June 27. 2014 7:56PM

UPDATED: Mazzaglia guilty of first-degree murder, other charges; Marriott family speaks out

Union Leader Correspondent

Defendent Seth Mazzaglia leaves Strafford County Superior Court in Dover Friday after he was found guilty in the Oct. 9, 2012 strangulation murder murder of 19-year-old Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott, a student at the University of New Hampshire. (Pool Photo by Rich Beauchesne/Portsmouth Herald)

A tearful Bob Marriott, father of Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott, makes a brief statement on behalf of the Marriott family after Seth Mazzaglia is found guilty of two counts of murder in his daughter's death, UNH sophomore Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott on Oct. 9, 2012. (Pool Photo by Rich Beauchesne/Portsmouth Herald)

DOVER — A jury on Friday convicted Seth Mazzaglia of murdering University of New Hampshire sophomore Elizabeth ‘Lizzi’ Marriott at his apartment after trying to force her into a sexual encounter with him and his girlfriend.

Mazzaglia, 31, of Dover, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and charges of conspiracy of falsifying physical evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with witnesses.

Jurors reached their verdict in Strafford County Superior Court shortly before 12:30 p.m. just minutes after they posed a question to Judge Steven Houran related to conspiracy charges in the case.

Mazzaglia faces an automatic sentence of life without parole on the first-degree murder conviction.

Sentencing will come later, but the reaction about the jury’s verdict was immediate from members of Marriott’s family.

Bob Marriott, Elizabeth Marriott’s father, said he was thankful that the jury returned the first-degree murder conviction.

“It will keep the convict in prison for the rest of his life,” Marriott said to a room full of reporters moments after the verdict. “Keeping him off the streets protects other young women who might be additional victims, which is what we hoped for.”

Lizzi Marriott died on Oct. 9, 2012, after being invited to hang out with her friend, Kathryn McDonough, who was Mazzaglia’s live-in girlfriend. According to McDonough's testimony, Marriott played a game of strip poker with the couple but rebuffed sexual advances by Mazzaglia before she was strangled to death by him.

Friday’s conviction marked a significant victory for state prosecutors, who amassed a case against Mazzaglia without Marriott’s body, which typically would provide critical physical evidence for a jury to consider.

“We all wanted to bring Lizzi home, but we were unable to do so,” Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward said.

Before the verdict was read in court, Mazzaglia remained stone faced as he was led from the rear of the court gallery under sheriff’s guard to the defense table. He was brought over from the county jail — across the street — after the jury weighed his fate for one and a half days. The seven women and five men had three questions over the course of their deliberations.

Mazzaglia stood beside his public defenders and offered no reaction when the jury read off its first conviction for first-degree murder.

A deputy handcuffed Mazzaglia in front of the jury and held onto the cuffs while jurors filed out of the courtroom.

The jury spent 19 days listening to witness testimony about Mazzaglia’s belief that he had various personas — with names like Doomsday and Dark Kaiser — and a sex life that included bondage and asphyxiation.

McDonough, who was the state’s key witness, admitted during her testimony that she helped submerged Marriott’s body in the Piscataqua River from the shores of Peirce Island in Portsmouth.

McDonough is serving a 1½ to 3 years in state prison after pleading guilty to charges that she lied during the investigation and thwarted a probe into Marriott’s disappearance.

Mazzaglia's lawyers maintained during the trial that McDonough was the one actually responsible for the killing and changed her story repeatedly during the investigation.

The verdict summarily rejected the defense’s claim that Marriott was a willing participant in Mazzaglia’s sexual escapade. McDonough testified that Mazzaglia ordered her to lure another woman to their apartment for sex. It was McDonough’s punishment for being away from Mazzaglia for roughly 12 days while she worked as a counselor at a theater camp.

“Unfortunately, the trial cannot console us with loss of Lizzi,” Bob Marriott said. “We will always miss her and wonder what could have been. In fact, the trial has been torturous. The truth of what happened to Lizzi is horrendous and every time it is told, it has reinforced our despair.”

Marriott also questioned the moral and ethical choices by Mazzaglia’s defense team for casting his daughter as a willing participant in the sexual encounter.

“If you are dead, you cannot correct a mischaracterization,” Marriott said.

Ward thanked a cross-section of local and state law enforcement agencies that participated in the vast search for Marriott’s body and the investigation that led eventually led to Mazzaglia’s arrest.

He refused to take further questions, saying the state is still pursuing one more case against Mazzaglia.

Mazzaglia is expected to face trial on a criminal solicitation charge for allegedly trying to get another inmate at the Strafford County jail in December 2012 to participate in a violent, armed escape prior to the murder trial.