DOVER — A former cellmate of accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia testified Monday that Mazzaglia formed an elaborate escape plan while in Strafford County jail and offered him money to hurt or kill witnesses.
Mazzaglia, charged in the Oct. 9, 2012, death of 19-year-old UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, sat impassively as Ryan Bachman of Westbrook, Maine, testified.
The admitted former heroin addict with a lengthy criminal record told the court that while he and Mazzaglia, 31, shared a cell for about a week in December 2012, Mazzaglia detailed a “meticulous” plan to use small explosives to blow open doors, shoot his way out of jail and use at least two escape cars to “find a boat” and flee with girlfriend Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, to a country with no extradition to the United States.
“He said he had close to $1,000 in his account, and he wanted me to take that $1,000, buy or sell drugs, turn it into $5,000 or $10,000, and use that money to fund the escape plan,” Bachman testified in Strafford County Superior Court, adding that Mazzaglia told him the guns could be bought at Kittery Trading Post in Maine and materials for small pipe bombs could be found at a Home Depot.
“He wanted disguise changes, he wanted Kathryn and he wanted the cars waiting for him,” Bachman said.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley projected, on a large screen, a photo of a handwritten letter that Mazzaglia allegedly penned for Bachman to give to McDonough. The letter used several chess-based code names. Bachman said Mazzaglia referred to himself as “Bishop,” to Bachman as “Castle” or “Murphy” — for the colloquial Murphy’s Law, Bachman said — and to McDonough as “Queen.”
Bachman said Mazzaglia, with whom he played chess in jail, referred to the escape plan as “Bishop’s Vacation.”
Prosecutors also showed evidence of two deposits of about $50 each into Bachman’s commissary account at the jail, one in December 2012 and another in January 2013. Prosecutors said the first deposit was made by an outside party, who Bachman said was McDonough. Prosecutors said the second deposit was made by Heather Mazzaglia, Seth Mazzaglia’s mother. Public defender Melissa Davis hammered Bachman about his criminal record and heroin addiction during cross-examination, challenging his credibility and accusing him of encouraging or even inciting Mazzaglia’s plan to get money for drugs.
“I was a heroin addict. I’ve done extensive work to change that,” Bachman said. “I used it for about, almost a year.”
Under questioning from Hinckley, Bachman also said that Mazzaglia offered him money to hurt or kill witnesses in the murder case. Bachman said he had forgotten their names, but they were likely a couple.
Bachman said Mazzaglia talked in jail about how if the two witnesses were killed, “there wouldn’t be much of a case against him,” and gave Bachman a home address for the couple, which Bachman said he also has since forgotten.
“He told me that if I knew some people who could be paid off to go there and hurt or kill those witnesses, it would help his case tremendously,” Bachman said.
Bachman said before his release on Dec. 24, 2012, Mazzaglia gave him the PIN for his bank card and contact information for McDonough. Bachman said after his release, he used Mazzaglia’s card and PIN to empty Mazzaglia’s account, with no intention of following any part of the escape plan.
“I got rid of (the card). Threw it down the sewer drain,” Bachman said. “At the time I had a drug habit, and that’s what I did. I spent all that money and bought drugs.”
Bachman insisted that he “didn’t encourage anything,” calling the escape plan “a financial opportunity” that “literally fell into my lap.”
“I went (along) with no intentions of doing any of it, and I took the money,” Bachman said, adding that he also went along out of concern for his personal safety as a cellmate of Mazzaglia, whom he called “clearly psychopathic.”
Bachman said he was Mazzaglia’s cellmate a second time for a few days in January 2013, after Bachman was arrested again and put “of all places,” in the same cell.
Bachman said he told Mazzaglia the plan hadn’t worked and the money had been stolen.
Rochester resident Roberta Gerkin, a former psychic and tarot card reader, was on the stand prior to Bachman Monday.
Gerkin had testified she had an informal sexual relationship with Mazzaglia for several months before Marriott’s death and spoke frequently afterward with McDonough, now 20. On the night of Marriott’s death, McDonough called Gerkin and Gerkin’s boyfriend, Paul Hickok, to the Sawyer Mills home that McDonough and Mazzaglia shared. Gerkin and Hickok saw Marriott’s body lying on the floor of the Dover apartment.
McDonough is expected to take the stand later this week. She’s serving a 1½- to three-year prison term after pleading guilty last July to charges including witness tampering and hindering the investigation.
In last Wednesday’s opening statements, defense attorney Joachim Barth told jurors it was McDonough, not Mazzaglia, who killed Marriott that night during sexual acts involving bondage and erotic asphyxiation. Prosecutors have said Mazzaglia strangled Marriott while raping her limp body.
Much of Monday morning’s questioning of Gerkin focused on her recollections of conversations and interactions with McDonough. Gerkin was wearing a wire and working with police for some of those conversations.
Gerkin also testified early Monday afternoon that Mazzaglia used to give her tarot readings, and often used different personalities, with names including “Darkheart,” “Cyrus” and others.
”I’ve had at least one reading from each individual, spirit, persona, however you want to call them,” Gerkin said.
Gerkin said Mazzaglia was “very serious” about adopting the different personalities.
The trial continues Tuesday at 9 a.m.