Defendant in Rintala murder cited violent relationship with spouse
February 22, 2013 - Northampton, Mass. - Photo by Michael S. Gordon/The Republican - Testimony Friday in the case of Cara L. Rintala in Hampshire Superior Court included this Granby Police video testimony of Rintala being interviewed by Massachusetts State Police Detective Lt. Robin Whitney, at right on screen, head of the state police detective unit for Hampshire and Franklin counties. Rintala is accused of killing her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala. Seated from left at the defense table is Rintala and her lawyers, Luke Ryan and David Hoose. Purchase photo reprints »
February 22, 2013 - Northampton, Mass. - Photo by Michael S. Gordon/The Republican - Granby Police Detective Barbara Fenn points to Cara L. Rintala during her testimony in Hampshire Superior Court Friday. Rintala is accused of killing her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala. Purchase photo reprints »
First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne makes his opening statement for the prosecution in the trial of Cara Lee Rintala, with Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Rup, left, presiding, in Northampton on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.
Purchase photo reprints »
February 22, 2013 - Northampton, Mass. - Photo by Michael S. Gordon/The Republican - Massachusetts State Police Detective Lt. Robin Whitney testifies in Hampshire Superior Court Friday during the trial of Cara L. Rintala. Rintala is accused of killing her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala. Purchase photo reprints »
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 »
NORTHAMPTON — During her interview with police the day her wife was found dead in the couple’s basement, Cara Rintala described a relationship riddled with violence, mistrust and deceit.
Cara Rintala has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in connection with the strangulation and beating death of Annamarie Cochrane Rintala on March 29, 2010.
Friday concluded the third day of testimony in the trial, and included a 2 ½ hour police interview Cara Rintala gave to police the night of the slaying and testimony from a state police detective who recovered blood evidence from a rag allegedly discarded by Cara Rintala in Holyoke the day of her wife’s death.
The trial continues on Monday with a scheduled visit to the home where the slaying occurred.
Jurors on Friday saw photo surveillance of the locations Rintala said she had traveled to on March 29, 2010.
State police Sgt. Christopher Ray collected the surveillance images the day after Annamarie Rintala’s death and recovered a bag from a trash can from the parking lot of the McDonald’s where Cara Rintala had driven through.
Among the items in that bag, according to Ray, were a pink cloth diaper and two rags.
According to prosecutors, one of those rags had a small stain on it that tested positive for Annamarie Rintala’s blood and the pink diaper matched the type used by the Rintala family for their daughter.
During the police interview, which began about 11:47 p.m. the night of the killing, Cara Rintala tearfully recounted incidents from the couple’s tumultuous relationship.
She admitted there had been violence between the couple, and described a hostile environment she said was created by Annamarie Rintala’s temper and demeanor.
“I feel like I’m betraying her by talking about past stuff,” Cara Rintala told Massachusetts State Police Detective Robin Whitney during the interview at the Granby Police station. “That’s the worst thing I could do.”
Cara Rintala said her wife had a temper, that she felt “bullied” in her own house and the family was under enormous financial pressure due to what she said was Annamarie’s financial irresponsibility.
She told police Annamarie had taken out a $25,000 line of credit in her name without her knowledge, allegedly to pay off a school loan, and had cleared a “couple of thousand” dollars from her retirement account, and another couple of hundred dollars from a savings account established for their daughter, Brianna.
She claimed that despite earning $60,00 to $70,000 per year in salary and overtime, Annamarie Rintala always seemed to be struggling to keep up with the bills.
“I don’t know where the money goes,” she told Whitney.
Cara Rintala said she didn’t press charges for the sake of their child.
“I love Ann,” she said in the recording. “She made bad choices and I’ve forgiven them.”
Cara Rintala said the night before the killing, Annamarie Rintala had become upset when a male friend came over to the house to have a few beers and socialize while she was working and sent a series of increasingly angry text messages to her throughout the evening.
She said Annamarie Rintala was distrustful and accused Cara Rintala of doing things behind her back.
Cara Rintala told Whitney in the interview that she was reluctant to get married, but felt pressured into making that decision by Annamarie.
She said that Annamarie Rintala had “bamboozled” her when an argument over a grilled cheese sandwich in September 2008 led to both women arriving at the Granby Police station to issue complaints and led to Cara Rintala’s arrest on a charge of domestic assault and battery.
That charge was dropped by Annamarie Rintala about a month later, according to court records.
In the interview, Cara Rintala said her wife had a bad temper and often argued with others, and briefly described an incident where Annamarie “chest-bumped” a member of the crew of a cruise ship the couple was vacationing aboard.
“Ann has a big temper,” Cara Rintala told Whitney on the recording.
During the interview, Whitney examined Cara Rintala and saw no fresh marks or cuts on her body, only a small bruise on the collarbone area that she claimed was a “hickey.”
In the interview, Cara Rintala gave her version of the events of March 29, 2010.
She said she had spent the day with Annamarie and their daughter, eating lunch and playing games, and left the house in the afternoon to run errands and do some shopping.
Cara Rintala said she made several stops in the Holyoke area, including the Holyoke Mall, a McDonald’s restaurant, a Burger King and a Stop & Shop supermarket.
She said she returned home about 7:10 p.m., found the door to the home slightly ajar and only the basement light on in the house.
She told Whitney she could see Annamarie Rintala’s feet on the basement floor from the top of the stairs, called out to her and ran next door with their daughter to have a neighbor call 911 when she got no response.
Cara Rintala told police in the interview that she ran downstairs, tripped on something and fell onto her wife’s body which was lying face-down on the floor, surrounded by a pool of paint.
She said she turned the body over onto her lap and found her skin and body cold to the touch.
Whitney asked Cara Rintala what she thought happened and if she knew of anyone who might be angry enough with her wife to try and hurt her.
Cara Rintala suggested her wife may have fallen down the stairs and that she had intense arguments with a co-worker and a former girlfriend, but didn’t believe either of them were capable of taking her life.
Whitney asked if it looked like there had been a struggle in the basement.
In court Friday Whitney testified that, according to Annamarie Rintala’s autopsy, she had 23 bruises on her body and three cuts on her head, two on either side and a V-shaped one on the back.
The state medical examiner determined Annamarie Rintala died from strangulation and blows to her head.
“She looked dead, that’s what I know,” Cara Rintala replied in the interview.
Whitney asked her where the paint came from and why it still appeared fresh when the body was so cold.
“You’re the last one to have seen her alive,” Whitney told Cara Rintala. “You’re the one who has the answer to the puzzle.”
In the interview Cara Rintala denied pouring paint on her wife’s body.
On the recording, Cara Rintala broke down several times, and likewise did so in the courtroom while it was being played Friday for the jury.
“I don’t want to recall this anymore, please,” Cara Rintala said during the interview.
According to earlier testimony, Cara Rintala cooperated with police the night of her wife’s death, including turning over her cell phone, clothing and allowing an attempted interview of the couple’s 2 ½- year-old daughter.
Granby Police Detective Barbara Fenn testified Friday she was called to the couple’s Barton Street home that evening for a report of a suspicious death.
Fenn said when she arrived, she saw Cara Rintala in the home with other police officers and paramedics who had arrived earlier following the 7:12 p.m. 911 call made from a neighbor’s home.
Fenn testified that Cara Rintala spontaneously began telling her about an argument between the couple that began the previous evening and was conducted via cell phone text messages between the two.
When told that phone would need to be collected as evidence, Cara Rintala did not object, Fenn said.
Cara Rintala was still in the clothing she was wearing when she was found by police in the basement of the home, cradling the lifeless body of Annamarie Rintala, covered in paint and blood.
According to testimony and photo and video evidence of the crime scene, Annamarie Rintala’s body was covered from her knees to her neck in white paint, smears of blood around her face and head, the right side of which was also covered in paint.
Some of that paint had gotten on Cara Rintala when she was holding the body in her lap, caressing her and crying, “She’s dead. I can’t believe she’s dead.”
Fenn said she told Cara Rintala her clothing would need to be collected as evidence.
Under cross-examination, Fenn said there were no visible marks, cuts or abrasions on Cara Rintala that could be seen while she was changing out of the soiled clothes.
Annamarie Rintala was strangled and beaten to death in what prosecutors described as a violent struggle.
Fenn and Whitney testified Cara Rintala did not object when they told her they needed to speak with the couple’s daughter, who had been in the care of neighbors since the discovery of Annamarie Rintala’s body earlier in the evening. Whitney said the child was overtired by the time officers attempted to speak with her about 11 p.m. and wasn’t able to provide any useful information.
Cara Rintala faces life in prison if convicted.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com.