Prosecution: Mazzaglia 'held all the power'
DOVER – A prosecutor said in the state’s closing argument Wednesday that accused murderer Seth Mazzaglia “held all the power” in his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Kathryn “Kat” McDonough, and killed UNH student Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott in October 2012 because he was angry that Marriott had turned down his sexual offers.
“(Mazzaglia) was not in control of Lizzi, and he couldn’t stand it,” Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward told the jury. “And he killed her for it.
“It’s all about exerting the ultimate power and control over her,” Ward continued. “It is not sex. It is rape, and it is murder.”
Ward’s closing argument for state prosecutors Wednesday afternoon followed the public defense’s closing in the morning, by attorney Joachim Barth. Ward began by saying Barth had been making an attempt at misdirection by focusing almost solely on McDonough.
“Lies – Kathryn McDonough and her lies,” Ward said. “That’s all the defense talks about. …They do that to distract you from the truth about the defendant.”
Barth alleged that McDonough, is a lying, scheming manipulator who has had every motivation to cover up her alleged role in Marriott’s death.
“What we have is Kat McDonough being the manipulator of facts, and lying to Seth and to you,” Barth said in Strafford County Superior Court, where every row in the courtroom was filled at the conclusion of the highly emotional trial that saw 19 days of testimony after opening statements May 28.
Both Barth and Ward took more than the allocated two hours to make their final case.
Mazzaglia, 31, faces first- and second-degree murder charges in the Oct. 9, 2012, death of Marriott, a 19-year-old from Westborough, Mass.
Prosecutors allege Mazzaglia strangled Marriott to death with a white cotton rope after she rebuffed his sexual advances after a game of strip poker in the Dover apartment.
Defense attorneys have accused McDonough of killing Marriott that night during rough sex that led to suffocation and a seizure.
Ward told the jury that “the premeditation…necessary to commit first-degree murder can happen in just moments.”
He noted that according to McDonough’s testimony, Mazzaglia was seated on a futon in their studio apartment for several minutes after the game of strip poker and before strangling Marriott.
“He had ample time to premeditate and deliberate in his own what he was about to do,” Ward said. “He took the time to get the gloves and put them on. He took the time to get a length of rope.”
Ward then held up the pair of black leather gloves the prosecution alleges Mazzaglia used to strangle Marriott, and slapped them down on the bench in front of the jurors.
“These are the gloves he wore when he strangled Lizzi,” Ward said. “She is so taken by surprise, she is only able to let out a yelp before she is silenced.”
A Connecticut medical examiner testified for the defense earlier this week and questioned whether, as McDonough said, Mazzaglia or anyone would be physically capable of strangling someone for up to 15 minutes by pulling hard on a rope for that length of time.
Ward said, referring to a persona of Mazzaglia’s cited by McDonough, said the jury has seen “no evidence of what this defendant, this black belt, is capable of when ‘the darkness’ takes over.”
Ward refuted the notion that Marriott died of smothering during sex acts by McDonough, saying, “if she was having trouble breathing, she could have changed her situation…she could have easily pushed McDonough off of her.”
Barth, in turn, accused McDonough of crafting an elaborate story about Marriott’s death and events in preceding months “to distance herself from the truth, and (from) the truth that may endanger her severely.”
Barth alleged that as she lied to a grand jury in February 2013 and in Mazzaglia’s trial this month, McDonough created a story that was based on “four pillars:” her claim that she was submissive to Mazzaglia in an abusive relationship; that he entirely dominated their sexual relationship; that he instigated and led the couple’s pursuit of other women to join them in sex acts involving bondage; and that Mazzaglia has other personas that are dark enough to spur homicidal rages, such as the one that McDonough said took over that night.
“If you remove (those pillars)…if their integrity and strength fail, her story simply falls apart,” Barth said.
McDonough has testified that after Mazzaglia strangled Marriott, she helped Mazzaglia pack Marriott’s body into a suitcase and drive Marriott’s car to Peirce Island in Portsmouth, where McDonough said they pushed Marriott’s body into the water. Marriott’s body has never been found.
McDonough is serving a 1½- to three-year prison term after pleading guilty last July to charges that included 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.
Barth asked the jury Wednesday to be careful about how they perceived McDonough’s immunity, which was granted through the plea deal and which prosecutors have said frees her to tell the truth about Marriott’s death.
Barth said McDonough still has motivation to lie and cover up her alleged role, which he said still could create consequences for her.
“They can’t use what she said to the grand jury, but they can use any other evidence,” he said of law enforcement. “They can’t use her words, but it ain’t a ‘get of jail free’ card.”
He said McDonough could face years in prison if her alleged role in Marriott’s death, or her alleged lies in sworn statements, came to light.
“She has years of motivation. She has all the motivation of the beautiful things that life has to offer,” Barth said. “She has fear as a motivation. She has ‘it’s all about Kat’ as a motivation.
“She needs this more than anyone,” Barth said earlier in his argument. “You don’t think she’s willing to lie?”
Ward stressed that it was Mazzaglia, not McDonough, who schemed and plotted, and said he did so to save himself – not to protect McDonough out of love.
“He doesn’t care about McDonough,” Ward said. “It is all about himself.”
Ward’s final comments hammered home his point to the jury.
“This case above all else is about the truth,” Ward said, asking the jury to “send (Mazzaglia) the message” that they know the truth about him. “That he is a cold-blooded killer. Deliver to him the justice that he has tried in so many ways, and for so long, to avoid.”
Judge Steven Houran released the jury after Ward concluded shortly before 4 p.m. He told them he would deliver his final instructions to them Thursday, at 9 a.m., and cautioned them not to begin deliberating until then.
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