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Accused murderer Mazzaglia's defense questions ex-girlfriend McDonough about sexual roles, dominance

Union Leader Correspondent

June 09. 2014 1:29PM
Defense attorney Joachim Barth questions Kathryn McDonough, 20, the former girlfriend of defendant Seth Mazzaglia, at Strafford County Superior Court in Dover Monday. (Pool Photo by Rich Beauchesne/Portsmouth Herald)

DOVER – The trial of accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia resumed Monday morning with racy testimony from Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, Mazzaglia’s former live-in girlfriend, as a defense attorney questioned her about the sexual roles in their relationship and alleged that she was far more dominant than she has acknowledged so far.

Public defender Joachim Barth cited numerous Facebook messages in which McDonough talked with Mazzaglia about their sexual encounters, which she has said began in fall 2011.

Barth quoted messages in which McDonough wrote about tying Mazzaglia to their bed; leaving “long, criss-crossed scratches on his neck;” bite marks on his legs, chest and neck; and more.

“You tied him (up) to control his body, correct?” Barth asked. “And while you controlled his body you inflicted physical domination by inflicting pain, correct?”

McDonough said her actions and words didn’t indicate dominance, only “rough sex.” She referred to various sexual roles, such as “top and bottom,” which she characterized as less powerful or controlling than sexual practices involving bondage, dominance and submission.

“I was just doing things to him to pleasure him, so it was more like I was being a ‘top’ than a ‘dominant,’” she said. “Whenever he said to stop, I’d stop.

“I just don’t … I don’t see it as domination,” McDonough added later.

McDonough said several times that she couldn’t clearly remember instances to which Barth referred. Those statements seemed to irk the defense attorney.

“You didn’t have a problem remembering anything else presented to you – not by the state,” Barth said at one point.

Mazzaglia, 31, faces first- and second-degree murder charges in the Oct. 9, 2012, death of Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, a 19-year-old UNH student from Westborough, Mass. According to testimony, she died after a game of strip poker in the Sawyer Mills studio apartment that Mazzaglia and McDonough shared.

McDonough, 20, testified last week that she was sitting next to Marriott when Mazzaglia began strangling Marriott with a white cotton rope. McDonough said Marriott had declined to participate in any sexual contact with her or Mazzaglia, and had said it wouldn’t be OK for the couple to have sex in front of her.

McDonough also testified Wednesday that after Mazzaglia choked Marriott while wearing black leather gloves, he raped her limp body for several minutes while fondling and insulting her.

The ongoing trial is entering its third week in Strafford County Superior Court.

In opening statements May 28, Barth told jurors it was McDonough, not Mazzaglia, who killed Marriott that night, during violent sexual activity.

Barth asked McDonough on Monday if her previous responses to questions about sex, dominance and submission – in this trial, and before a grand jury in the winter of 2012-13 – have sought to deflect that accusation.

“You wanted to get away from any notion that you would have sexually dominated Liz Marriott, correct?” Barth asked.

McDonough said she didn’t dominate Marriott, Mazzaglia or “any of (her) other boyfriends.”

Barth also sought Monday morning to change the jury’s perceptions of one of the most intense moments from the trial last week.

Tuesday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley read an explicit, graphic text message Mazzaglia allegedly wrote to McDonough on Aug. 25, 2012, when McDonough was about to come home from a theater-oriented summer camp in Maine, where she had been a counselor.

The message extensively detailed violent sexual acts and demands that Mazzaglia had planned for McDonough upon her return, referring to himself as “lord” and “sire” and to McDonough as “slut” and “whore,” with threats including a graphic act of sodomy.

Monday morning, Barth cited notes that McDonough had written to Mazzaglia in which she said, “I want to be tied up, blindfolded, and kneel before you,” and envisioned him “using my body as you please.”   

“That (August 2012) text message literally mirrored the messages that you had left him about things for him to do to you, correct?” Barth asked.

He added that: “This text message was presented to these jurors as a disgusting expression of demeaning words. And yet, you originated it.”

“Not necessarily, no,” McDonough said.

She said she wrote those notes in efforts to please Mazzaglia. 

“I felt inadequate,” McDonough said. “I felt like he wanted all these other women because I could not please him the way he wanted to be pleased.”

McDonough testified at one point Monday that Mazzaglia “would be having sex with me while he was scrolling the Internet for pictures of other women.”

McDonough is serving a 1½- to three-year prison term after pleading guilty to charges including witness tampering and hindering the investigation. She has testified that she helped cover up the murder and rape of Marriott, whose body has never been found.

The terms of her plea agreement require her to speak truthfully in court and meet other parole conditions in exchange for a shortened prison term and immunity from other charges related to Marriott’s death.

Barth focused on that point Monday, asking McDonough if she was “unable to tell the jury you dominated (Mazzaglia) because you’re afraid of losing your plea agreement.”

“No, because I don’t think I dominated him,” McDonough said.

Barth questioned McDonough on Monday about the language she used in messages, as well.

“This notion of domination – your response to the notion of Seth sharing with you the bite marks and the scratch marks on his body – you use the term ‘win’, correct?” Barth asked, noting that “win” was in all capital letters in at least one note. “(With) multiple exclamation points.”

“Isn’t it true that when you dominated Seth Mazzaglia sexually, you’d often invoke that term – that you had ‘won,’ correct?” Barth continued.

McDonough downplayed her choice of words.

“I use the word ‘win’ all the time, for different reasons – but at the time it wasn’t dominating,” McDonough said. “I just thought it was part of sex…I didn’t think of that as me dominating him, I just though of that as what happened.”

Mazzaglia was 28 and McDonough was 17 when they met in the spring of 2011, when they were in a theater production together in Portsmouth. She was a junior in high school then.

“When I was in high school, I said ‘boo,’ I said ‘win,’ I said ‘mwa ha ha ha,” McDonough said. “Those are just things I used to say.”

Referring to another Facebook conversation between the couple, Barth cited a passage in which he said McDonough said to Mazzaglia: “You’re not a big bad wolf to me. You’re just a dragon, and I’m a dragon rider.”

Barth asked McDonough whether that indicated a controlling role for her. She said it did not.

“I wasn’t a big strong dragon,” McDonough said. “I was just a silly little elf who went around saying silly things.”

McDonough testified last week about how both she and Mazzaglia had a history of adopting multiple personas. Hers had names including “Violet” and “Skar” or “Scar,” variations of “Scarlet,” McDonough said.

Barth again stressed her use of language.

“Ms. McDonough, it happens to be your response … to Liz Marriott coming over on Oct. 9, (2012),” Barth said, referring to text messages between Mazzaglia and McDonough that night. Prosecutors displayed those messages in the courtroom last week.

Barth cited a particular message that McDonough wrote to Mazzaglia after Marriott had agreed to come to their apartment.

“’Win for Skar,’” he said.

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