DOVER, N.H. (AP) – The murder trial of a man charged with raping and strangling a college student is shaping up to be a case of “he said, she said” between two former lovers.
Lawyers for Seth Mazzaglia of Dover will try to convince jurors that 19-year-old University of New Hampshire sophomore Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, of Westborough, Massachusetts, died during consensual rough sex. They acknowledge Mazzaglia initially confessed to killing the teen but say he was simply trying to protect his girlfriend at the time.
But prosecutors say the former girlfriend, Kathryn McDonough, will testify that Mazzaglia raped and killed Marriott on Oct. 9, 2012, after she lured Marriott to their Dover apartment. She reached a plea deal with prosecutors and is serving prison time.
Testimony is slated to begin Wednesday.
During jury selection, prosecutors said Marriott willingly entered into a game of strip poker with Mazzaglia and removed most of her clothing the night she died.
“Can you promise to give Elizabeth Marriott a fair trial and not prejudge her based on decisions she made?” Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley asked potential jurors.
Prosecutors say Mazzaglia, 31, and McDonough, 20, dumped Marriott’s body off Portsmouth’s Peirce Island and into a river that feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. Her body has not been recovered.
It was clear from juror questioning that both sides will plumb the sexual relationship between McDonough and Mazzaglia, including their obsession with bondage, discipline and sadomasochism and their practice of inviting others to join them.
Defense attorneys Joachim Barth and Melissa Davis questioned potential jurors about whether the dominant partner in sex acts that involved pain would necessarily be a dominant and violent person in other aspects of the relationship. They also asked whether they would consider the passive partner to be “abused.”
The defense lawyers also played up the theme that Mazzaglia initially took responsibility for Marriott’s death to protect McDonough.
“Can you think of why an innocent person would lie to police about a crime?” Barth asked. “What about love?”
They also prepared jurors for the likelihood that Mazzaglia would not testify.
McDonough — who lured her new friend and department store co-worker to the apartment — will be the key witness. Barth and Davis made it clear they will use the cooperation agreement to attack her credibility and cast her as a woman motivated by self-interest.
Prosecutors acknowledged during jury selection that McDonough — who is serving a 1 1/2- to 3-year sentence for hindering prosecution — gave police varying accounts of what happened to Marriott.
Jurors will spend Tuesday touring the Dover apartment where Marriott died, Peirce Island and two trash containers where prosecutors say the pair dumped evidence — including Marriott’s clothing and the rope allegedly used to strangle her.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
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