|Georgia Bureau of Investigation|
A website is still in operation, in devotion to slain law student Tara Louise Baker. TaraBaker.Com has an updated message on its frontpage that was last edited around January 19, 2012. It indicated that a death certificate had finally been issued in the woman's name a year prior to this date, which happens to also be the anniversary of her murder. Using this website as a launching point, I am trying to gather as many bits and pieces on this case as I can find in order to analyze and figure out just why this remains unsolved. Why hasn't the person responsible for this been brought to much-needed justice?
Tara Baker was discovered dead just a day before her 24th birthday, and up until 10 years after her murder her family didn't even have a death certificate. The certificate was released along with a cause of death listed as "multiple injuries associated with homicidal violence." Officials on the case have decided to keep the specifics to themselves regarding how the young woman died. It's something only the person responsible would be aware of, which is a pretty standard investigative tactic. However, it's been over a decade so perhaps it is time for that to be released so profilers, analysts and other investigative individuals can do cross comparisons with other similar incidents so as to figure out if this situation is something more than what it's been made to be.
On the other hand, it's reported that the young woman had been sexually assaulted, strangled, beaten and then stabbed. But to the extent and of what intricacy is anybody's guess unless you're deeply involved in this investigation -- or you did it. It's written in some places that miss Baker may not have been dead until after the fire was intentionally started in the home. Police reports use the words "incapacitated prior to ignition," instead of the alternative choices of wording.
Some more details would be helpful.
In addition to the discovery of her body, it was revealed that a laptop computer was missing from her home. It's highly doubtful that this laptop will ever see the light of day again since it still hasn't been found. It could have held some very vital evidence. The intentional fire also destroyed plenty of forensic evidence.
Was Tara Louise Baker the victim of a serial killer?
That's a prominent question that's been asked since the early days of the case. Investigators with the GBI had even investigated the possibility of a connection with a serial killer out of Louisiana. However, he was ruled out as far as any possible connection was concerned.
That doesn't mean this couldn't be a potential serial killer case. With there being over a decade since this murder, it's quite easy to imagine that the perp has killed again. Most people who kill once and get away with it, kill again. That's especially so in cases depicting such brutality as displayed by the homicide of Tara Baker.
Fast forward 11 years
Lauren Giddings was a recent Mercer University Law graduate who was soon turning 27-years old. She went missing for a short span of just a couple of days before her dismembered torso was discovered in a garbage bin outside of her apartment. It was apparent that the killer had returned to the scene of the crime to return this vital evidence -- perhaps to put an end to the search for the then "missing" woman. It was immediately accepted that whomever did this to Lauren Giddings was someone who knew her, had access to her home and had gained her trust. All eyes fell and have remained on Stephen McDaniel, her neighbor and former classmate. Stephen McDaniel is a creepy guy. The 25-year old has openly discussed "getting away with murder" before and has radical right-wing/conservative views. He described himself as a close friend of hers, but she had reportedly talked about him as her creeper neighbor. She was simply friendly with him, as was her nature to be friendly.
Now, this case may have absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Tara Louise Baker. Stephen McDaniel would have been 14 or 15 years old at the time of this high profile cold case. There are also no known ties between McDaniel and the city of Athens. The murder of Lauren Giddings was simply an unrelated, albeit similarly fashioned, homicide. Unless of course, Stephen McDaniel isn't guilty of the crime for which he is being charged and tried in court. He has maintained his innocence from day one, although the evidence against him is probably enough to seek the death penalty against him. Not to mention they found several counts of child pornography and child exploitation against him. Stephen McDaniel just doesn't seem like a very good guy.
But what if, just what if Stephen McDaniel isn't the one who murdered Lauren Giddings? The prosecution will have to prove it and perhaps there will be more evidence revealed in the future.
As for the homicide of Tara Louise Baker, it's unknown if her family will ever have closure. One thing is for certain and that's someone out there knows a lot more. Someone out there is guilty of this horrendous and brutal murder and they're walking the same streets as you and I. Perhaps he'll slip up someday and get caught. Hopefully he doesn't claim too many more victims in the process.
I believe the suspect has killed before and has possibly killed since the death of Tara Baker. The intricacy used in covering up his tracks was not an amateur job.