Despite mistrials, uncle of Annamarie Cochrane Rintala believes wife responsible for her death

Last modified: Thursday, February 06, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Annamarie Cochrane Rintala’s uncle said Wednesday that in the nearly four years since her death she has been in his thoughts every day.

“I can’t believe it’s been four years,” Pasquale Martin said in an interview Wednesday. “I haven’t been able to suck up enough oxygen to fill up my lungs. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for four years.”

Annamarie Rintala was killed March 29, 2010, in the basement of the Granby home she shared with her wife, Cara Rintala.

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Cara Rintala, 47, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in connection with the strangulation death. Her second trial ended the same way Tuesday as the first one in March 2013 — with a deadlocked jury and mistrial.

Martin, 57, of East Longmeadow, said despite two juries being unable to deliver a unanimous verdict, he believes Cara Rintala is solely responsible for his niece’s death.

“We don’t need to see another case to know who did this,” he said. “I wish it was anybody but her wife.”

“I have to hold back my anger, aggression and hurt,” Martin added.

Martin, who attended most of the sessions in the nearly month-long trial, said he and his sister and brother-in-law were distraught when news came from the jury Jan. 31 that it was deadlocked in an 8-4 split, with no indication of which verdict the majority favored.

When jurors returned Monday and continued another full day of deliberations, “hope went right through us” that more work could tip the balance toward a unanimous verdict, Martin said

That hope was dashed again Tuesday morning when the jury declared itself stuck in the same split and felt more deliberations would be fruitless.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Martin said. “It’s like a recurring bad dream.”

Martin said First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne, who prosecuted both trials, has done excellent work presenting the case.

Martin believes the trial may have had a different outcome if it had been tried in more conservative Hampden County or if the defendant had been male instead of female.

“We’re dealing with a prejudice here,” he asserted.

Cara Rintala’s defense attorney, David Hoose of Northampton, said Tuesday that if the case goes to a third trial, he has no plans to seek a change of venue.

Martin said much of the difficulty in sitting through both trials, aside from the lack of verdict, was hearing a long series of criticisms of his niece’s character.

Much of the defense’s cross-examination of witnesses elicited testimony about Annamarie Rintala’s alleged financial irresponsibility, including borrowing money from friends under false pretenses and siphoning money from her wife’s retirement account.

That testimony left Martin with the impression that some believed “it’s OK Annamarie is dead because she owed money.”

“I would rather have a bankrupt niece than a murdered one,” Martin said.

Martin said much of the testimony in court left people with only negative impressions of his niece, and didn’t reveal the side that drew people to her and inspired intense and loving relationships.

“She loved to give, not take,” Martin said, noting that his late niece was the type of person who, if you complimented her boots, would give you a pair just like them.

“The only person who had a problem with Annamarie is the person who murdered her,” Martin said.

Following the declaration of the mistrial, Gagne said the prosecutors would consider the wishes of Annamarie Rintala’s family in deciding whether to pursue a third trial.

Martin said those discussions would happen later in the week and declined to comment on the family’s position regarding a third trial.

Martin said he worries jurors may have failed to convict Cara Rintala out of fear of being responsible for sending her to prison for life. A first-degree murder conviction in Massachusetts carries a penalty of life in prison without parole.

“You want to see an injustice?” Martin said. “Set her free.”

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.