DOVER, N.H. (CBS/AP) — Rebuffed twice by a 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student, a man quickly incapacitated her with a rope and raped her while calling her names, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend said Wednesday in emotional testimony that forced a pause in his trial.
Kathryn McDonough spent her second day on the stand Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of Seth Mazzaglia, who is charged with killing Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott of Westborough, Massachusetts at his Dover apartment on Oct. 9, 2012.
McDonough had lured Marriott, her co-worker, to the apartment with the promise of watching a movie or playing a video game. In reality, McDonough testified, she was offering Marriott as a sex partner for Mazzaglia, who was angry that McDonough had left him alone for 12 days.
Mazzaglia’s lawyers have said that McDonough killed Marriott during rough sex.
McDonough gave this account:
Mazzaglia sent her a text message at 10:26 p.m. asking, “We painting tonight?” — a coded reference to having sex with Marriott.
She replied: “Your decision, I guess. If you have a plan. Nervous.”
“I didn’t really know what he wanted to do,” McDonough testified.
After a game of strip poker, Mazzaglia suggested to Marriott that she kiss McDonough. When Marriott said no, saying she was in a committed relationship, he said he wanted Marriott to watch McDonough and Mazzaglia have sex. Marriott again refused.
McDonough, who previously told the jury about the couple’s sadomasochistic relationship, testified that Mazzaglia was unaccustomed to hearing “no.”
“That’s when he moved up behind her and he pulled the rope up over her head and he strangled her,” she said. “She let out a quick noise and she sort of stopped. Her arms curled up against her chest and her eyes were closed.”
Mazzaglia was wearing gloves and had a soft, white cotton rope the couple used in bondage sex. After Mazzaglia strangled Marriott, McDonough went into the bathroom.
When she returned to the main part of the studio apartment, she saw Mazzaglia raping Marriott and calling her names — her motionless body prone on the floor. Then Mazzaglia went into the bathroom and told McDonough to hold the rope around Marriott’s neck. McDonough said she laid the rope loosely over Marriott’s neck.
“Her mouth opened a tiny bit,” McDonough testified. “I only noticed because I was so close to her.”
She testified, voice quavering, that she checked for a pulse and found none. Neither she nor Mazzaglia called police or an ambulance.
Marriott’s father, Bob Marriott, sat in the front row, his shoulders heaving with silent sobs as McDonough testified in a monotone about his daughter’s last minutes.
Moments later, when a prosecutor projected a timeline of events on a screen, McDonough started sobbing uncontrollably. The judge called a break and she was escorted from the courtroom, still sobbing and trembling.
When court resumed, McDonough described the couple’s efforts to get rid of the body.
They folded Marriott’s body into a suitcase and took her to an island where she knew the currents were strong, she said. They tossed the body over a railing, but the body fell on rocks short of the water, McDonough said. She said she climbed down the rocks and dragged her body into the water, where she covered it with seaweed.
“Because of us she never got to live her life,” McDonough said. “It’s not something we can fix. She can never come back.”
McDonough testified she and Mazzaglia, 31, continued to discuss marriage after his arrest. A prosecutor asked her how she could consider marrying a man she witnessed rape and murder Marriott. She said it was easier than confronting the truth.
“I love him and I thought he was protecting me,” she said.
McDonough, 20, is serving a 1 1/2- to three-year sentence for conspiracy, hindering prosecution and witness tampering. The balance of her sentence of 10 to 18 years was suspended, contingent on her truthful testimony.
Mazzaglia’s defense lawyer has told jurors that McDonough concocted her story to get out of a long prison sentence. The defense has yet to cross-examine her but may get its chance on Thursday when she returns to the stand.
Despite her role in the murder and cover-up, McDonough will likely spend less than three years behind bars. That’s the result of a plea deal her lawyers struck in exchange for her testimony. WBZ legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Harry Manion says that prison term was probably several months in the making.
“As she becomes more and more important to the prosecutors’ case,” Manion explains, “the deal gets sweeter and sweeter.”
Manion says prosecutors need McDonough’s testimony to get a guilty verdict against Mazzaglia, and they are willing to go relatively easy on her to make sure that happens.
“It’s unsettling to the public and to people who are not accustomed to the rough and tumble of plea bargains and how the justice system actually works,” Manion says.
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