In turnabout, lead investigator testifies for defense in Rintala trial

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 9/30/2016 9:16:11 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In an unorthodox turn of events Friday, the defense team in the third Cara Rintala murder trial called the lead State Police investigator to testify after he had been a prosecution witness in the two previous trials.

Rintala is accused of strangling her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, to death in their Granby home March 29, 2010. Rintala pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court. Her first two trials, in 2013 and 2014, resulted in deadlock juries.

The trial, which has lasted most of September, is expected to wrap up Monday with the end of defense testimony and closing arguments, Judge Mary-Lou Rup told jurors.

On Friday, State Trooper Jamie Magarian, the lead investigator, was called as a defense witness after prosecutors announced in court Wednesday, without the jury present, that they would not put him on the stand.

Co-defense counsel Luke Ryan responded by telling the judge that prosecutors were trying to “keep evidence of Cara Rintala’s innocence away from the jury.”

“Mr. Gagne has obviously decided he wants to change all the rules this time, and, like I said before, treat it like a poker game,” David Hoose, Rintala’s other attorney, told the judge Friday without jurors present.

First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne denied that, telling Rup that the decision was strategic because he and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl were taking a different route.

Magarian’s testimony

When Magarian took the stand Friday afternoon, one of the first items Hoose wanted to address was the origin of the bucket containing the paint that was spilled over and beside Cochrane Rintala’s body.

Prosecutors say Rintala poured the paint over her wife’s body to contaminate physical evidence and shield her involvement in the killing.

A forensic analyst testified earlier that a right palm print found on the same paint bucket matched Rintala’s.

Magarian testified that when he interviewed Cochrane Rintala’s father, he learned the paint had been left over from a previous project.

“The remainder of the paint was given to Cara Rintala who brought the paint to (her home at) 18 Barton St., is that correct?” Hoose continued.

Magarian agreed.

The remainder of the trooper’s roughly three-hour testimony Friday centered on Cochrane Rintala’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Carla Daniele, a Springfield police officer, and Mark Oleksak, a close friend and fellow paramedic.

Since the beginning of the trial, the defense has contended that investigators unfairly focused on Rintala after dispatchers and police officials referred to the initial 911 call the night of the killing as a possible “domestic” incident. Hoose has argued that authorities never seriously considered other suspects.

Hoose pressed Magarian about his interviews with Oleksak.

Magarian testified that Oleksak conceded he and Cochrane Rintala had exchanged texts in which they each said they loved each other, although their relationship never turned physical.

Magarian also testified that Oleksak informed him that Cochrane Rintala had racked up about $7,000 in debt on a credit card in his name. Under continued questioning from Hoose, Magarian also said Oleksak at least twice changed his story about his whereabouts on the day of Cochrane Rintala’s death.

Oleksak’s alibi — which consisted of a morning physical therapy appointment, shopping at several grocery stores, a stop at the bank and a family dinner — was eventually corroborated by phone and financial records, though not until more than a year after Cochrane Rintala was killed.

Beyond the debt and close friendship that Oleksak admitted to authorities he hid from his wife, he also told Magarian that Cochrane Rintala had resumed a romance with Daniele in the summer of 2009 after divorce papers had been filed by the Rintalas.

Magarian testified that Oleksak did not approve of their romance. But Cochrane Rintala left Daniele in November 2009, he added, and got back together with Rintala.

Daniele was devastated, Magarian testified. He said Daniele told him during his investigation that she had not had contact with Cochrane Rintala since she left. On the day she was killed, Daniele told investigators she had been at a gym in East Longmeadow between 3 and 7 p.m.

The alibis of both Oleksak and Daniele ultimately checked out, said Magarian, who will continue testifying Monday.

“In the beginning, anyone can be a suspect,” Magarian said. “Anyone can be a person of interest. And as the investigation goes on, those people can fade out or they can stay in. Everyone is looked at.”

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


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