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After murder conviction in Strafford County Superior Court , Mazzaglia waits for final words

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 28. 2014 7:37PM

A Dover man convicted of killing a University of New Hampshire student and dumping her body into the Piscataqua River awaits a sentencing that has already been decided.

Seth Mazzaglia, 31, automatically faced life in prison without the possibility of parole once a jury convicted him Friday of two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott, 19. Still to be determined is Mazzaglia's punishment for conspiring to falsify physical evidence and to commit witness tampering.

The jury - seven women and five men - reached its verdict at Strafford County Superior Court shortly before 12:30 p.m., just minutes after posing a question to Judge Steven Houran related to the conspiracy charges.

A sentencing hearing will give Marriott's family an opportunity if they choose to address the court directly after having sat through weeks of emotionally grueling testimony.

"The victim's family will have the right to speak at the sentencing hearing about the impact of the loss of their loved one," said Jonathan Cohen, an attorney with Cohen & Winters in Concord.

Cohen was not involved in the trial, but had followed the case through its many turns since Marriott disappeared on Oct. 9, 2012.

The 19-day trial was full of graphic testimony of a strip poker game, sexual bondage going too far and the prosecution claim that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott after she rebuked his sexual advances.

While prosecutors and defense attorneys argued the points supporting or discrediting the various sordid scenarios, Marriott's family sat through it all. Moments after the verdict, Bob Marriott, Elizabeth Marriott's father, spoke to reporters.

"Unfortunately, the trial cannot console us with loss of Lizzi," he said. "We will always miss her and wonder what could have been. In fact, the trial has been torturous. The truth of what happened to Lizzi is horrendous and every time it is told, it has reinforced our despair."

Marriott also questioned the moral and ethical choices by Mazzaglia's defense team for casting his daughter as a willing participant in the sexual encounter.

"If you are dead, you cannot correct a mischaracterization," Marriott said.

Most of the testimony came from Kathryn "Kat" McDonough, Mazzaglia's former girlfriend who invited Marriott to the apartment the couple shared in Dover. McDonough, who initially told police Marriott never showed up the night she disappeared, changed her story and acknowledged helping Mazzaglia submerge Marriott's body in the waters off of Peirce Island in Portsmouth. The body was never found.

McDonough is serving 1½ to three years in state prison after pleading guilty to charges she lied during the investigation and thwarted a probe into Marriott's disappearance. The sentence resulted from a plea deal in return for her testimony.

"I think their witness got a very favorable result, given what it sounds like was her responsibility for the death of another human being," Cohen said.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin declined to comment on the plea deal and other matters still pending in the case. Mazzaglia is expected to face trial on a criminal-solicitation charge for allegedly trying to get another inmate at the Strafford County jail in December 2012 to participate in a violent, armed escape.

"We still have the sentencing hearing and a pending charge on this case, so we don't have any further comment at this time," Strelzin said in an email.

McDonough's deal also made for a prime target as defense questioned her credibility during days of heated cross-examination. She admitted to inviting Marriott to the apartment at the request of Mazzaglia, who wanted another woman to join the couple in sex. McDonough said Marriott agreed to a game of strip poker, but rebuked Mazzaglia's advances.

Mazzaglia's lawyers maintained during the trial that McDonough was the one actually responsible for the killing and changed her story repeatedly during the investigation.

The defense attempts to discredit McDonough and her testimony were unsuccessful with the jury, which began deliberating Thursday.

"When you have a case with no body and no obvious murder weapon, I think that's a difficult case to prove," Cohen said.

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