Aunt describes Rintalas’ tumultuous relationship

  • NORTHAMPTON – Judge Mary-Lou Rup talks to the jury during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Retired Massachusetts State Police Lt. Christopher Ray takes the stand during in the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven E. Gagne points to a video with retired Massachusetts State Police Lt. Christopher Ray on the stand during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven E. Gagne, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl, and defense attorneys David Hoose and Luke Ryan watch a video with retired Massachusetts State Police Lt. Christopher Ray on the stand during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Retired Massachusetts State Police Lt. Christopher Ray on the stand during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. Here he is pointing to a video from the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside showing Rintala and her daughter. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Defense Attorney David Hoose cross examines retired Massachusetts State Police Det. Lt. Robin Whitney during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • Cara Rintala looks over papers during her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. DAVE ROBACK/THE REPUBLICAN

  • NORTHAMPTON – Cara Rintala looks on as the jury comes in for the day during her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Retired Massachusetts State Police Lt. Det. Robin Whitney takes the stand during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. Here Whitney shows what Rintala said her driving routes were during interviews on March 29 and 30, 2010. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Cara Rintala walks over to see an exhibit during her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Defense Attorney David Hoose cross examines retired Massachusetts State Police Det. Lt. Robin Whitney during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • Retired State Police Detective Lt. Robin Whitney takes the stand during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court, Tuesday. DAVE ROBACK/THE REPUBLICAN

  • NORTHAMPTON – Defense Attorney David Hoose cross examines retired Massachusetts State Police Det. Lt. Robin Whitney during the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Defense Attorney Luke Ryan speaks to Cara Rintala during her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Tuesday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 9/20/2016 2:15:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Even as Annamarie Cochrane Rintala and her wife vacationed on the sunny beaches of Florida, their tumultuous relationship followed from their home in Granby.

That’s what Cochrane Rintala’s aunt, Nancy Kaufman, described to jurors in Hampshire Superior Court on Tuesday.

Cara Rintala has pleaded not guilty to the 2010 murder of her wife, Cochrane Rintala. Rintala has been tried twice for the crime, in 2013 and 2014, but both trials ended in deadlocked juries. Rintala has been free on $150,000 bail since March 2014.

The current trial, which is expected to last about a month, will resume Thursday morning.

About a month before Cochrane Rintala was found strangled to death at the bottom of the basement stairs — covered in paint — in the home she shared with Rintala, the couple visited with Kaufman in Florida in February 2010 and later boarded a cruise.

On the witness stand Tuesday, the fourth day of the trial, Kaufman recalled one of the last memories she had of her late niece.

The vacation had gotten off to a rocky start, Kaufman testified, and the couple hardly spoke.

“It was cold,” she testified. “I felt coldness.”

In an attempt to provide the Rintalas with time away from their 2-year-old daughter, Kaufman suggested they take a walk along the beach near her home, she testified.

“Why would something like this,” Rintala said pointing to her own body, “want to take something like that to the beach,” indicating her wife, Kaufman recalled.

Sobbing, Cochrane Rintala stormed from the room, Kaufman testified.

Another time, Kaufman said, Rintala confronted her wife in front of Kaufman, before leaving the house to go on a run.

“I can’t take this anymore,” Rintala said, Kaufman testified. ” I want a divorce.”

Then Rintala looked to Kaufman.

“I’d never take Brianna from you,” Rintala told her, Kaufman recalled. “I know you love her.”

Brianna is the Rintalas’ daughter, now 9.

Kaufman testified that she had an extremely close relationship with her niece. “We spoke daily,” she said. “At least five times a week.”

On March 29, 2010, the day Cochrane Rintala was killed, Kaufman was the last person she called at 12:21 p.m., according to records shown in court. Kaufman did not pick up the phone then, and Cochrane Rintala did not leave a voicemail.

That morning, she also sent Kaufman this text:

“Hey sleepie head...pouring rain here, they say 6 in of rain over 3 days with heavy flooding. 80 by Saturday :) really nice for Easter...UPS has a delivery for u today.”

A photo of Cochrane Rintala with her wife and daughter on that Florida vacation was projected on monitors as Kaufman concluded her testimony. All three flashed smiles as the sun beamed off three pairs of sunglasses.

The final text messages

David Swan, a Massachusetts State Police trooper who analyzed text messages and phone calls between the wives in the 24 hours before Cochrane Rintala’s death, walked jurors through those communications Tuesday afternoon.

The text messages painted a picture of an often volatile and jealous relationship between the women.

For instance, the night before she died, Cochrane Rintala sent a series of texts to her wife about how angry she was that a friend of Rintala’s had stopped by their house that evening for an unannounced visit.

Rintala replied, insisting that she wasn’t doing anything wrong, and that she and her friend were simply catching up.

The next morning, after Cochrane Rintala returned from her overnight shift as a paramedic, Rintala told investigators she left the house with Brianna to run errands.

Prosecutors allege that Rintala strangled her wife sometime before 3:30 p.m. that day, which is roughly the time Rintala reportedly left the house. Defense attorney David Hoose, of Northampton, contends that Cochrane Rintala was killed sometime after her wife left the house.

Those errands took Rintala and her daughter to a nearby field where the two watched long-haired cows, then to the Holyoke Mall, followed by trips to McDonald’s, Stop & Shop and Burger King.

Retired state police Lt. Chris Ray testified earlier Tuesday that Rintala can be seen on surveillance from McDonald’s leaving her truck and walking toward a trash receptacle. She then leaves without ordering food.

Ray said that he inspected the same trash receptacle sometime later and recovered multiple rags and a diaper, which he collected.

When questioned by the prosecution, he also pointed out to jurors what he believed to be a white laundry basket shown in surveillance footage from at least two of the businesses Rintala visited. Exhaustive searches of area Dumpsters and other trash sites yielded no sign of that laundry basket, Ray testified.

Jurors also heard from State Police Detective Lt. Robin Whitney again. Whitney was the first investigator to interview Rintala the night of the murder. She conducted a second interview on March 30, roughly 12 hours after the first.

Whitney had noted during the first interview that Rintala had a mark of some kind on her neck. During that interview, Rintala told her it was a hickey.

“It didn’t look like a hickey,” Whitney testified Tuesday. “It looked like an abrasion.”

Toward the beginning of 37-minute second interview. Rintala told the detective that she had spoken with her family and they were concerned investigators were beginning to point to her as a suspect.

In the interview, Whitney assured a distraught Rintala that it was up to officials to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, and that she had never personally accused Rintala of being involved.

“My family’s raised concerns where we feel like I’m being channeled down, where I’m being accused,” Rintala said during the interview. “It’s very hurtful. My emotions weren’t being taken into consideration … it seems like I was being held. I’ve been very, very cooperative.”

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.




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