Slaying suspect says burglary went wrong

Slaying suspect says burglary went wrong

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — An unemployed tree-cutter who broke into a home to commit ‘‘a random burglary’’ admitted Thursday that he killed three people who surprised him and confronted him, then stuffed their remains in a hollow tree. He also pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping a 13-year-old girl who was with them.

Matthew Hoffman, 30, entered the plea to aggravated murder, burglary, kidnapping, rape and other charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the deaths of Tina Herrmann, whose home he broke into; her 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard; and neighbor Stephanie Sprang. They were stabbed, dismembered and put into garbage bags and then into the tree, prosecutors said.

John Edwards not named in Elizabeth’s will

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — The will Elizabeth Edwards signed days before her death last month made no mention of her estranged husband and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards.

The document Elizabeth Edwards signed Dec. 1, six days before her death, also named her eldest child, lawyer Cate Edwards, as the executor of her estate.

In the will, filed in Orange County Superior Court in North Carolina, Edwards left personal effects, furniture, automobiles and other property to be divided among her children — Cate, 12-year-old Emma Claire and 10-year-old Jack.

Four Loko, other drinks turned into ethanol

RICHMOND, Va. — Truckloads of Four Loko and other alcohol-laced energy drinks are being recycled into ethanol and other products after federal authorities told manufacturers the beverages were dangerous and caused users to become ‘‘wide-awake drunk.’’

Wholesalers from Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and other East Coast states started sending cases of the high-alcohol, caffeinated malt beverages to MXI Environmental Services in Virginia after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a crackdown on the sale of such beverages in November.

Brian Potter, vice president of operations at MXI’s facility in Abingdon, Va., said about a couple hundred truckloads of the drinks would be coming to the plant. Each truck holds 2,000 cases of the 23.5-ounce cans.

Two packages ignite in Md. building; 2 hurt

HANOVER, Md. — Two packages ignited when they were opened Thursday at state government buildings 20 miles apart, slightly burning the fingers of two employees but not seriously injuring anyone, police said.

Authorities were investigating a third suspicious package at a state office building in Baltimore and a fourth at the courthouse, but it was not clear if they were related to the other two.

One of the two packages that ignited was addressed to Gov. Martin O’Malley and the other to the state transportation department. The State Fire Marshal’s office did not find any explosive material in either.

Pentagon sees budget cut by $78 billion

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday he will cut $78 billion from the Pentagon’s budget in the next five years — money that will come from shrinking the military’s ground force, increasing health care premiums for troops and other politically unpopular cost-saving measures.

The plan also identifies a separate $100 billion in savings, including the cancellation of a $14 billion amphibious Marine vehicle.

Obama names Daley as new chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama named veteran political manager William Daley to be his new chief of staff Thursday, selecting a centrist with Wall Street ties to help navigate a newly divided Congress and a looming re-election.

‘‘Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job,’’ Obama said.

“But most of all, I know Bill to be somebody who cares deeply about this country, believes in its promise, and considers no calling higher and more important than serving the American people.”