DOVER – A former cellmate of accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia testified Wednesday that Mazzaglia told him in the fall of 2012 that UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott “was shaking” and had marks on her neck when Mazzaglia emerged from a “blackout” while having sex with her on the night of her death.
Christopher Ramos, an inmate in the Valley Street jail in Manchester, acknowledged that he has a criminal history of about 26 years and is facing pending charges related to federal sex offenses, but insisted that he was testifying only because he was subpoenaed and that his prior statement about Mazzaglia to investigators were not an effort to lighten his sentence or improve a plea deal.
Defense attorney Joachim Barth strongly contested that point Wednesday, leading to exchanges that led Ramos to raise his voice angrily in court several times.
“I know it’s your job to tear me apart, but come on, man, really?” Ramos said to Barth at one point, after Barth asked about whether Ramos had legal motivations for testifying.
“I’m in jail,” Ramos added later. “You can’t discredit me more than that.”
Ramos said he shared a Strafford County jail cell with Mazzaglia in the fall of 2012.
Mazzaglia, 31, is facing first- and second-degree murder charges in the Oct. 9, 2012, death of Marriott, a 19-year-old from Westborough, Mass.
Prosecutors allege that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott to death in the Dover studio apartment he shared with his former girlfriend, Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, after Marriott rebuffed his sexual advances following a game of strip poker. Defense attorneys have accused McDonough of killing Marriott during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.
Ramos, who testified while wearing handcuffs, spoke about conversations with Mazzaglia that appeared to partially support both of those scenarios.
“He told me that when he and his girlfriend were having a threesome, that it got out of hand and somebody died,” Ramos said, under questioning from Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward. “He said he blacked out and his girlfriend was at the head of Lizzi…and he was having sex with her.”
Ward then asked if Mazzaglia said anything to Ramos about the condition of Marriott’s face and neck.
“That it was discolored” and that there were marks on her neck, Ramos said.
Barth later asked Ramos if Mazzaglia had “described Liz Marriott having a seizure.”
“Yes,” Ramos said. “He said she was shaking.”
McDonough has testified 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, where they pushed Marriott’s body into waters known for strong currents.
Ramos said Wednesday that Mazzaglia “told me that they were joking about Davy Jones locker.”
Ramos said Mazzaglia talked with him about possible defense strategies, such as that “he blacks out” and “that he’s not stable, mentally.”
Ramos said he never saw evidence of blackouts with Mazzaglia, and described him as “intelligent.”
Ward asked if Mazzaglia ever showed remorse for Marriott’s death. Ramos said no, and that Mazzaglia’s focus was almost entirely on McDonough.
Ramos said Mazzaglia asked him to take a letter to McDonough after Ramos’ release date in November 2012.
Barth repeatedly pressed Ramos about his motivations for talking to investigators.
“You made your statement in a room just outside the federal court where you were about to be sentenced,” Barth said.
Ramos said that was the only time he could have such a meeting.
“There was a transportation thing,” Ramos said. “They couldn’t transport me because I was federal marshals and they were Dover police.”
“I’ve done so many wrong things in my life,” Ramos said later Wednesday morning. “At that time, it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Ramos at one point referred to Mazzaglia as “Mr. Karate Expert.”
“I asked him to come back there and show me, too,” Ramos said.
Andrew Sibik, who also is currently incarcerated and was a cellmate of Ramos and Mazzaglia in the fall of 2012, also testified Wednesday in Mazzaglia’s ongoing trial in Strafford County Superior Court.
Sibik said Mazzaglia told him that the night of Marriott’s death “started out pretty normal, and then…he threw (Marriott) into a position and she had a seizure or something.”
Sibik then related a story from Mazzaglia that is sharply divergent from any testimony heard in his trial, and blames Marriott’s death on the boyfriend of Roberta Gerkin, a Rochester resident and friend of Mazzaglia’s. Gerkin and her boyfriend came to the Dover apartment on the night of Marriott’s death. Gerkin has previously testified in Mazzaglia’s trial.
Sibik also said Mazzaglia asked him to deliver a letter to McDonough in late 2012.
‘I’ve moved out’
Wednesday morning’ also saw Dover resident Denise McDonough testify. She is the mother of Kat McDonough and a former longtime resident of Portsmouth, where Kat attended high school and where Denise owns a ceramics studio.
Under questioning from Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley, McDonough said she knew very little about her daughter’s relationship with Mazzaglia – who Kat McDonough met in the spring of 2011, during a theater production in Portsmouth – until very close to the time when Kat McDonough moved out of the family home in February 2012.
“I came home from work and I had gone into my room, and there was a note…on my bed,“ Denise McDonough said Wednesday. “I barely got through half of it before I had my keys in my hand. It said, ‘I’m gone, I’ve moved out…don’t try to contact me. I will contact you when I’m ready.’”
McDonough said that while her relationship with her daughter had been very close in the summer and early fall of 2011, she had a very hard time reaching Kat after Kat moved out. She said she tried emails, Facebook and other channels, including calling the phone in Mazzaglia and Kat’s apartment.
She said Mazzaglia always answered that phone.
“When I asked to speak with Kathryn, he said she wasn’t there and asked to take a message – I never spoke with her over the phone,” McDonough said. “She never called me back.”
About two weeks after Kat had moved out, Denise McDonough said, she went to the apartment and heard voices inside when she knocked on the door.
“Seth came out the door and he stood in the hall, and he almost all the way shut the door behind him,” she said.
McDonough said when she asked to see her daughter, Mazzaglia said “no.”
“I became very angry,” she said Wednesday. “I yelled at him.”
Kat finally came out to talk with her, McDonough said, and both cried as they sat on a hallway floor. McDonough said when police arrived, an officer said because Kat was 18, she could make her own decisions about where to live.
McDonough said she rarely saw her daughter in the following months.
She once saw Kat on the street, walking toward a store, and called to her. McDonough said Kat stepped toward her at first, then hesitated.
“She did not seem comfortable, and I wondered about that,” McDonough said. “I’ve always wondered about that.”
‘Mother to mother’
McDonough said after Mazzaglia’s arrest on Oct. 13, 2012, she had a feeling that Kat had gone to stay with Mazzaglia’s mother.
“I called and left a message with Seth’s mother…basically saying, ‘Mother to mother, please have her call me,’… and she did,” McDonough said Wednesday.
She said she drove Kat to Strafford County jail to visit Mazzaglia more than once, because Kat insisted. She said Kat and Mazzaglia spoke on the phone often.
“She was down to the minute, where she had to be waiting for the phone …it was very imperative that she would not miss that call,” McDonough said.
Kat was arrested Dec. 24, 2012.
After she had been released on bail, Denise McDonough said, “she actually stayed in my bedroom with me, in Portsmouth” until she went to jail in Goffstown in the summer of 2013.
McDonough said her daughter had no contact with Mazzaglia between her release on bail and her imprisonment.
“None,” McDonough said. “She was very careful to stick to the letter of her rules.”
Kat 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.
Hinckley ended his direct questioning of Denise McDonough on Wednesday morning. Barth likely will begin his cross examination Wednesday afternoon.