Neighbor pleads guilty to killing, dismembering Mercer law student

The Lilburn man accused of killing and dismembering an Agnes Scott College and Mercer law school graduate nearly three years ago was sentenced to life in prison this morning after pleading guilty to malice murder.

The Macon Telegraph reported today that Stephen Mark McDaniel admitted in a statement filed in court that in the late hours of June 25 or early hours of June 26, 2011, he broke into Lauren Giddings' Macon apartment and fatally choked her as she slept.

Giddings, who had just graduated from Mercer University's law school, was last seen after a night out with friends. Her torso was discovered several days later in a trash can outside the apartments where she and McDaniel were neighbors. Investigators then methodically built a case against McDaniel. Their evidence included a bloodied hacksaw, Giddings' panties and an Internet post that brags of sex and dismemberment. Her head, arms and legs have never been found.

McDaniel admitted in the statement that he put her other remains in a dumpster at Mercer University's law school.

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for McDaniel, but in February removed capital punishment from the case.

Judge Howard Simms last month had agreed to move McDaniel's trial 60 miles north to Henry County due to pretrial publicity.

Before starting law school, Giddings, a Maryland native, worked just over a year as a project assistant in the discovery center for King and Spalding's Atlanta office.