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July 04. 2014 11:49PM

A sacred rite denied: Partial justice in Marriott murder

A Strafford County jury did its grim duty at the end of a monthlong trial and found Seth Mazzaglia guilty of murdering 19-year-old Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott. Yet the conviction is only partially satisfying.

Mazzaglia and his then-18 year old girlfriend, Kathryn "Kat" McDonough, unceremoniously dumped Marriott's corpse from Peirce Island in Portsmouth in the middle of the night after the October 2012 murder. The body was presumably swept out to sea. It was never recovered.

Murdering Marriott was bad enough. But Mazzaglia's extraordinary indifference to her life extended to that of Marriott's family, who were denied the rite of burying their daughter.

There was no shortage of callous indifference in this tragic case. Mazzaglia and McDonough summoned two friends, Roberta Gerkin and Paul Hickok, to their apartment, where they showed them the body. Gerkin and Hickok urged Mazzaglia to do the right thing - call an ambulance, call the police - but then departed without taking any action themselves. It is not a crime to not report a crime, and Gerkin and Hickok did cooperate with authorities later. But their lack of action that fateful night meant the Marriott family would not be able to bury their daughter.

McDonough is serving 18 months to three years for her role in the murder. The tragedy extends to her family, too. McDonough was 17 when she started dating Mazzaglia, then 28. He had "creep" written all over him, and the family was appropriately distressed when McDonough moved in with him after she turned 18 in the midst of her senior year at Portsmouth High School.

Said a juror after the trial: "Everybody knows somebody, who maybe isn't with a murderer, but everyone knows someone who you say, 'Why stay with that guy? He is such a jerk!' and the answer is, 'I love him.' It was classic."

Mazzaglia will be sentenced to life in prison for the murder. McDonough will likely be released sometime next year. Gerkin and Hickok will have to live with their consciences for the rest of their lives. And the Marriott family will have to live with memories of their daughter, wondering what might have been, what should have been.

Guest editorial by Fergus Cullen


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