Peirce Island dog-walker testifies in Mazzaglia trial: “It looked like something had been dragged”
DOVER – A man who walked his dog on Peirce Island in Portsmouth on the morning after the October 2012 death of UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott testified Tuesday that he saw unusual marks on the ground that day along a trail leading to an overlook that has been identified multiple times in the trial of accused murder Seth Mazzaglia.
Former Portsmouth resident Randall Bolduc was one of several witnesses called by prosecutors Tuesday morning as the pace of Mazzaglia’s trial accelerated after nearly 10 full days of testimony by Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, Mazzaglia’s former live-in girlfriend.
Other witnesses called Tuesday included two members of the Dover Police Department; assistant UNH football coach Brian Barbato, who lives a few doors down from the Sawyer Mill apartment in Dover that Mazzaglia and McDonough shared; Northwood resident Christine MacEachern, the stage manager for an October 2012 play in which Mazzaglia and McDonough had roles; and Dover domestic abuse and sexual assault counselor Dr. Scott Hampton, who began his testimony Monday afternoon and spoke in general terms about characteristics of abusive people and relationships.
Bolduc said he had gone to the Peirce Island dog park “hundreds of times,” but had never seen marks like those he noticed on the morning of Oct. 10, 2012. Marriott died the night before in Mazzaglia and McDonough’s apartment, according to testimony.
Mazzaglia is facing first- and second-degree murder charges in the death of Marriott, a 19-year-old from Westborough, Mass. Prosecutors allege that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott to death, while defense attorneys have accused McDonough of killing Marriott during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.
McDonough testified for the prosecution and said that after Mazzaglia strangled Marriott and raped her limp body, she helped Mazzaglia pack Marriott’s body into a suitcase and drive Marriott’s car to Peirce Island.
McDonough said they dragged Marriott’s body, wrapped in a tarp, to the overlook and Mazzaglia pushed it over, onto rocks. McDonough said she then pushed Marriott’s body into the water.
“As I came to the T intersection, I noticed that there were marks on the ground,” Bolduc said of his walk on the island on the morning of Oct. 10, 2012, referring to a junction of walking paths.
He added that the marks didn’t look like tire marks from a bicycle or vehicle, and didn’t correspond or match, like marks from bench legs might.
“It just looked strange to me,” he said. “It looked like something had been dragged.”
Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward then played a short video that Bolduc said he helped police make after reporting what he saw, to record where he saw the drag marks.
As the camera slowly moved along the trail, with no audio, the courtroom in Strafford County Superior Court fell silent Tuesday, as it has several times during Mazzaglia’s ongoing trial.
Neighbor: Mazzaglia ‘excited to brag’
UNH coach Barbato said he’s lived for more than four years at the Sawyer Mill apartment he shares with his wife.
He identified Mazzaglia in court Tuesday morning and said Mazzaglia lived a “a few doors down.” They would bump into each other in hallways, the laundry room, at the grocery store and when taking out their recyclables, Barbato said.
Barbato said their conversations “were brief, but (Mazzaglia) came across as being very bold” and was “excited to brag about his gazillion jiu jitsu” activities or experiences with the World of Warcraft online role-playing game.
“It was almost like as a football coach he saw me as another alpha personality,” Barbato said.
Barbato said that from what he saw in brief interactions, McDonough was much quieter.
“She would stare at the tops of her shoes when we were having conversations,” he said, adding that despite his outgoing nature, he was unable to engage McDonough in their chats.
“That bothered me,” Barbato said. “She was very quiet and almost apprehensive to make eye contact.”
Barbato said Mazzaglia would “give commands” or ”very matter-of-factly” point out items he wanted when in a grocery store with McDonough.
“He was very much in control; he was the dominant one in the relationship,” Barbato said.
Ward asked Barbato about when he spoke with police officers in the Sawyer Mill building on Oct. 13, 2012, the night of Mazzaglia’s arrest. Barbato said he had been concerned about his wife’s well-being when he came home late from work, during football season, and noticed officers present.
Defense attorney Joachim Barth noted that Barbato wasn’t taped or recorded that night, and didn’t give a written statement.
“You are not here to represent to anybody that you have a close or intimate relationship with Seth” or McDonough and hadn’t observed their interactions inside their home, Barth said. Barbato agreed.
“The only conversations I heard were in the grocery store and at the laundry facility,” he said.
Stage manager: Mazzaglia “upbeat, friendly”
Northwood resident Christine MacEachern said Mazzaglia was “always very upbeat, friendly, (and) energetic” in the fall of 2012, when she was the stage manager for an October 2012 Garrison Players performance of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” in which Mazzaglia and McDonough had roles.
She said Tuesday that McDonough “seemed friendly, nice, quiet.”
“She wasn’t silent, but she wasn’t as outgoing (as Mazzaglia),” MacEachern said.
Mazzaglia texted MacEachern on the night of Oct. 9, 2012, according to screen shots from her phone, to say he was working late and wouldn’t be able to make rehearsal.
After MacEachern asked him to tell the play’s director, Mazzaglia replied by texting at 7:25 p.m. : “Always do – have fun and send my regards.”
Ward also displayed text messages from Oct. 10, the day after Marriott’s death. Mazzaglia asked MacEachern if he was needed that night, or could just come in the next day.
MacEachern said the next day would be fine.
“Awesome,” Mazzaglia texted back. “Have fun tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Police discuss evidence
Dover Police Officer Scott Petrin and Detective Timothy Burt both testified Tuesday morning about evidence they collected in the days following Marriott’s death.
Petrin said he was called to UNH on Oct. 12, 2012, where officers had found Marriott’s abandoned 2001 Mazda Tribute.
Petrin said he found a power cord and owner’s manual for a GPS inside the car, along with an iPhone charger.
McDonough has testified that Mazzaglia threw Marriott’s GPS and cell phone into water off a bridge in Newington while driving to Durham from Peirce Island.
Burt testified about gaps in Internet usage on a laptop found in the Sawyer Mill apartment. He said there was no evidence of Internet use between 8:45 p.m. Oct. 9, 2012, and 11:13 a.m. Oct. 10.
Counselor talks about control
Sexual abuse and domestic violence counselor Dr. Scott Hampton spoke Tuesday morning in court about control issues in abusive relationships, and when victims or people who witness horrible crimes by loved ones are more likely to tell lies or the truth.
“The safer someone feels, the less that is a reason to distort what you tell people,” Hampton said.
Hampton runs Ending the Violence, a Dover center that offers educational programs for offenders. He began his testimony Monday afternoon and said he has worked with 4,000 to 5,000 families over 25 years in abuse counseling in Pennsylvania, New York and New Hampshire.
Without once referring directly to Mazzaglia, McDonough or the circumstances surrounding or leading up to Marriott’s death, Hampton continued Tuesday to address several topics that could relate to the trial.
“What a lot of survivors have told us is that, yes, the longer we’re there the more connections there are,” he said of committed relationships.
He noted that a fundamental change in interactions occurs at the start of relationships, as well.
“if I choose someone as my partner, now it’s all about me – it’s my choice,” he said.
“Just the fact that I’m choosing to be with that person…the fact that it’s my choice changes everything.”
He indicated that issues of dominance can sometimes boil down to a simple dynamic.
“Who has the final say? Who gets the ability to enforce what they want?” Hampton asked rhetorically. “That’s how you know who has control in the relationship.”
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, whose body has never been found.
The trial is continuing Tuesday afternoon.