Prosecution pledges murder retrial as $150K bail set for Rintala

Last modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — After two deadlocked juries, Cara Lee Rintala will face a third first-degree murder trial in connection with the strangulation death of her wife four years ago, a prosecutor says.

However, she will have the opportunity to be out of jail in the meantime.

Cara Rintala, 47, is accused of killing her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, 37, in the couple’s Granby home on March 29, 2010.

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At a brief hearing in Hampshire Superior Court Tuesday, Judge Mary-Lou Rup adopted a joint recommendation from the Northwestern district attorney’s office and Rintala’s defense team to set bail at $150,000 cash.

First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne, who prosecuted both previous trials, said it is the state’s intention “to continue with this prosecution with an eye toward retrying the case later this year.”

Cara Rintala’s Northampton attorney, David Hoose, however, said he is optimistic that after more consideration, Gagne will decide not to pursue a third trial.

“Hope springs eternal,” Hoose said. “I’m always hopeful that maybe on review of the evidence that there won’t be a third trial.”

Gagne said taking into consideration that Rintala has been held without bail since her arrest in October 2011 — and that two juries failed to reach the required unanimous verdict — it is in the “best interest of justice to agree to a reasonable bail in this case.”

Hoose said the cost of the first trial, for which he was privately retained, “bankrupted” Cara Rintala and placed a great financial strain on her family.

Hoose declined to say what his services cost for the first trial. The state tapped him as her court-appointed attorney after she was declared indigent for the second trial. He said he and his associates put in “hundreds and hundreds of hours” on the case and enlisted the services of investigators and experts to assist with her defense.

Hoose said he believes that with assistance from Cara Rintala’s supporters, the money to post bail may be raised in a relatively short period of time.

“Anybody who helps her out will get their money back — it’s just to make sure she comes back,” said Hoose. “There’s no doubt whatsoever she will come back.”

While out on bail, Rintala must abide by several conditions: submit to GPS monitoring, remain in western Massachusetts, surrender her passport, obey a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and report to the probation department weekly. She must also keep visitation and custody agreements already in place for Annamarie Rintala’s parents and their access to the Rintalas’ 6-year-old daughter, who has been in the care of Cara Rintala’s family since her arrest.

“The most important thing to me is that Cara be out of jail,” Hoose said.

He said he and Gagne agreed it will take time to review the case to prepare for a new trial, and that it would be helpful to let the publicity caused by the trial settle down before doing so.

“All of those things are things that we would want to see fade into the background before we try to pick a jury again,” Hoose said.

Hoose said Cara Rintala has a place in western Massachusetts to live, though he declined to be more specific.

Cara Rintala’s second trial ended last week after the jury consisting of eight women and four men failed to reach a unanimous verdict after deliberating for 25 hours.

The jury said it split 8-4, but gave no indication which verdict that split favored. Cara Rintala’s first trial also ended with a hung jury and the same split, in favor of conviction.

A juror in the second trial who was interviewed by a Gazette reporter said she was in favor of a not-guilty verdict and had not been convinced by the state’s evidence.

Prosecutors allege Cara Rintala strangled her wife and attempted to create the impression of a break-in after a tumultuous relationship. Her defense maintains she was the victim of an investigation that mistakenly presumed her guilt.

Hoose said if there is to be a third trial, he intends to keep it in Hampshire County.

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