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N.H. town captivated by trial in a private way

Many in city keep opinions about rape trial to themselves

Defense attorney Joachim Barth questioned Kathryn McDonough (right), the former girlfriend of defendant Seth Mazzaglia at Strafford County Superior Court in Dover, N.H., on Monday.

Rich Beauchesne/AP

Defense attorney Joachim Barth questioned Kathryn McDonough (right), the former girlfriend of defendant Seth Mazzaglia, at Strafford County Superior Court in Dover, N.H., on Monday.

DOVER, N.H. — The city was quiet one recent morning.

American flags hung from lampposts, casting shadows on sidewalks. Shopkeepers kept doors propped open in the warm spring air. It was a portrait of small-town America: idyllic, charming, safe.

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In a courtroom just a few miles away sat a Dover man, on trial on first-degree murder charges in the slaying of 19-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott of Westborough, Mass. The trial of Seth Mazzaglia, 31, has included disturbing testimony from the prosecution’s star witness, Mazzaglia’s former girlfriend.

Kathryn McDonough, 20, answered questions on cross-examination about the multiple personas she adopts, the bondage sex she and Mazzaglia practiced, and the way in which Marriott died: by strangulation, after which Mazzaglia raped her lifeless body, McDonough testified. As McDonough talked of tarot cards, world domination, and Mazzaglia’s belief that he was once a dragon, Marriott’s father watched from the front row.

People in Dover said they are keeping up with the case, but keeping it to themselves. They watch testimony highlights on television and flip through headlines. Many said information about the case is unavoidable, but they do not talk about it with friends or neighbors or strangers at the bar.

“I think people are tired of hearing about it and tired of talking about it,” said Jim Livermore, owner of Village Goldsmith Gallery in downtown Dover. “And they’re a little embarrassed that it happened in Dover.”

What happened to Marriott, he said, is a tragedy. Everyone in town agrees on that. They sigh and shake their heads, their faces framed by sorrow, disbelief, and resignation.

“It’s a black mark against Dover,” Livermore said. “People here are conservative, middle class, working class, and you just don’t expect that stuff to happen around the Dover, Portsmouth area. It’s kind of shocking.”

Residents described Dover (population 30,000) as a close-knit city, a place where people know their neighbors. While many acknowledged that crime can happen anywhere, they never expected it to hit so close to home.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” said Brooke Conroy, 24, as she dusted mannequins at C Style, a consignment shop. “That’s why it was such a shock when everything happened.”

Conroy has lived in Dover her entire life. She loves its supportive community and its quiet beauty. The graphic nature of the crime, she said, is what keeps people from talking about it.

“Because it’s so scary, people try to ignore it and hope it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “I can’t even get over it.”

Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott was allegedly strangled bySeth Mazzaglia in October 2012.

Britney Atwood via AP (left); AP/File

Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott was allegedly strangled bySeth Mazzaglia in October 2012.

Two women in Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop who declined to give their names said the case is too appalling to mention in conversation.

Joseph Bodnar, 39, said he doesn’t want to think about it too much.

“I try to keep those things at a minimum,” he said as he sat on a bench near the city center.

Many in Dover believe that Mazzaglia will be found guilty.

“They’re going to fry him and give him all they can give him,” said Ken Chesley, 61, of Rochester. “He’s never going to see the light of day, which he deserves.”

Clyde Allen, owner of Baldface Books in Dover, said he is surprised by how little talk he has heard about the case. But he said he is not surprised by the supernatural elements discussed in the trial because young people often buy books related to sci-fi, fantasy, and role-playing.

“I don’t remember that being so big in the past,” he said.

He thinks the appeal has something to do with losing oneself in an alter ego and finding power. Trial testimony, he said, had similar themes.

“They think they can do anything,” he said. “Boundaries are all changed. The brakes aren’t there.”

McDonough has testified that she witnessed the defendant rape and kill Marriott, a University of New Hampshire sophomore, after Marriott rejected his sexual advances. McDonough said Mazzaglia was angry that she had left him alone for 12 days and demanded a sexual partner.

McDonough lured Marriott, a co-worker, to the couple’s apartment, she said.

She has testified that she helped Mazzaglia dispose of Marriott’s body the night of the October 2012 slaying by folding it into a suitcase and dumping it into the water near Peirce Island. She is serving a 1½-to-three-year sentence for conspiracy, hindering prosecution, and witness tampering.

Nova Mullineaux, owner of Adelle’s Coffee House, said it is those lurid details that make the case so interesting.

“For lack of a better word, it’s exciting because it’s so close to home,” she said.

Claire McNeill can be reached at claire.mcneill@globe.com or on Twitter @clairemcneill.
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