The Dateline episode “The Watcher” investigates the June 2011 murder of Lauren Giddings. The 27-year-old had just graduated from law school at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia and was studying for the bar exam. On campus, the gorgeous blonde who liked to wear pink was often compared to the fictional character Elle Woods in the film Legally Blonde. But on the night of June 26, while asleep in her apartment, classmate and next-door neighbor Stephen McDaniel broke in, strangled her to death and then dismembered her. He then threw her body parts in a nearby dumpster. McDaniel confessed to the gruesome crime and was sentenced to life in prison.
McDaniel did not provide an explanation for the murder. (Giddings was not sexually assaulted.) In his confession, McDaniel wrote: “I know that it was very wrong; I am not delusional or without all morals or decency.” According to one his lawyers, Floyd Buford, McDaniel spent several hours a day working on his own defense while in jail. Buford said, “If this hadn’t happened, I think he would have been a fine lawyer.” Dateline airs Fridays at 10pm on NBC.