's wedding. >> i did want to say how special this wedding is. obviously, not because -- >> lauren was the maid of honor. and then back to macon for the final hurdle, the bar exam. a busy and scary time for a young lawyer to be? >> absolutely. >> but first -- >> it was everybody's kind of last hoorah. >> it was friday night, end of june 2011. the graduates gathered at a local bar for one last blowout before hunkering down to study. they closed the bar, went to ashley's boyfriend's place. lauren's ex, joe, was his roommate. >> eventually, we just all kind of decide we're going to go to
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sleep now. i mean -- >> yeah. >> mind you, there was alcohol involved, so -- >> surprising, right. >> right. >> lauren stayed the night in joe's room. and the next day, everybody was moving a bit slowly. >> i did not see lauren that morning. i didn't see joe that morning either. we just kind of assumed they were in the room together. >> and then it was time to buckle down. all of the friends, joe included, went off to cram. >> really, you kind of just go into this hole and study constantly and don't really have any contact with anybody. everyone was kind of in their own world trying to get ready for this, this test that you worked so hard for. so, it's a lot of pressure. you just -- you become a hermit. >> so, it took a few days to realize, no one had heard from lauren. coming up -- no reason yet to assume anything was wrong, but soon, there would be. >> i immediately was like, this isn't right.
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so, i called her sister, kaitlin, and i said, lauren's phone's off. she hasn't been answering me for days. >> alarm bells for one friend, while another steeled herself to enter lauren's apartment. >> i said, are you ready for whatever we're going to see when we walk in there? >> when "the watcher" continues. >> when "the watcher" continues. nicorette knows, quitting smoking is freaking hard. you get advice like: try hypnosis... or... quit cold turkey. kidding me?! instead, start small. with nicorette.
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♪ it was photos from that wedding trip up north that set off the alarm. the selfies katie o'hare snaps and then nine days later texted to her friend down in macon, lauren giddings. >> and they were kind of like, funny, so i know she's going to respond to me and be like, oh, my gosh, if you post that online -- >> yeah. >> -- i'm going to get you. >> but no response. was she studying too hard to look at a few photos? katie tried again the next day and the day after that and,
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again, no response. >> that's not normal for her and i. >> sure. >> we would talk a lot. >> katie called lauren's cell phone. >> and her phone was off. and i immediately was like, this isn't right. so, i called her sister, kaitlin, and i said, "lauren's phone's off. she hasn't been answering me for days. have you heard from her?" >> no, she had not. so, kaitlin reached out to lauren's law school friend, ashley. >> her sister contacted me over a message on facebook. >> hey, like trying to get in touch with lauren, have you seen her? like, can you let her know we're trying to get in touch with her? we haven't heard from her. >> this was wednesday. and now, thinking back, ashley hadn't seen lauren since that prestudy party friday night. ashley went to lauren's apartment. her car was there. she knocked at the door. >> when she didn't answer, i didn't think anything of it. i assumed she was running. i assumed she was studying somewhere. >> so, she let it go.
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but then a few hours later -- >> her sister contacted me again and said, hey, this is an emergency. we've been trying to call her and she still is not answering. >> now ashley began to worry. so she and her boyfriend returned to lauren's place and used a spare key to go inside. first, she warned her boyfriend. >> i said, are you ready for whatever we're going to see when we walk in there? because you just have this almost sort of dread. and i will never forget that. i had been interning at the d.a.'s office, so obviously -- >> you're used to hearing about bad things happening. >> right. her family hadn't had contact with her since we had had contact with her, at this point in time had been four days. so you never know what you're going to walk into. >> it was dark by then. >> we had to walk pretty far back into the apartment to find a light to turn on. >> uh huh? >> searched her bedroom. she's not in there. >> what they did find was quite
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puzzling. >> her purse, her keys, her cell phone, her i.d., all on the couch. her laptop on her bed. >> as if she had just gone out for a run or something? >> exactly like that. >> but no her. >> no her. and butterbean, her dog, had been at home with her parents in maryland, so the fact that butterbean wasn't even there wasn't concerning to us. the fact that she wasn't there hours later, you know, that's when it became real. >> something else occurred to them. lauren was due to move out the next day, june 30th, but -- >> nothing was packed in boxes, but it definitely looked like she was getting her stuff together to be able to pack it. >> she had already told her friends, her plan was to move to her boyfriend david's place in atlanta, an hour and a half up the highway. >> i mean, that was supposed to be the plan. that was lauren's plan. >> even though some of lauren's friends thought they weren't right for each other. >> i don't know if i want to use the word flaky, but her
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relationship with david was flaky. >> lauren's family called david. he said he hadn't talked to her in days. >> i remember specifically him, like, hanging up and then calling back a couple minutes later, like, wait, what's going on -- like, what is going on? >> back at the apartment, ashley rounded up lauren's law school friends, including that ex-boyfriend, joe, with whom she'd spent the night last time any of the friends saw her. >> joe immediately went to the law school to search the law school for her. >> while the other friends took a careful look around the apartment. they found some food wrappers, and in her car a receipt from a zaxey's restaurant drive-thru, time stamped the evening after the prestudy party. now it was wednesday night. >> zaxby's was at that point in time four days old. >> so, where did she go, for a run? did she have some sort of accident? or was it something even worse?
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lauren's friends knew she spent time visiting prisoners when she was an intern at the public defender's office. that would make you wonder about some of the people she encountered. >> she encountered all sorts of people. you know, she would visit the jail often. >> maybe someone took an unhealthy sort of liking to her. and then they remembered something lauren said the night of that last prestudy party. >> she had thought someone had been stalking her, but we didn't really pay much attention to it because of who lauren was. >> she was a girl who always had admirers who stood out. just about everybody who lived in the apartment complex knew lauren, including, of course, her fellow student and next door neighbor, and he wanted to help search for her. he asked about window locks. somebody check her windows to see if they were opened or locked or -- >> yeah, i think one might have been unlocked. >> friends also checked lauren's computer and discovered that her last online activity was an email sent saturday night. this was disturbing.
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>> it was an email to david. it was eerie. >> what did it say? >> essentially, that she thought someone was trying to break into her house, a night prior. i think she referred to the person as being a hoodlum, macon hoodlum. >> the ultimate fear, that some evil stranger had taken their friend, lauren giddings. coming up -- >> we started systemically taking each room and trying to find any evidence that we could. >> investigators search lauren's apartment with a forensic tool that reveals a critical clue hiding in plain sight. >> it was like a light switch. >> when "the watcher" continues. . >> when "the watcher" continues. smoking is hard. you get advice like: try hypnosis... or... quit cold turkey. kidding me?! instead, start small. with nicorette. which can lead to something big. start stopping with nicorette or psoriatic arthritis, little things can become
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there is a special torture to be far away when a loved one is missing. go to sleep that night? >> no. i basically had the laptop in front of me and my cell phone and kept going back and forth with whoever i could. i made a facebook event on lauren's facebook, inviting all of her friends to post when the
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last time they saw her was. >> around 2:00 a.m. thursday, lauren's sister woke up their dad. >> he has 100 questions, and i didn't have an answer to any of them. i didn't know anything, you know? her apartment was empty. her stuff was there. >> unable to sit and wait for answers, lauren's dad packed up his car and started the 11-hour drive to georgia. macon police, now part of the sheriff's department, looked around lauren's apartment the night before, but by morning, with still no sign of her, detectives were called in. and with them, crime scene investigator steve gatlin. do crime scene techs go work on missing person's cases normally? >> not normally, but this was something that was a little different. this was a person who had just graduated from law school, that had everything going for her and wouldn't just up and disappear for no reason. >> she was a social animal and she would, you know, they don't just vanish, right? >> exactly. she had friends, she had family she keeps up with, she had a career that was about to
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blossom, and had all this going on, and to just disappear with no trace of not talking to anyone, it was unlike her. >> so, gatlin looked up at lauren's front door, second floor, left side. nothing seemed amiss. out front, a garbage truck lumbered up, but blocked by the police cars, was unable to empty the complex's trash cans. the truck moved on. by then, lieutenant gatlin was in the apartment looking around. >> it just looked like somebody walked out and shut the door. >> puzzling. the day was hot already. a humid breeze scutted across the yard. >> when we started coming down the stairs here, that's when the wind kind of hits you in the face, and you could smell something. you could smell a foul odor. >> a recognizable foul odor. >> pretty much. >> that was a smell lieutenant gatlin was all too familiar with. he followed his nose to one of the trash bins outside the apartment. >> we open it up, looked in
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there, and i saw two trash bags. >> he pulled out the bag on top, ripped it open. typical household trash. >> and then i went to the bigger one, which is a large-size package. it was a trash bag that, as soon as i felt down it and reached down and touched it and felt it, i felt like it had had some human remains in it. >> and then to his growing horror, he realized it was just part of a body, a woman's torso. nothing else. >> we started cordoning everything off with crime scene tape, even used sheets to put up barriers on the other side of the fence so the news media and the general public couldn't see what we were doing. because at that time with this investigation, they didn't need to know yet. >> no. >> just in case. we didn't want to mess anything up, if it got out too quick, what we had found. >> and meanwhile, better take a closer look at that apartment. >> we started systemically taking each room and trying to find any evidence that we could,
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using all the techniques and science that was available to us at the time. >> one of those tools was lumin luminol, a spray that turns blue when it comes in contact with blood. lieutenant gatlin sprayed it in lauren's bathroom, and -- >> it was like a light switch. i mean, the whole bathroom glowed. >> what did you think when you saw that thing light up that way, that tub? >> i probably can't say on camera, i'll clean it up. i was thinking, oh, crap. because the whole tub, almost two inches from the top, had the same glow. >> what did that tell you? >> that told me she was dismembered right there in her own tub. >> that's got to give you the willies a little bit. >> it bothers me right now just talking about it. >> but this was strange. when they dusted for fingerprints and checked for hairs and fibers, they didn't find much at all. >> did somebody wipe everything down? because you would think you would find other people's fingerprints and things like that. >> this wasn't going to be easy. police had already rounded up lauren's friends and her
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neighbor, didn't want them to know about the discovery, took them all downtown to record their statements. and while they were there -- >> there was a call to our newsroom. >> macon telegraph reporter joe kovac. >> there had been a body found outside an apartment up on coleman hill. >> police had tried to keep their discovery quiet, but it didn't take long before the news was online. and back in maryland, where lauren's family had gathered -- >> my uncle came in. he asked, you know, have you heard the news? and we were like, no, we haven't -- i mean, we're in maryland. tell us what you're talking about. and he said, well, they found a body. and at that point, you know, it was just history yeerysterics. >> we ran to the other room -- >> i ran to the computer because we needed to know what he was talking about, where did he find this, what are the details? once it comes up, it's a body
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found at her apartment building, that's different than a body being found. it's a body at her apartment building. >> was it her? must be. downtown, investigators resorted to method. >> who's closest to her, romantically or geographically? >> start close, as they say, close to the victim, but how close? oh, they had no idea. coming up -- police look at the men in lauren's life, her boyfriend, david, and her ex, joe. they wondered, could there have been a love triangle gone wrong? some people react badly to that sort of thing. >> very badly, sometimes. >> when "the watcher" continues. >> when "the watcher" continues. this is the sound of an asthma attack... that doesn't happen. this is the sound of better breathing. fasenra is a different kind of asthma medication. it's not a steroid or inhaler. fasenra is an add-on treatment for asthma driven by eosinophils. it's one maintenance dose every 8 weeks.
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i'm milissa rehberger. here's what's happening. new york's times square was nearly empty as the big apple rang in the new year with the famous ball drop. the area was cordoned off with only a few invited guests, including frontline workers and
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vips allowed to watch the event in person. and an ugly scene in college football. a massive brawl broke out at the armed forces bowl. it happened after mississippi state beat tulsa in a close one. officers had to break it up. back to "dateline." lauren giddings' father was on the road to macon when he heard the terrible news. it was likely lauren whose body they found. and so, he went to police headquarters to meet with now-retired chief of police mike burns. >> he wanted to identify his daughter. we told him, no. and then he was insistent he wanted to identify his daughter. so, i cleared the room, told him that it wasn't chief to father, it's father to father. you didn't want to identify her. i told him, that's not the last
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way you want to remember your daughter. >> then chief burns told lauren's father what they found and that he didn't need to see that. >> he just sort of stared at me, and he said, "i agree." and that was pretty much the end of the conversation. >> wow. >> you give a lot of death notices, but that was tough. i mean, i've got a son and three daughters, and it was tough. >> but who? who would commit such a violent crime, dismember a victim, then cover his tracks so carefully, like someone had planned it, was killing to satisfy some sick craving. did you think that morning not only were you dealing with a sick individual, but potentially a serial killer? >> that was one of our concerns, that somebody, a serial killer, could have gotten off the interstate, killed her, gotten back on the interstate and was gone. >> yeah, or could still be lurking around town somewhere. >> that was another concern.
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>> meanwhile, lauren's friends and neighbors were sitting in separate interview rooms without their cell phones, cut off from the news outside, answering questions. among them, the apartment complex's maintenance man, also a law student, who said he hadn't seen lauren for a while. her neighbor said he hadn't seen her either. stephen, the law student right next door who helped try to find her. >> you've been home all week, right, all weekend? >> mm-hmm. >> and you said that you, the last time you seen lauren was -- either -- either last week or the week before -- >> but it's been a few days? >> yeah. >> stephen didn't exactly look like a lawyer-to-be, but he had been her neighbor for three years, had served with her in the local branch of the federalist society, so he certainly knew her. but like everyone else, he said he had been busy studying. >> with bar prep, we just work on it and work on it.
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>> there were more friends, and cops talked to all of them, even a running buddy, who joined the party that friday night at the bar. >> you kind of hung out with her for a little while? >> um, i was there with her for probably 45 minutes that night. >> but he said he hadn't seen lauren since. >> do you know where lauren is? >> no. >> nobody was immune from suspicion, even among that group of friends. >> you're thinking about your friends, and you're questioning your friends. you're never asking them, hey, did you do something to lauren, but you're wondering in your mind. >> can't stop that wondering. >> no. i mean, who do you trust? you can't really trust anybody. and that's terrifying. >> did that include joe? >> yes. i'm ashamed to admit it, but yes. >> joe, the ex.
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what did you learn about him? >> they had dated for a couple months. lauren called it off, that he didn't call it off. >> joe told detectives lauren spent the night in his room friday night, but she left the next morning, said she was going to the pool at a local country club. but did she make it there? detectives checked, and? >> we were able to trace down her credit card, which she had made a purchase at the same pool. >> and that zaxby's receipt her friends found? that was time-stamped 6:08 saturday. so they pulled the video. hard to tell which was lauren's car and if anyone was with her. joe, for example, had he rejoined her? impossible to tell from this. >> really, no one could vouch for him, because we were all doing our own thing. we were all studying. >> it seemed pretty certain lauren was still alive and well at 10:13 p.m., because that's when she sent that strange email her friends found on her computer. >> essentially, that she thought
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someone was trying to break into her house on a night prior. >> the recipient of that email was the man she intended to move in with, david. now the detectives wondered if they were dealing with a love triangle gone wrong. had david found out about lauren's night with joe? some people react badly to that sort of thing. >> very badly sometimes. >> yeah. >> so, down at the station, detectives questioned david on tape. >> we found a body. we don't know if it's her or not. >> i heard that. someone told me on the way down. >> okay. all right. so, i need your help. >> you've got it. >> well, somebody knows something. >> david told the detectives he was far away the weekend lauren disappeared. >> he had taken a golf trip to california. >> said he hadn't talked to her in a while. >> so, you're telling me, the whole time you were gone to california, you didn't call her, check in with her or nothing?
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>> no. no. >> when you landed in atlanta and just go back to your apartment or house, you didn't even call her and tell her you were home or anything? >> no, if you look at the email -- >> really? mind you, the detectives had already heard from lauren's law school friends. >> people that she goes to school with says that y'all had problems. >> we've never had -- >> recently. >> we -- well, in march, we kind of stopped talking. and then through may, and that's at her graduation. she sent me an email, saying would you at least tell me -- >> i'm just telling you, that's what they told me. >> i understand that. no, it's because it's never been fluid and continuous, because when i felt the pressure of the commitment, i just kind of backed off. >> but of course, they couldn't just take his word for it. they asked david for proof, receipts, documents to show he was away in california when lauren was murdered. so, did he just hand them over or what? >> he didn't have them with him. >> all right, come on. >> david was free to leave the
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police station. they'd follow up with him, of course. and back at the apartment complex, they found something. but what did it mean? coming up -- one of the men investigators have already interviewed is about to attract their attention all over again. >> i thought, it's odd. very odd. >> and then, a discovery in a maintenance closet at lauren's complex. >> it looks like blood. >> when "the watcher" continues. >> when "the watcher" continues. five blades and a pivoting flexball designed to get virtually every hair on the first stroke, while washing away dirt and oil. so you're ready for the day with a clean shave and a clean face. want to sell the best burger add an employee.ode? or ten... then easily and automatically pay your team and file payroll taxes. that means... world domination! or just the west side. run payroll in less than five minutes with intuit quickbooks. on the 5g america's been waiting for. now, get iphone 12 this new iphone plus verizon 5g is incredible.
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lauren giddings' friends and neighbors spent hours at police headquarters answering questions, but getting no answers back themselves. so, when police dropped them off near the apartment, they were surprised by quite a scene. >> it was completely blocked off.
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news reporters were there. sheriff's office was there. crime scene was there. >> the tv people knew a body had been found. that's why they were here. but some of those who had been down at police headquarters weren't quite up to date, like stephen, her fellow law student and next door neighbor. >> he's telling, you know, yeah, we've been trying to look for lauren. we've been out trying to find her. we don't know where she is. >> when stephen started talking to local station wgxa, he seemed relaxed, chatty. but then the reporter broke the news to stephen that a body had been found. here's what happened then. >> -- have recovered the body or whatever they recovered from there -- >> body? >> had you heard -- have you seen anything there? >> stephen stopped, as if struck -- >> are you okay, sir? >> i think i need to sit down. >> i thought, that's odd. >> mm-hmm. >> very odd. >> lieutenant gatlin checked on him. >> he was sitting on a cooler outside of our command post.
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someone was trying to talk to him, and he just stared like he was staring off into space. even shook him, and he just still kept staring off into space. finally, i ended up doing a sternal rub on him, a paramedic as well. >> a sternal rub? >> it's called a sternal rub, which a stimuli you give someone -- >> on the sternum. >> on the sternum, to check to see if they are unconscious or alert. >> so that perked him up a little bit. >> it woke him up. all of a sudden he came to life, like what happened? didn't know what was going on in his mind that made him act like that. >> was it just surprise, or what? >> stephen had already allowed detectives to bring a cadaver dog into his apartment, and it did show some interest, but it was hard to know if it meant anything. but that, combined with stephen's odd behavior was enough to take him back downtown to the station for another chat, the questions a little more pointed now. >> was you friends with lauren?
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>> yes. >> look at me when you talk to me, son, okay? was you friends with her? >> yes. >> every answer was, yes, no, hands on the table. we had to tell him to look at us when you talk to us. >> stephen, did you hurt lauren? >> no. >> i know this is hard for you to tell it. but it's weighing on you right now, ain't it, stephen? >> i didn't do it. >> stephen didn't budge. he insisted he had nothing to do with the murder and didn't know who did. as he talked, investigators combed through his apartment. no blood. no sign of any trouble. but this was interesting. >> they found some condoms in his dresser drawer. >> wouldn't be unusual, of course, for a guy stephen's age to have condoms, except stephen had told investigators he was a virgin and saving himself for marriage. interesting. >> so, the detectives interview him sort of changed course and
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says, why do you have condoms? that was where he changed a little bit. he got quiet. i guess he was thinking. and then he says, i got them from so-and-so's apartment. >> an admission that he stole condoms? yes, right out of the apartments of two of his neighbors. >> so we charged him withburgly. >> and while they held him, they took a good, hard look all around the apartment complex. >> this is like a community laundry room for the residents, so it's got washers and dryers in it. >> and inside? >> this is the maintenance room. >> they found this other door, a maintenance closet, locked up tight. they used a key, looked inside, and found something, a hacksaw with something on it. >> it looks like that's blood on each end of the saw blade, where, obviously, somebody had rinsed it off but didn't do a
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thorough job. >> but, wait a minute, who had a key to the closet? the maintenance man. >> he had a master key to all the apartments in the complex and the door where they kept supplies in the laundry room. >> so, did you bring him in for questioning? >> we brought him back in. >> the maintenance man said he didn't buy that hacksaw and provided an alibi. but by then, the investigators knew the maintenance man wasn't the only one with keys, because in stephen's apartment -- >> we found two keys on his dresser that stood out. one of them was a brand-new key, and the other was a key with a georgia bulldog emblem on it. >> they tested the georgia bulldog key. it was a master key to the complex, including the maintenance closet. and that second key -- >> was cut to fit her apartment. that was the key to her apartment. >> to her apartment? >> to her apartment, yes. >> a key to lauren's apartment. why on earth would stephen have
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that? they got more search warrants to stephen's place and this time found women's underwear. test results proved they were lauren's. and then they found this. >> we found packaging for that same type of hacksaw in his apartment. >> it was the same type as the one found in the maintenance room. >> same size and brand and everything. >> now they felt certain they had their man. they cleared lauren's boyfriend, david, and ex-boyfriend, joe. no surprise at all to lauren's friends. >> i never thought it was david. i never thought it was joe. >> they eventually cleared the maintenance man, too. and on august 2nd, five weeks after lauren disappeared, stephen mcdaniel, the quiet, young law school grad, was charged with murder. he maintained his innocence, pleaded not guilty, and really, a crime so awful, a dismembered victim? stephen had seemed so harmless,
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had no criminal record. the evidence against him was circumstantial. the district attorney wasn't confident. >> i was worried that unless we had more, that this would be a case where everybody knew that he did it, but nobody could prove it. >> so, time to take a harder look at the evidence. coming up -- a defendant who seems quite confident. >> there was a certain swagger that he and his team had. i think they felt that they could win it. >> but investigators are about to discover a certain piece of deleted video. what was it like to see that? >> i knew we had him. >> do they, though? when "the watcher" continues. when "the watcher" continues h with powering through, it's time for theraflu hot liquid medicine. powerful relief so you can restore and recover. theraflu hot beats cold.
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how could stephen daniel do such a horrible thing? >> he was trying to make it seem like he was an innocent bystander. and a friend of lauren. >> when district attorney david cook took over, it was a death penalty case, but he wasn't so sure it should be. after all, they had no evidence to prove the cause of death. and this was a gruesome crime, yet none of stephen's dna was found in lauren's apartment. and aside from the underwear, none of lauren's dna was found in stephen's case and in the circumstantial case they did have, a good defense attorney could raise reasonable doubt. perhaps say that stephen had been framed. >> he could reasonably argue that the crime scene particularly his apartment wasn't adequately secure. >> sure. >> and that other people had access. >> indeed they did. >> and therefore, you can't prove i did it. >> yeah.
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>> so there was a certain swagger that he and his team had. i think they felt not unreasonably that they could win. >> sure enough, the highly regarded macon attorneys had said they got improper search warrants. >> i think there were eight or nine searches of stephen's apartment. >> and lauren's underwear and the apartment key and the hacksaw said should be thrown out. did you believe that the prosecution was particularly worried about your challenges? >> yes, i did think they were. >> this the defense hogue had known and admired lauren. >> i was her teacher in a transition course from law school in to law practice. >> in fact, hogue told stephen before joining his defense team stephen was all right with it. anyway, that's why hogue knew lauren herself was opposed to the death penalty. so he took it as a victory lap
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and the d.a. withdrew it. and then, technology. the georgia bureau of investigation had searched stephen's computers, didn't find much. but now they had new software. the d.a. asked them to take another look. >> i thought there is no way that this guy has her panties in his apartment, has the hacksaw packaging in his apartment, has a key to her apartment, and committed this kind of murder and doesn't have an internet history that would blow your mind. there is no way that's possible. >> so he asked the experts to look for anything related to lauren's, sex and violence. >> when they did, it just exploded. it's obvious that he has a fascination with sadistic pornography, murder, torture, dismember. >> digging under a layer of things that had been erased or expunged from the computer.
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>> yes. >> they never go away. >> yes, and what they found told us everything we need to know about stephen mcdaniel. >> tell me more about that. >> some of it so bad that it can't be captured in photographs or movies because it's so criminal. and it can only be drawn. >> wow. vile and yet still not proof that he murdered lauren. so spring 2014, nothing was certain. as lauren's family and friends prepared to go to macon for trial. >> it's like the rest of my life stopped. it was all about lauren and this trial. >> why do you think it was so important? >> she was my best friend. >> yeah. >> she meant the world to me. her family means the world to me. >> and finding the person responsible -- >> and getting justice served was all i cared about. >> as the two sides were ready to face off in court with stephen still claiming his
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innocence, the fbi probed the secrets of stephen's digital camera. and recovered this. oh, my. >> the video was him spying on her the last night she was alive. >> he was all stealth. must have taped his camera to a long stick, said the prosecutor. so he could peer through lauren's window and into her apartment. chilling. here was a predator in the final stage of planning. >> he was spying in there to see if she was home. because that is the night i think he planned to kill her. >> lauren was right. she did have a stalker. someone was trying to break into her place. what was it like to see that? >> i knew we had him. i knew we had him. >> attorney hogue had to agree. >> that would have been virtually insurmountable
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evidence at trial. >> and so in late april 2014, stephen cried uncle. he'd make a deal, plead guilty and confess to murdering his neighbor, lauren giddings. >> he admitted that he came into her apartment in the middle of the night, that she said something to him. essentially telling him to leave but colorfully. >> yeah. >> and that he attacked her. she fell off the bed as they struggled. her legs ended up under the bed where she could kick him or get out from under it. and that put him at an advantage. >> he strangled lauren to death, and then dismembered her body. put her torso in the trash bin of the apartment and the other remains in the law school dumpster. over the years police and volunteers searched for countless hours, even dug up a landfill but never found anything.
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lauren's loved ones including boyfriend david looked on as stephen was sentenced to life in prison. he'll be parole eligible in 2041. stephen, the d.a. believes, had been planning to kill for a long time and took pleasure in what he did to lauren. >> here is someone who told his friends for years leading up to this that he thought he could commit the perfect murder. it was an obsession for him. his dream was to commit murder and to get away with it. >> so he was thinking about this for a long time. >> oh, yes. >> and he almost succeeded. had the police not turned up to check out what was a missing person's case, had their cars not prevented a garbage truck from picking up the bin outside the apartment. >> the body would have never been discovered and we never would have captured stephen mcdaniel and we never would have
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gotten justice. >> and now, memories. of a friend's last party. >> i remember hugging her, saying good-bye. >> in retrospect, does it matter now that you did that? that you hugged her? >> oh, absolutely. >> memories for a family, of a daughter and a sister, who loved to run. >> i'm happy when i think about her, when i run, it pushes me to run harder. >> my daughter is named lauren magnolia after lauren. >> memories of a vibrant woman fully alive. lauren giddings. how often do you think about her? >> all the time. her picture is in my office. and i always think about, you know, what would lauren be doing right now? and it's constant. she never leaves you. >> if you could say something to her, what would it be?
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>> i would tell her how much i miss her and that i love her. and that she's the reason why i am who i am today. i'd tell her thank you. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> this is "dateline." >> any time a child goes missing it's a scary thing. you know there's evil out there. >> first michellea. >> it was terrifying. >> then jenny. >> blood hounds came. >> this was a little awe girl riding her bicycle in the park. >> two little girls taken. >> blonde, blue eyed, riding a bike. >> someone targeting a kid. >>


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