By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A 28-year-old law school graduate in Georgia pleaded guilty on Monday to killing and dismembering a fellow graduate and disposing of her remains in a trash dumpster outside an apartment building where they both lived.
Prosecutors said Stephen Mark McDaniel faces life in prison for killing 27-year-old Lauren Giddings in Macon in central Georgia in June 2011, the same year that both graduated from the Mercer University School of Law in the city.
In a statement in Macon-Bibb County court on Monday, a week before his trial was to begin, McDaniel said he entered Giddings' apartment in the early morning hours wearing a mask.
He choked her to death after she woke up and returned later and dismembered Giddings' body with a hacksaw, McDaniel said.
"It is difficult for me to explain why I killed Lauren," McDaniel said in his statement. "It lies in my own inability to understand it myself."
McDaniel was initially charged with breaking into two apartments in the building using a master key he somehow obtained, according to police. McDaniel and Giddings lived in neighboring apartments across the street from the law school.
At the request of Giddings' family, prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, Macon-Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke, Jr. said. Giddings had hoped to work as a defender in death penalty cases, Cooke said.
As a law student, McDaniel worked briefly for the county prosecutor's office, according to Cooke. McDaniel will not be considered for parole until 2041, Cooke said.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Grant McCool)