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Witnesses share chilling details in Mazzaglia trial

Union Leader Correspondent

June 17. 2014 8:32PM
Randall Bolduc of Elliot, Maine, testifies Tuesday in the Seth Mazzaglia murder trial in Strafford County Superior Court in Dover. (Pool Photo/Jim Cole/AP)

DOVER — Chester police officer Nicholas McLellan said Seth Mazzaglia seemed “extremely nervous” when the officer called on Oct. 11, 2012, to ask about UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, then missing for two days.

McLellan said he also spoke that day with Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, Mazzaglia’s former live-in girlfriend. McLellan said both Mazzaglia and McDonough told him Marriott hadn’t visited their apartment on the night of Oct. 9 — a story that both would later change.

“She kind of knew the questions beforehand,” McLellan said of McDonough.

Mazzaglia, 31, is facing first- and second-degree murder charges in the death of Marriott, a 19-year-old from Westborough, Mass. The pace of his ongoing trial accelerated Tuesday after nearly 10 full days of testimony by McDonough.

McLellan, who now works full-time for Hampton Falls Police Department and part-time for Chester, was one of nine state witnesses to testify in Strafford County Superior Court. Other witnesses included harbor pilot and deep-water navigation expert Peter Johnson of Portsmouth Pilots, Inc. and Melisa Staples of the New Hampshire state forensics lab.

Prosecutors allege that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott to death in the studio apartment when she rebuffed his sexual advances after a game of strip poker, while defense attorneys have accused McDonough of killing Marriott during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.

Staples testified Tuesday that on one of two fabric samples taken from a pair of men’s underwear found in the investigation by Dover police, DNA tests indicated material from “a minimum of three people” and “could not exclude” DNA from Mazzaglia, McDonough and Marriott.

Under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward, Staples clarified that DNA tests in the state forensics lab, where she’s worked since 1998, only indicate the “presence or non-presence” of an individual’s DNA.

“There is nothing in my testing that can tell the order, timing or mechanism” of DNA deposits, she said.

“You cannot tell from your examination whether someone was sexually assaulted,” public defender Melissa Davis said in cross-examination. Staples agreed.

McDonough has testified for the prosecution and said that after Mazzaglia strangled Marriott, he raped her limp body. McDonough has said she then helped Mazzaglia pack Marriott’s body into a suitcase and drive Marriott’s car to Peirce Island.

Former Portsmouth resident Randall Bolduc testified Tuesday that when he went to Peirce Island to walk his dog on the morning of Oct. 10, 2012, he saw unusual marks along a trail leading to an overlook.

“It just looked strange to me,” he said. “It looked like something had been dragged.”

McDonough has said that she and Mazzaglia dragged Marriott’s body, wrapped in a tarp, to an overlook, where Mazzaglia pushed it over a railing, onto rocks. McDonough has said she then pushed Marriott’s body into the water.

Swirling currents

Johnson, of Portsmouth Pilots, said in his job ensuring the safe navigation of deep-draft vessels in the Newington and Portsmouth area, “we transit by Peirce Island” on a daily basis in busy periods. He said he’s been working on the commercial waterfront in Portsmouth since 1987.

“The Piscataqua River is known for its tides and strong currents,” Johnson said Tuesday. “You have the Atlantic Ocean and then inland you have the estuary, which is comprised of seven rivers, Little Bay and Great Bay.”

He said geographic features around Peirce Island create a swirling mix of whirlpools and currents.

“Even with a large ship, if you hit that area when there’s a strong current, it’ll actually move the ship around,” Johnson said.

Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley showed Johnson charts of currents and tidal activity on the night of Oct. 9, 2012, at about midnight into Oct. 10.

Johnson said the outgoing tide was “at its strongest” at that time, with southeasterly currents off Peirce Island.

Marriott’s body has never been found.

McDonough is serving a 1½- to three-year prison term after pleading guilty last July to charges including witness tampering and hindering the investigation, as part of a plea agreement. She has testified that she helped cover up the murder and rape of Marriott.

The trial continues at 9 a.m. today.

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