911 calls, court hearing played for jurors in Rintala murder trial 

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 09-18-2023 7:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Audio recordings of a 911 call from Cara Rintala and of a hearing before a judge after she and Annamarie Cochrane Rintala had each filed restraining orders against the other were among the evidence presented for jurors Monday as trial testimony continued in Hampshire Superior Court.

Cara Rintala is charged with murder in the strangulation death of Cochrane Rintala, her wife, on March 29, 2010, in Granby. This is her fourth trial, with the first two ending in hung juries and the third resulting in a conviction that was later overturned.

On the trial’s fourth day, Alan Wishart, who was a police sergeant in Granby at the time, testified that he remembered the time in September 2008 when Cochrane Rintala came to the station with her toddler daughter, Brianna. Wishart said she was crying and upset, and he asked her to fill out a statement. She did so, accusing Cara Rintala of assault.

A short time later, Cara Rintala came to the station. When Wishart spoke with her, she said she and her wife had argued but it was verbal only.

After Wishart confirmed that Cochrane Rintala was alleging assault, he informed Cara Rintala that he was going to arrest her for assault and battery.

“Her demeanor changed drastically,” Wishart said. “She became very demanding, her body language became aggressive.”

She told him he couldn’t arrest her, Wishart said. After a while, he said, she calmed down, and asked him: “What if I told you she hit me?”

He said Rintala showed him a red mark on her neck.

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He said Cochrane Rintala was advised to seek a restraining order against her wife, which she did. Cara Rintala was ordered to leave the residence and to have no contact with her wife or child. The order was vacated two days later at the plaintiff’s request, Wishart said.

Questioned by defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio, Wishart acknowledged that he saw no marks on Cochrane Rintala, and that the complainant’s version of events is all a judge sees until the first court date. He said police try to avoid arresting both parties in such disputes when a child is involved.

Scapicchio suggested her client’s reaction when she was told she was to be arrested was not abnormal. But, asked the same question by Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl, Wishart confirmed that he was taken aback.

“It was shocking,” he said. “She looked right through me.”

Emergency calls

Lynn Menard, a dispatcher for the Granby Police Department for 35 years, testified to a 911 hang-up call that came from 18 Barton St. in May 2009.

When she called back, the line stayed open for a couple of seconds and she heard screaming, she said. The second time she called back, a woman answered, identifying herself as Mrs. Rintala. She said her daughter had been playing with the phone and hit herself.

Menard described the woman’s tone as “stern.”

Barbara Fisher, a former officer with the Granby police who was known as Barbara Fenn at the time, testified that she took a 911 call from Cara Rintala on May 26, 2009, at 1:18 p.m.

In the call, a recording of which was played for the jury, Rintala, sounding distraught, says her spouse is threatening to take her daughter from her. She says she’s walking on eggshells.

“I’m upset, I’m upset.” she says numerous times. “I don’t like being threatened.”

Fisher and another officer drove to the house, where they found both women outside on the lawn. She talked to Cochrane Rintala, who was upset, and she gave her options on filing a restraining order. Both women ended up driving to court in separate cars, Fisher said.

In the recording of the court hearing before Judge John Payne, with both women present, Cara Rintala says she has had “all that I can take,” that she’s afraid to be in her house, that she’s constantly threatened, verbally and bodily.

“I want peace in the house,” she said.

Both women tell the judge they filed for divorce. Cochrane Rintala says Cara “went ballistic” when she was served papers.

Payne, his voice rising, tells them they need to sort it out or he’ll call child welfare officials and neither will have custody of their daughter.

“The two of you can either deal with this as adults and deal with it in Probate Court as your marriage dissolves or, if you want, I’ll call (the Department of Children and Families) right now … and indicate to them that neither one of you is stable enough to deal with that child.

“You’re either going to exist in that house until you get this straightened out, or you’re going to look at criminal charges — one or both of you,” Payne said.

Stormy vacation

Cochrane Rintala’s aunt Nancy Kaufman testified that she enjoyed a close relationship with her niece, who was 12 years younger. They lived in the same house in Springfield until Kaufman was 20, she said, and they spoke or texted daily for years afterward.

She said Annamarie and Cara visited her Florida home in late February 2010. They planned to go on a cruise, but the atmosphere between them was distant and tense, she said.

They stayed awhile after the cruise, and Kaufman said one afternoon she offered to watch Brianna so the couple could go to the beach.

“Cara came storming in and said, ‘Do you think this (gesturing at herself) wants to go to the beach with that (gesturing at her wife)?” Kaufman related.

Annamarie was crushed, she said.

Kaufman also testified that she received a call from Cara Rintala on the Wednesday before the murder. It was the first time she had ever called her, she said. She wanted Kaufman to use her influence to persuade her niece that they couldn’t afford a dog.

She also said she received several phone calls and texts from Annamarie on the morning of March 29 that she did not answer.

Testimony is set to continue Tuesday with State Trooper David Swan, an expert in computer forensics, and Detective Lt. Robin Whitney.

Staff Writer James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.

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