State rests in Mazzaglia murder trial
DOVER — State prosecutors in the trial of accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia rested their case Thursday afternoon, causing Judge Steven Houran to order a long weekend for the highly emotional trial that saw 17 days of testimony from 30 state witnesses.
At the conclusion of the state’s case, Mazzaglia’s public defenders promptly moved for dismissal of all three of Mazzaglia’s murder indictments, which include two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.
“All three motions to dismiss are denied,” Houran said after a brief deliberation in his chambers at Strafford County Superior Court. “The state has presented evidence in the light most favorable to them on all three charges.”
Public defender Melissa Davis said evidence for the first indictment, which states that Mazzaglia, 31, purposefully murdered University of New Hampshire student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott on Oct. 9, 2012, by strangling her with a rope, could not be supported because Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, Mazzaglia’s former live-in girlfriend, is not a credible witness.
McDonough, 20, was the state’s key witness. She was on the stand for nearly 10 days of testimony in the trial, which began May 28.
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 in the Dover apartment that Mazzaglia and McDonough shared.
Defense attorneys have accused McDonough of killing Marriott that night during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.
Davis said Mazzaglia’s second indictment on first-degree murder, which is based on “felonious sexual assault … causing serious physical injury through the serious application of force or physical violence,” also could not be sustained because the alleged sexual assault by Mazzaglia, according to state testimony, occurred after his alleged murder of Marriott.
Davis cited Thursday’s testimony by Dr. Jennie Duval, the state’s deputy chief medical examiner.
Duval spoke about homicidal strangulation cases and the fatal effects of blocked circulation or collapsed arteries and veins in the neck.
McDonough has testified that after Mazzaglia strangled Marriott, he raped her limp body.
Davis said Mazzaglia’s indictment on one count of second-degree murder alleges that he “recklessly” caused Marriott’s death by strangling her during felonious sexual assault, and also should be dismissed.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley said in response to the defense’s motions simply that, “the state relies on the evidence presented in the case.”
Houran acknowledged that the allegations in the second-degree murder charge are “inconsistent with state’s opening statement,” which alleged that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott purposefully, not recklessly, and not while involved in sexual activity. But Houran said that issue wasn’t relevant to a dismissal.
Houran said there was “sufficient evidence” for all three indictments, “taking the totality of evidence” presented by the state.
The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Lizzi Marriott’s mother testified for the state before prosecutors rested their case.
Melissa Marriott said her daughter appeared happy and at ease when visiting family two days before her death.
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.
Members of the Marriott family have sat in the front two rows of the courtroom gallery throughout Mazzaglia’s trial.
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.
McDonough has 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.