DOVER – The jury began deliberations Thursday morning in the first-degree murder trial of Seth Mazzaglia, casting a sudden silence over a courtroom that saw 19 days of testimony and 33 witnesses during the past month.
Judge Steven Houran randomly selected two men and two women as alternates from the group of 16 that attended the entire trial, creating a final of jury of seven women and five men.
Closing arguments totaled well more than four hours Wednesday in Strafford County Superior Court.
State prosecutors called Mazzaglia a “cold-blooded killer” who strangled UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott to death in October 2012, while Mazzaglia’s public defenders portrayed his former live-in girlfriend, Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, as a scheming “manipulator” who crafted an elaborate fiction to avoid punishment for her own alleged role.
Mazzaglia, 31, faces first- and second-degree murder charges in the Oct. 9, 2012, death of Marriott, a 19-year-old from Westborough, Mass.
Prosecutors allege Mazzaglia strangled Marriott to death with a white cotton rope after a game of strip poker that preceded his unsuccessful sexual advances.
Defense attorneys have accused McDonough, 20, of killing Marriott that night during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.
Mazzaglia faces two first-degree murder charges and one second-degree murder charge. He also is charged with 13 counts of conspiracy to commit tampering with witnesses and informants, and 10 counts of conspiracy to commit falsifying physical evidence.
Judge Steven Houran reviewed those charges and the standards surrounding them to the jury Thursday morning before deliberations began.
He noted that Mazzaglia, who didn’t testify in his own defense, had “an absolute right” not to take the stand.
“The fact that the defendant did not testify must not be considered by you in any way,” Houran told the jury.
Houran said the jury must take each charge separately, and reach a unanimous decision of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to issue a guilty verdict on a given charge. He said if the jury reaches a guilty verdict on “either or both” of the first-degre charges, the second-degree charge won’t be considered.
“You may not find the defendant guilty both of first-degree and second-degree murder,” he said.
Houran said for the tampering with witnesses and falsifying evidence charges, reaching a guilty verdict on any one of the counts in each charge would be enough for a guilty verdict for that charge.
McDonough was the state’s key witness and gave nearly 10 full days of testimony in the trial, which began with opening statements May 28.
She testified that after Mazzaglia strangled Lizzi Marriott, she helped Mazzaglia pack Marriott’s body into a suitcase and drive Marriott’s car to Peirce Island in Portsmouth, where McDonough said they pushed Marriott’s body into waters known for their strong currents.
McDonough is serving a 1½- to three-year prison term after pleading guilty last July to charges that included witness tampering and hindering the investigation, as part of a plea agreement. She has testified that she helped cover up the murder and rape of Marriott, whose body has never been found.