Prosecution in Rintala trial: Restraining orders marked turning point
February 22, 2013 - Northampton, Mass. - Photo by Michael S. Gordon/The Republican - Cara L. Rintala watches as the jury enters the Hampshire Superior Courtroom Friday. Rintala is accused of killing her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala. Purchase photo reprints »
Cara Lee Rintala talks with defense attorney Luke Ryan during a break in the first day of her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. She is charged with murder in the first degree in the death of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, in Granby in 2010.
KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — A jury today may hear a recording of a restraining order hearing involving Cara Lee Rintala and the woman she is accused of killing, her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala.
Cara Rintala, 46, has pleaded not guilty to murder in connection with the strangulation and beating death of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, on March 29, 2010, in the couple’s home on Barton Street in Granby.
She faces life in prison if convicted.
In May 2009, a district court judge admonished the couple for bringing competing restraining order requests before the court.
Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl told Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup, who is presiding over Cara Rintala’s trial, that a recording of the restraining order hearing should be heard by jurors to allow them to evaluate Cara Rintala’s tone of voice and her demeanor as it may help to show her state of mind, even 10 months before her wife’s death.
Cara Rintala’s attorney David Hoose said a jury could be unfairly prejudiced against his client if allowed to hear her getting “reamed out” by a judge. Hoose asked Rup to consider only giving jurors a written transcript.
Suhl said the restraining order hearing is relevant because it marks the point at which all legal action and calls to police from the two stopped.
Both sides acknowledge the couple had a tumultuous relationship, involving allegations of domestic violence, 911 calls, restraining orders and dueling divorce filings.
Suhl said in court the state will attempt to demonstrate that the restraining order hearing was a turning point after which Cara Rintala no longer sought the outside assistance of authorities for problems with her wife.
Rup said there appeared to be much in the material from the 2009 hearing that shouldn’t be put before a jury. She said she would review it and rule this morning what parts will be excluded and how the remaining material will be presented.
Three witnesses testified Wednesday morning.
Forensic scientist Caroline Tatro said several hairs found on Annamarie Rintala’s body, in both of her hands and on her chin, were animal fibers, likely from a cat. There was no evidence a cat lived in the couple’s home, according to Tatro.
When asked by Hoose, Tatro said rags found in a trash can in Holyoke that allegedly came from the Rintala home were brought back there after it had been declared a crime scene. She agreed it was poor practice to do so.
“I would not do it myself,” Tatro said.
A belt with signs of blood on it was found on the back deck of the couple’s home, Tatro said. Testing on that blood revealed it to be non-human blood, Tatro said. Hoose did not ask her to elaborate on what type of blood it was.
Other hairs collected from Annamarie Rintala’s body were determined to be human hairs, all brown and 5 to 11 ¼ inches long, Tatro said.
Tatro also testified about the limitations of blood testing, noting that tests can sometimes produce false positive results. Tatro agreed that a positive test means the substance being tested could be blood and requires follow-up testing to make a final determination. A negative result means the substance is not blood.
She said some types of animal fluids, certain types of vegetables and metals like iron, copper and nickel can produce false positive results.
Tatro said she tested a necklace Cara Rintala allegedly wore the night of her wife’s death. It tested positive for the possible presence of blood, Tatro said, but she did not know what type of metals it was made from nor what type of jewelry cleaners may have been used on it.
State Trooper Christopher Dolan testified about fingerprints collected from the home.
Dolan said several prints were taken from a paint bucket and lid in the basement when Annamarie Rintala’s body was found. Photos and video of the crime scene show portions of her body, from her legs up to her face and head, were covered in white paint.
None of the prints matched Cara Rintala’s, Dolan said. A palm print recovered from the bucket did not come back with a match when run through both state and federal databases, Dolan said.
When asked why the palm print was not compared to Cara Rintala’s palm print, Dolan said he didn’t have one to compare it to, and only had her fingerprints to use.
The fourth and final witness of the day, Parker Putnam, a state police forensic scientist, testified about paint analysis he did on samples from the Rintala home.
Putnam said residue found on a shovel at the home was consistent with paint from a damaged door jamb on the house, and that paint on wood chips collected from the mat in front of that door was also consistent with paint on the rest of the door jamb.
The trial began a week ago and is expected to last for another two to three weeks.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .