Consultant estimates time of death in Cara Rintala murder trial

  • NORTHAMPTON – Cara Rintala on day eight of testimony in her trial in Hampshire Superior Court on Tuesday. Defense lawyer David Hoose is in the foreground. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON  – Cara Rintala sits in Hampshire Superior Court as fingerprint evidence is projected on a screen Tuesday, which marked the eighth day of testimony in her trial. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Massachusetts State Trooper Christopher Dolan testifies about fingerprint evidence at the trial of Cara Rintala in Hampshire Superior Court on Tuesday.  (Don Treeger / The Republican)

  • Massachusetts State Trooper Christopher Dolan, left, explains an evidence photograph to defense attorney David Hoose during the murder trial of Cara Rintala in Hampshire Superior Court on Tuesday. Don Treeger/The Republican

  • 9/27/2016 -Northampton- Day 8 of testimony in the murder trial of Cara Rintala in Hampshire Superior Court. On the witness stand is Dr. Thomas Andrew, chief medical examiner in New Hampshire and a private consultant. (Don Treeger / The Republican) Treeger—Don Treeger / The Republican

  • Rintala stands as the jury leaves the room on day eight of testimony in her third murder trial. (Don Treeger / The Republican) Treeger—Don Treeger / The Republican

  • 9/27/2016 – First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne questions a prosecution witness on the stand in the 8th day of testimony in the third Cara Rintala murder trial. (Don Treeger / The Republican) Treeger—Don Treeger / The Republican

Published: 9/27/2016 5:41:09 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After eight days and nearly two dozen witnesses, the chief medical examiner in New Hampshire was the last witness to take the stand Tuesday before prosecutors rested their case in the third Cara Rintala murder trial.

The witness, Thomas Andrew, did not work on the case, but was hired as a consultant by prosecutors to review investigation materials and make a determination regarding victim Annamarie Cochrane Rintala’s time of death on March 29, 2010 — a point of great contention throughout the trial.

“On review of this information, my initial conclusion was that death occurred sometime in mid-to-late morning, to very early afternoon,” Andrew testified.

Andrew’s conclusion is one that agrees with the prosecution’s theory that Rintala killed her wife sometime before 3 p.m. and left their home to run a series of errands with the couple’s 2-year-old daughter — visiting stores and restaurants where she knew she would be captured on video so she could establish an alibi.

Over a six-year span, Rintala has maintained her innocence in the strangulation death of her wife, Cochrane Rintala. The 37-year-old woman’s body was found at the bottom of the basement stairs in the Granby home the women shared.

Several first-responders testified they found Rintala cradling her wife’s body at the bottom of the basement stairs. Cochrane Rintala’s body was bloodied and covered in paint.

Rintala pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court, having been tried twice before. Both trials, in 2013 and 2014, resulted in deadlocked juries.

Her defense team contends that Cochrane Rintala was alive when the defendant left on those errands, and found her wife dead at the bottom of the basement stairs upon returning around 7 p.m. Attorney David Hoose has argued throughout this trial that investigators unfairly zeroed in on Rintala after dispatchers coded the call as a “domestic” incident and failed to seriously consider other suspects.

Under questioning by First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne, Andrew testified that he had not been told what time Rintala allegedly left her home that day.

In determining the estimated time of death, Andrew referred to reports of first-responders who described Cochrane Rintala’s body as being stiff. They reported that her body moved as a single unit when authorities tried to move her arms which were locked upright in 90-degree angles.

These descriptions, Andrew testified, helped inform his opinion that Cochrane Rintala likely died no later than 1 p.m.

When she testified earlier in the trial, Joann Richmond — the medical examiner who performed Cochrane Rintala’s autopsy — could not pinpoint a specific time of death, though she estimated that she had been dead between six and 12 hours when she was discovered around 7:15 p.m.

Earlier Tuesday, before the jury was present, prosecutors said Massachusetts State Police Trooper Jamie Magarian, the lead investigator, would not testify.

Co-defense counsel Luke Ryan argued that Andrew should not be allowed during his testimony to refer to Magarian’s observations of Cochrane Rintala’s body, and Judge Mary-Lou Rup agreed.

Also Tuesday, Christopher Dolan of Massachusetts State Police crime scene services told jurors about his findings in testing several fingerprints and handprints that were found at the scene, including on the paint bucket near the body. However, there was only one print that seemed to match Rintala’s, he testified.

“It’s my opinion that this print on the side of the bucket is the right palm of Cara Rintala,” Dolan said.

Defense motion denied

Later in the afternoon, after prosecutors rested their case, Ryan asked the judge to direct a finding of not guilty — adding that the prosecution’s case relied largely on circumstantial evidence and did not prove Rintala’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ryan argued that the prosecution’s case was the weakest it has been in the three times this case has been tried.

“We’re seeing how the evidence stands … when put through the crucible of cross-examination,” Ryan said. “I don’t think they have enough to give (the case) to this jury.”

Rup dismissed the motion.

The first two defense witnesses also testified Tuesday.

Daniel McKenney, Rintala’s friend and colleague from the Ludlow Fire Department where she was a paramedic, testified that he had worked with her for about five years.

McKenney said he had run a 5K race with Rintala roughly two weeks before her wife was killed and that he did not take note of any issues between the couple.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at

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