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A tragic ending to the search for UNH student Lizzi Marriott

By Gretyl Macalaster and Jason Schreiber
Sunday News Correspondents

October 14. 2012 12:21AM
Assistant Attorney General James Vara announces the arrest of Seth Mazzaglia, 29, of Dover in the murder of 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott during a news conference at Dover Police headquarters on Saturday afternoon. (Gretyl Macalaster photo)

DOVER - A University of New Hampshire alum with a passion for theater and karate is accused of killing UNH sophomore Elizabeth 'Lizzi' Marriott, but the teenager's body still had not been found by Saturday night.

A frantic search that began after the 19-year-old marine biology student disappeared Tuesday night turned into a criminal investigation by Saturday, when authorities announced the arrest of Seth Mazzaglia, 29, who listed his address on his personal website as 1 Mill St., Apt. 341, Dover.

Mazzaglia, described by those who knew him as a man with an 'odd' and 'quirky' side, was charged with second-degree murder. He is a 2006 UNH graduate who knew Marriott, authorities said.

Assistant Attorney General James Vara would not confirm how the two were acquainted, but it's believed that Mazzaglia is connected to a female friend of Marriott's who lives at a Mill Street apartment in Dover. It's the same friend who family members said Marriott planned to visit after her class at UNH Tuesday night, but never showed up.

Marriott's 2001 tan-colored Mazda Tribute was discovered in a UNH parking lot, Vara said at a news conference at the Dover Police Department on Saturday afternoon as law enforcement officials continued to search for Marriott's body near Peirce Island in Portsmouth.

Helicopters hovered over the area while the island and Prescott Park remained roped off with yellow police tape throughout the day. Cruisers blocked access to a bridge leading to the island.

Search continues

Vara said authorities would continue to search for Marriott's body with 'any and all' resources available to them.

Police have not provided any information as to how they believe Marriott died or what led them to Mazzaglia.

Marriott vanished sometime after sending a text message to a friend in Massachusetts just before 9 p.m. Tuesday. In that message, she stated that she was going to her friend's apartment in Dover. She mentioned nothing else in that text message, which was the last time anyone heard from her, according to her father, Bob Marriott.

Residents at the Sawyer Mill apartment complex where Mazzaglia lived said police went through two different Dumpsters on the property between Friday night and Saturday and were also knocking on doors looking for any relevant information from residents.

Police had the hallway to Apartment 341 cordoned off on Saturday afternoon, and a police officer sat stationed outside the door as crime scene investigators came in and out of the apartment.

The state Attorney General's Office, state police and the FBI continue to investigate with assistance from police in Chester, Dover and Portsmouth.

Friends, family shaken

News of the murder has shaken Marriott's friends and family, who began losing hope that she would be found alive as the hours ticked by.

Nicole Downey said she felt sick when she heard that one of her oldest friends had been murdered.

Downey and her mother drove up from Westborough, Mass., where she had grown up with Marriott, in the hopes of participating in a search for her.

'I didn't want to believe it. I've been reluctant to let myself believe any of this until now,' Nicole's mother, Dawn Downey, said outside the Dover police station.

Several of Marriott's family, friends and others spent countless hours helping to organize volunteer searches from a command center at the police station in Chester, where Marriott was living with her aunt and uncle while commuting to UNH.

While an arrest has been made, the family is still waiting for news of Marriott's body being found.

'We're so distraught over this. There is no closure, but it's something,' another aunt, Becky Tyning of Beverly, Mass., said of the arrest.

Tyning said she thought of Marriott like a daughter.

'I loved her to pieces,' said Tyning, who recalled Marriott's younger days and her love for Harry Potter books when she a child.

Tyning, who said she wanted to thank the many who helped in the search, added, 'It feels like this is just the beginning. It's the end of one phase and the beginning of a new one.'

A candlelight vigil for Marriott was planned for Saturday night at the Bay State Commons in Westborough, where her parents still live.

A moment of silence in Marriott's honor was also held at the beginning of the UNH men's hockey game on Saturday night.

In a statement issued Saturday, university officials said they were deeply saddened to learn of Marriott's murder.

Marriott was a sophomore in the College of Life Science and Agriculture, studying marine biology. She had just started her first semester after transferring this year from Manchester Community College.

Mazzaglia a UNH grad

Mazzaglia graduated from UNH in 2006 with degrees in theater and dance, but university officials said he does not currently study or work there.

University officials said they were also shocked to learn that a UNH alum had been charged in Marriott's death.

'Our focus now will be on supporting our campus community during this difficult time,' UNH President Mark Huddleston said in the statement.

A human resources associate at the Target store in Greenland, where Marriott had been employed and failed to show up for work on Wednesday, said she could not comment on whether Mazzaglia was also an employee there.

Family members said Marriott was just beginning to meet people in the area as she began working at Target over the summer and was new to the UNH campus.

Meanwhile, Mazzaglia created his own website, where he touted his theater work and spoke of his dreams of working in film.

He said he had most recently performed as Captain Keller in the Garrison Player's production of 'The Miracle Worker.'

Mazzaglia also listed special skills and talents that included juggling, flexibility and martial arts weapon skills.

Portsmouth resident Alden Caple choreographed Prescott Park Art Festival's production of 'The Wizard of Oz'' in 2010 and recalled Mazzaglia's audition for the show.

Caple said Mazzaglia was 'off-putting' and a bit odd, a comment echoed by a former college classmate of Mazzaglia's, who also lives in his apartment building.

Tom Cooney studied at UNH with Mazzaglia and said they worked on several projects together.

Cooney said Mazzaglia 'seemed like a nice enough guy. He was always polite and friendly. He was a little on the quirky side.''

The two said hello to each other in the hallway, but were not close friends after college, Cooney said.

He said in addition to theater and drama, Mazzaglia had also trained in Tae Kwan Do.

Cooney said he was shocked to hear that Mazzaglia had been charged with murder.

'He always came across as pretty normal. I never thought he was capable of doing something like this,' Cooney said.

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