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Jury in Cara Rintala murder trial will hear about relationship tensions

2-5-13 - Northampton - Republican staff photo by Don Treeger-  Cara Rintala sits in Hampshire Superior Court during a pre-trial hearing in her murder case.

2-5-13 - Northampton - Republican staff photo by Don Treeger- Cara Rintala sits in Hampshire Superior Court during a pre-trial hearing in her murder case. Purchase photo reprints »

— Jurors in the murder trial of Cara Lee Rintala will hear about tensions that plagued her marriage in the year before her wife was found slain in the couple’s Granby home in 2010.

Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup ruled Thursday on evidence in the murder trial, which is set to start Monday.

Rintala, 46, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in connection with the beating and strangulation death of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, 37, March 29, 2010.

Rup’s ruling came after a hearing Tuesday in which defense lawyers and prosecutors argued over what jurors should be allowed to hear.

Among the matters at issue were so-called “prior bad acts.” These include Cara Rintala’s arrest on a domestic assault and battery charge (which her wife dropped about a month later), a disconnected 911 call during which arguing between the couple could be heard, divorce filings from each woman against the other, a restraining order filed by Cara Rintala against her wife and statements from Annamarie Rintala’s aunt about the nature of the couple’s relationship.

Rup’s written ruling states that jurors may hear about any of these matters as long as their purpose in the trial is to “show motive, state of mind and/or intent of the defendant.”

She also ruled that jurors will receive instructions about the limited purposes for which they can consider that evidence.

Also at issue was blood evidence attributed to Cara Rintala that was recovered from three different places during the investigation.

According to testimony at Tuesday’s hearing, blood belonging to Cara Rintala was found on the shower curtain of the couple’s Barton Street home, a necklace Cara Rintala wore and on a laundry basket in Annamarie Rintala’s van.

Cara Rintala’s attorney, David Hoose of Northampton, argued the blood doesn’t link his client to the killing and called its use in the trial “the rankest of speculation.”

Hoose said Cara Rintala had no injuries or wounds that would suggest she was hurt during a struggle and that the tub the shower curtain was attached to tested negative for traces of blood.

In her ruling, Rup said Hoose’s objections, while “well-founded,” spoke more to how much weight a jury might give to the evidence rather than its overall admissibility.

First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne argued that Cara Rintala’s blood evidence was among “bread crumbs she left that lead back to her.”

Hoose unsuccessfully attempted to have Tuesday’s hearing closed to the press and public, claiming publicizing evidence that may never be presented at trial could corrupt the jury pool and deny Cara Rintala her right to a fair trial.

Cara Rintala was arrested in Rhode Island Oct. 19, 2011, after being indicted on the murder charge by a Hampshire County grand jury earlier the same day. She moved to Rhode Island a few months after the slaying to be closer to her family, Hoose said around the time of her arrest.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday. The trial may last up to one month.

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

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