DOVER, N.H. -- Lawyers for a man accused of raping and killing a 19-year-old college student are concerned about the effects that graphic sexual testimony and evidence would have on potential jurors, according to court documents.
Jury selection begins Wednesday in Strafford County Superior Court in the first-degree murder trial of Seth Mazzaglia, 31, of Dover. Prosecutors say he strangled or suffocated University of New Hampshire sophomore Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott on Oct. 9, 2012, after Mazzaglia’s girlfriend lured her to their apartment.
Prosecutors say the pair then dumped Marriott’s body into the Piscataqua River off Portsmouth’s Peirce Island. It has not been found.
Mazzaglia has pleaded not guilty, saying Marriott died accidentally during consensual rough sex. Prosecutors say there was nothing consensual about Marriott’s death.
The trial is scheduled to start May 27.
In opening statements, prosecutors will say for the first time what they believe happened to Marriott after she arrived at Mazzaglia’s apartment. Their case will hinge on the testimony of Mazzaglia’s former girlfriend -- Kathryn "Kat" McDonough -- who they say witnessed the killing.
McDonough pleaded guilty in July to hindering the prosecution, tampering with a witness and conspiracy. She is serving a sentence of 18 months to three years. Her plea and sentence were tied to her willingness to testify against Mazzaglia.
In court motions, Mazzaglia’s lawyers want the judge to question potential jurors about whether they would be disturbed or distracted by lurid descriptions of sex acts involving bondage and sadomasochism.
Authorities describe Mazzaglia and McDonough as bondage enthusiasts who frequented fetish sites. Police affidavits describe a text message Mazzaglia sent to McDonough in August, describing in lurid detail a bondage sexual encounter and suggesting McDonough include a friend, someone to "offer" to him.
Marriott, from Westborough, Massachusetts, had transferred to UNH five weeks before her death. She met McDonough while working at a department store not far from campus.
In their motions to the judge, prosecutors say they’ll ask jurors whether they have been swayed by intense media coverage of the case, something that prosecutor Peter Hinckley of the state attorney general’s office said is a standard request. He expects the state’s case to take two to three weeks to present.
Mazzaglia’s lawyers list seven witnesses they may call. Prosecutors say they plan to call about three dozen witnesses, including McDonough.
Marriott’s parents are both on the witness list. Her father, Bob Marriott, said Friday he couldn’t comment on the upcoming trial.
Mazzaglia’s lawyer, Joachim Barth, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.