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Lizzi Marriott's mother testifies in Mazzaglia murder trial: 'We all loved her'

Union Leader Correspondent

June 19. 2014 1:01PM
Melissa Marriott talks about her daughter Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott during testimony in Seth Mazzaglia's first-degree murder trial in Strafford County Superior Court Thursday in Dover. (Pool Photo by Jim Cole/Associated Press)

DOVER – The mother of murdered UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott briefly took the stand Thursday in the trial of accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia, and said her daughter appeared happy and at ease when visiting family two days before her death in October 2012.

“I last saw Lizzi on Oct. 7,” Melissa Marriott said. “We had watched ‘Horrible Bosses.’ She had come home to visit. She was happy.”

Melissa Marriott said Lizzi, a 19-year-old from Westborough, Mass., had minor disagreements with family members that were normal for a teenager, but was a warm, cheerful person who communicated regularly and showed no signs of significant problems or anything unusual in the days before she went missing.

“We all loved her,” Marriott said. “She got along very well with everybody.”

Melissa Marriott’s questioning by Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley was brief. Mazzaglia’s public defenders gave no cross examination.

Marriott said Lizzi had no major medical issues and no history of seizures at the time she disappeared.

She said she and her husband, Bob Marriott, called police at UNH and in Chester, and drove north to Chester, on Oct. 11, 2012.

Mazzaglia, 31, is facing first- and second-degree murder charges in the alleged murder of Lizzi on Oct. 9, 2012, in the Dover apartment Mazzaglia shared with his former live-in girlfriend, Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, 20.

Melissa Marriott said Lizzi was fingerprinted as a child, as a precautionary measure taken through a foundation for missing children, but Lizzi didn’t submit a DNA sample at that time.

Melissa Marriott confirmed to Hinckley that she had provided a DNA sample to assist with the investigation into Lizzi’s death.

Members of the Marriott family have sat in the front two rows of the courtroom gallery throughout Mazzaglia’s trial, which began with opening statements May 28 in Strafford County Superior Court.

Melissa and Bob Marriott have attended every day, and shown little outward emotion during sometimes grisly or graphic testimony related to events and allegations surrounding Lizzi’s death.

Thursday morning, Hinckley asked Melissa Marriott whether she or any members of her family had had any contact with Lizzi since Oct. 9, 2012.

Marriott held back tears as she answered that no, they had not.

After Judge Steven Houran softly permitted her to step down from the stand, Marriott returned to her seat in the front row, where Bob Marriott put his arm around her shoulders and held her close. Both parents then stepped out of the courtroom.

Prosecutors allege that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott to death with a white cotton rope after she rebuffed his sexual advances following a game of strip poker.

Defense attorneys have accused McDonough of killing Marriott that night during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.

Earlier Thursday, Rochester resident Paul Hickok continued and completed his testimony, which began Wednesday afternoon. Defense attorney Joachim Barth questioned Hickok about what he saw on the night of Oct. 9, when Hickok and his girlfriend, Roberta Gerkin, went to Mazzaglia’s apartment after McDonough called Gerkin and said she and Mazzaglia needed help.

McDonough is the state’s key witness in Mazzaglia’s trial and spent nearly 10 full days on the stand before stepping down Monday. She testified that the reason she didn’t act while Mazzaglia strangled Marriott – McDonough said she numbly looked out a window in their apartment – is because she feared for her own life.

Barth asked Hickok on Thursday about McDonough’s demeanor when she met him and Gerkin outside of the Sawyer Mill apartment building that night.

“When Kat comes outside, she does not urge you to make a phone call to the police,” Barth said, adding that McDonough also didn’t express a desire to flee the area or even talk about the situation.

Hickok agreed to all those statements.

“She makes no effort to communicate to you any sense of danger to herself … (or) any sense that she wanted to leave?” Barth continued.

“I didn’t get any, no,” Hickok said.

“She did not appear to be afraid of him in any sense,” Barth said, noting that Mazzaglia was outside the building at that point, as well, and talked with McDonough.

Hickok said that after he and Gerkin had entered the apartment and seen a nearly naked body on the floor, with plastic bags that Hickok said were tied tightly around the head, he repeatedly urged Mazzaglia to call police or for an ambulance.

Hickok said that after Mazzaglia indicated he might make such a call, McDonough – whom he said had been curled up in the kitchen area, crying – joined the conversation.

Barth, citing transcripts of Hickok’s statements to police shortly after Marriott went missing, asked Hickok if McDonough said something at that point about Marriott having mentioned “long walks at UNH to her car.”

“That’s correct,” Hickok said.

“It was at that point…that you thought, at least in hindsight, that maybe that was a conversation about removing the body from the scene,” Barth said.

“Possibly,” Hickok replied, acknowledging that the notion later “went through (his) mind.”

State Police Sgt. Sara Hennessey testified Wednesday that she had interviewed McDonough in a Newington police station on Oct. 12, 2012.

Hennessey said McDonough initially told her and another officer that Marriott had mentioned long walks from a UNH lab to her car, in dark or dimly lit areas.

 McDonough has testified that after Mazzaglia strangled Marriott, he raped her limp body. McDonough has said she then helped Mazzaglia pack Marriott’s body into a suitcase and drive Marriott’s car to Peirce Island in Portsmouth, where she said they pushed Marriott’s body into waters known for their strong currents.

Marriott’s body has never been found.

Thursday morning also saw testimony by Dr. Jennie Duval, deputy chief medical examiner in the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Duval said she has seen about 20 cases of homicidal ligature strangulation in her more than 13-year career in New Hampshire and a couple of years in Texas. Ligature strangulation involves a tying or binding material, as opposed to manual strangulation by the hands.

McDonough, Gerkin and Hickok have testified that Marriott’s face was purple or red, and swollen, as her body lay on the floor.

Duval said both kinds of strangulation lead to such conditions by blocking veins and arteries in the neck.

“Swelling would go along with that,” she said. “If blood cannot drain, then you’re going to get swelling, as well as discoloration.”

Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward asked Duval if “you expect to see facial congestion in smothering.”

“I would not, because there’s no obstruction of blood flow,” Duval said.

Duval said she also would not expect to see any marks on the neck from smothering.

 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.

The trial continues Thursday afternoon.

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