Defense in Mazzaglia trial paints witness as 'manipulative'
DOVER — One question that defense attorney Joachim Barth asked Kathryn “Kat” McDonough on Friday seemed to strike at the heart of his cross examination of her.
“Were you being manipulative?” Barth asked McDonough, former live-in girlfriend of accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia, who is on trial in Strafford County Superior Court.
McDonough replied, “Not to my knowledge, no.”
Mazzaglia, 31, faces first- and second-degree murder charges in the Oct. 9, 2012, death of Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, a 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student from Westborough, Mass. According to testimony, she died after a game of strip poker in the Sawyer Mills studio apartment that Mazzaglia and McDonough shared.
The questioning of McDonough by Barth appeared to be trying to undermine her credibility and put her at the forefront of the Marriott’s murder.
In her fourth day on the stand, McDonough, 20, testified at length about the dynamics of love, control and submission during her time with Mazzaglia. She also spoke about “years and years of being verbally and emotionally abused” by her father when she was a child, while acknowledging times when she exaggerated claims of physical abuse in conversations with Mazzaglia and others.
Barth cited one conversation in which he said McDonough told Mazzaglia, early in their relationship, that “I’d wake up with marks on me, I’d wake up in pain” from paternal abuse.
“I was trying to make it more believable,” McDonough acknowledged Friday. “I lied a lot throughout that entire conversation.”
“You told (Mazzaglia) that your father literally hurt you in front of your mother,” Barth said shortly after.
“I may have said that to him, but I do not recall whether that did or did not happen in my life,” McDonough replied.
Earlier Friday, McDonough testified about how her love for Mazzaglia remained strong in the months following Marriott’s death, but those feelings gradually changed to anger as she reflected on their relationship.
“I was in love with him for a very long time,” McDonough said. “Even when he was in Strafford (County) jail, I would talk to him every day. I wanted to talk with him. I felt my world would not be complete without him.”
She said that over time, though, she became “more and more angry about how (she) had been treated.”
“My disposition toward him slowly started to change,” she said.
“I had a lot of time to think when I was out on bail,” McDonough continued. “I had learned a lot about what an abusive relationship looked like, what Stockholm syndrome looked like… what an unhealthy relationship looked like.”
McDonough is serving a 1½- to three-year prison term after pleading guilty to charges including witness tampering and hindering the investigation. She has testified that she helped cover up the murder and rape of Marriott.
Her body was dumped off Peirce Island in Portsmouth the night of her murder and has not been found.
Barth’s questioning Friday also focused on the psychological aspects of McDonough’s relationship with Mazzaglia. McDonough testified extensively this week about how both of them had a history of adopting multiple personas and how they often engaged in violent sex involving bondage, restraints and choking.
McDonough said Friday that Mazzaglia “became obsessed” during their time together with forming a “dark cult” and spoke about dominating the human race.
“He wanted to take over the world,” McDonough said. “He needed an army of people who would do anything he asked them to do… . He wanted to do something big.”
McDonough refuted the notion that she was schizophrenic as a child and while living with Mazzaglia, saying: “I didn’t have split personalities, I had characters I had come up with.”
“I’m one person. One mind,” she said.
McDonough said Friday that her goal in testifying also was singular.
“The thing I wanted to come in here and tell the truth about, so everyone would know, was the murder of Lizzi,” she said.
McDonough testified Wednesday that she was sitting next to Marriott when Mazzaglia began strangling Marriott from behind with a white cotton rope. McDonough said Marriott had refused to participate in any sexual contact with her or Mazzaglia, and had said it wouldn’t be OK for the couple to have sex in front of her.
McDonough also testified Wednesday that after Mazzaglia choked Marriott while wearing black leather gloves, he raped her limp body for several minutes while fondling and insulting her.
In the trial’s opening statements last week, Barth told jurors it was McDonough, not Mazzaglia, who killed Marriott that night, during violent sexual activity.
McDonough’s lawyer, Hampton attorney Andrew Cotrupi, appeared upbeat after Friday’s proceedings concluded.
“I’m confident the jury will know the truth,” he said.
Judge Steven Houran reiterated his instructions late Friday to the non-sequestered jury group of nine women and seven men, reminding them to avoid all media and outside information about the trial over the weekend.
Television crews, cable wires and cameras have been common at the courthouse all week, as the trial has generated headlines across New Hampshire and drawn national attention from news programs including “Dateline,” “Inside Edition” and “48 Hours.”
Barth’s cross examination of McDonough likely will continue when proceedings resume at 9 a.m. Monday. The trial appears likely to extend through and beyond next week.
The prosecution has submitted a list of more than 40 potential witnesses to the court. Rochester resident Roberta Gerkin, former Mazzaglia cellmate Ryan Bachman and McDonough took the stand this week. The defense has yet to begin its case and has seven potential witnesses on its list, including Portsmouth resident Heather Mazzaglia, Seth Mazzaglia’s mother.