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Defendant’s cellmate testifies in slain UNH student case

Defense attorney Joachim Barth cross examines testimony from witness Roberta Gerkin at Strafford Superior Court in Dover, N.H. Monday, June 2, 2014 during the trial of Seth Mazzaglia. Mazzaglia is on trial for the murder of University of New Hampshire student Elizabeth "Lizzy" Marriott in his Dover N.H. apartment on Oct. 9, 2012. (AP Photo, Foster's Daily Democrat, John Huff, Pool)

Defense attorney Joachim Barth cross examines testimony from witness Roberta Gerkin at Strafford Superior Court in Dover, N.H. Monday, June 2, 2014 during the trial of Seth Mazzaglia. Mazzaglia is on trial for the murder of University of New Hampshire student Elizabeth "Lizzy" Marriott in his Dover N.H. apartment on Oct. 9, 2012. (AP Photo, Foster's Daily Democrat, John Huff, Pool)

A former cellmate of the man prosecutors say raped and killed a University of New Hampshire co-ed testified yesterday the defendant had elaborate plans to escape jail and hire someone to hurt or kill two witnesses in his case.

Former cellmate Ryan Bachman testified Seth Mazzaglia asked him to obtain a gun, two cars and disguises to use in a jailbreak planned for a date he was scheduled to go to court for a hearing in the slaying case of 19-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott.

Mazzaglia, 31, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of the Westborough, Mass., teen. Prosecutors say he strangled and raped her when she rebuffed his sexual advances Oct. 9, 2012, in the apartment he shared with then-girlfriend Kathryn “Kat” McDonough.

Mazzaglia’s lawyers say McDonough killed Marriott during rough sex involving restraints. They told jurors he helped dump the body into a river that feeds into the ocean and initially took blame for her death out of his “obsessive” love for McDonough.

Bachman and Mazzaglia were cellmates in the medical unit of the Strafford County jail for a week in December 2012. Bachman testified Mazzaglia wanted someone to hurt or kill a couple who were slated to testify against him. Bachman didn’t recall their names, but said Mazzaglia did give him the address.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Hinckley told jurors in his opening statement that Mazzaglia created an elaborate plan to kill Roberta Gerkin and Paul Hickok, two friends who were called to Mazzaglia’s apartment after Marriott was killed.

Gerkin testified she cut two plastic grocery bags from Marriott’s head and described a line on her neck where her pale torso met a complexion Gerkin described as “purplish.”

“If they were taken care of – killed or something – they wouldn’t have much of a case against him,” Bachman said Mazzaglia told him. Bachman also testified that Mazzaglia told him “it would help his case tremendously” if he could hire someone to do the job.

Bachman said Mazzaglia gave him the identification number for his debit card and directions on how to retrieve the card from McDonough. He testified that he visited McDonough when he got out Dec. 24, 2012, got the card and drained Mazzaglia’s account of about $800-$1,000. Bachman said he spent the money on drugs.

Defense attorney Melissa Davis challenged Bachman on Monday about why he didn’t tell Mazzaglia his escape plan was “impossible,” and instead took the money and ran.

“I wouldn’t tell him anything that came out of his mouth was crazy,” Bachman replied. “I shared a cell with him 24 hours a day.”

McDonough had met Marriott just weeks earlier at a department store where they both worked, according to authorities. Marriott texted a friend after a night class at Oct. 9, 2012, to say she was going over to “Kat’s” apartment to watch a movie, investigators said.

Once there, Marriott willingly engaged in a game of strip poker with McDonough and Mazzaglia but rebuffed Mazzaglia’s sexual advances, prosecutors said.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley told jurors Mazzaglia slipped up behind Marriott as she sat on a couch with McDonough watching a movie, and put a rope around her neck and jerked her back sharply.

McDonough was arrested the day Bachman was released and charged with hindering the prosecution and conspiracy. She pleaded guilty and is serving a 1½- to 3-year sentence in exchange for her promise to testify against Mazzaglia. She has yet to take the stand.

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