Jury hears Cara Rintala interview with state trooper after wife’s slaying

  • Annamarie Rintala

  • Northampton-Cara Rintala listens during her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton last Thursday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • Northampton-Judge Mary-Lou Rup talks to the jury in the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton last Thursday. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

Published: 9/19/2016 2:26:10 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On that night six years ago, Cara Rintala sat opposite a detective in the dim and dreary interview room. Back at her Granby home 2 miles away, her wife, Annamarie, lay dead at the foot of the basement stairs.

The detective wanted to know about the paint.

“I guess I’m confused where the paint came from,” said State Police Detective. Lt. Robin Whitney during the March 29 interview with Rintala. “Obviously, the paint was still wet. So where did it come from? Did you think it looked like there was a struggle?”

“I don’t know, honestly. All I know is that she’s dead. That’s all I know,” Rintala told her, now sobbing. “I’m holding her, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, oh God, she’s cold.”’

On Monday, jurors in Rintala’s third murder trial viewed the defendant’s two-and-a-half-hour interview with Whitney. In court, Whitney watched from the stand.

Rintala has pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court in the March 2010 strangulation death of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala. Cara Rintala has been tried twice for the crime, in 2013 and 2014, with both trials ending in hung juries. Monday was the third day of the trial, which continues Tuesday.

In the first hour of the interview, a soft-spoken Rintala recounts her often volatile relationship with Annamarie, detailing several incidents of alleged mutual domestic abuse and significant debt brought on by Annamarie’s spending habits — also accusing her late wife of opening credit cards and other accounts in her name. But throughout the interview, she often interrupted herself as she recounted the tumultuous relationship.

“I feel like this is the worst thing I can do for her is to talk bad,” Rintala said to Whitney. “You know? It’s terrible. God,” she continues, burying her face in her hands.

In the video, she looks up at Whitney, speaking through tears.

“I love Anne. She’s mostly good,” she said. “We all have bad stuff.”

At one point in the interview, Whitney asked a distraught Rintala to venture her own theory about her wife’s demise.

“If I had to guess,” she said, “I would think she tripped down the stairs.”

“That really doesn’t make sense, though, that she would fall down the stairs and she ends up where she is,” Whitney said.

“It’s starting to feel like I’m getting a finger pointed at me,” Rintala said. “I just want some support. I’ve gone through a lot today. I’ll do anything you ask.”

Rintala’s attorney, David Hoose, contends authorities botched their investigation when they failed to seriously consider other suspects. Hoose said in his opening statement last week that authorities unfairly zeroed in on his client when dispatchers and police repeatedly characterized the March 29 incident as “domestic,” before arriving at the scene.

Meanwhile, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl told jurors last week that Rintala went to great lengths to cover up her involvement in the crime, including pouring paint over the body and running errands throughout the afternoon to form an alibi — using her debit card and sending Annamarie texts and calls that were never received.

Later in the interview, the detective — again — wanted to know about the paint.

“I just don’t understand how paint got on top of her — like someone had poured paint on her,” Whitney said. “I’m confused. You’re the person with the answer to the puzzle.”

“I don’t have the answer,” Rintala told her.

“Did you pour the paint on her?” Whitney asked.

“No,” Rintala replied without hesitation. “Gosh no.”

That night, Rintala also told the detective that she felt “bullied” by Annamarie, and that her wife was, at times, confrontational with her family and friends.

Whitney also told the court she first encountered Rintala at her Granby residence when she responded to the call.

That night, Whitney testified Monday, Rintala took her daughter to a neighbor’s house after finding her wife in the basement. Whitney also testified she obtained Rintala’s permission to interview the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, which the detective said did not yield any new information.

Whitney then drove Rintala to the Granby Police Department for the interview. She had not been arrested at the time and rode in the front passenger seat of the cruiser, Whitney testified.

At the end of their interview that night, Whitney asked Rintala whether she had any injuries, and she replied she did not.

After showing the detective her stomach and back, Cara took a step back, away from the camera and partially hiked down her pants.

Though it wasn’t visible to the camera, Cara saw something on her legs that immediately alarmed her.

“Blood,” she cried to Whitney. “That’s all blood.”

You can reach Michael Majchrowicz at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.

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