Jury views police interview of Rintala after wife’s body found in basement

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 09-19-2023 7:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A few hours after finding her wife’s lifeless body on their home’s basement floor, Cara Rintala sat for a 2½-hour interview with police in which she described feeling threatened and bullied in her marriage.

During the interview, she alternates between tearfully declaring her love for Annamarie Cochrane Rintala and calling her a bully, a “spend-a-holic” and a “master manipulator.”

Rintala has pleaded not guilty to strangling Cochrane Rintala, 37, on March 29, 2010. This is her fourth Hampshire Superior Court trial, after two hung juries and a conviction that was overturned in 2021.

Jurors on Tuesday began watching a video recording of Rintala’s interview with State Police Detective Lt. Robin Whitney at the Granby police station. Earlier, they were presented with a detailed log of the Rintalas’ phone activity in the 24 hours leading up to the discovery of her body.

On the day of her death, Cochrane Rintala used her phone 38 times to make calls, send texts and take pictures of her daughter, according to testimony from David Swan, a state trooper assigned to the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. An investigator skilled in computer and cellphone forensics, Swan was enlisted by the Northwestern district attorney’s office to retrieve what information he could from the Rintalas’ Blackberry phones.

Swan’s testimony showed Cochrane Rintala, who worked nights, calling and texting her wife from work after 8 p.m. on March 28. She is upset and angry at Cara, who has a male friend over for drinks, identified only as Mike in the exchanges. The texts continue after they apparently talk for approximately seven minutes. Among Cochrane Rintala’s texts, she states, “I HATE THE RELATIONSHIP WE HAVE” and “I hate the way I feel.”

Cara Rintala responds that she’s being “over the top crazy” and tells her to relax. “I’m doing nothing wrong.” “I shouldn’t have to text reassurance.”

After two brief, likely attempted, calls at 10:49, Cochrane Rintala calls four times and texts twice between 11:43 and 12:41 a.m. They appear to speak for a total of four minutes. Then she calls four times between 2:14 and 2:37 a.m., each lasting less than 40 seconds, leaving no voicemail.

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Cochrane Rintala’s phone activity starts again soon after 8 a.m. on March 29 with an attempted call to Mark Oleksak, after which they text back and forth and finally talk for over 14 minutes at 9:40 a.m. She calls and texts her parents, spends 15 minutes on the phone with Verizon, calls and texts her aunt Nancy Kaufman, and resumes a series of flirtatious texts with Oleksak, promising him “a big kiss.” They make plans for him to come over Friday when Cara will be out.

At 12:21 p.m. she again tries calling Kaufman. It’s the last time she will use her phone. A text from Oleksak at 1:53 p.m. is not read.

Cara Rintala texts her wife at 4:48 p.m. to ask if she’s still asleep. She sends a few more texts, becoming more insistent about getting a response. At 5:52 p.m. she calls and leaves a voicemail, acknowledging that Annamarie is mad at Mike and saying their daughter, Brianna, isn’t hungry and she’s off to the mall. She sounds upbeat, signing off with “love you.”

She calls again at 6:40 p.m. She says she doesn’t know whether to worry or be irritated. She and Brianna are going to Burger King. She makes two more calls between then and 6:58 p.m., around the time she gets home.

Under questioning from defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio, Swan said he was never asked to examine Oleksak’s phone. He said he was not aware of a text being deleted from Oleksak’s phone, but it might be possible to recover deleted information if the phone software allowed it.

The interview

Whitney testified that she arrived at the Granby house at around 10:30 p.m. March 29. She said she never went down to the basement and didn’t know at first that it was a suspected homicide, though she did know of the couple’s history of domestic strife.

Before the video was shown, Judge Francis Flannery instructed the jury that, to the extent they considered the defendant’s statements to be voluntary, they could consider them as evidence.

In the interview, which began around 11:45 p.m., Rintala told Whitney her wife had a temper and created tension and discomfort in the home.

“She’s always in my space and threatening me and saying mean things,” Rintala said. “It’s just very hurtful.”

At other times, she tearfully declared that she loved Annamarie, and that she felt terrible for saying bad things about her.

She described her wife as someone who got into arguments with people all the time. She characterized herself as a “weak” person who would usually give in to demands made by her wife and others if she was badgered long enough.

She said she resisted the idea of marriage, and that Annamarie was the one pushing for it. She said they had been together since December 2002, and got married in August 2007. She described getting their daughter as “another stressor.”

She spent a portion of the interview telling Whitney about her wife’s irresponsible spending and deceit, including opening a line of credit in her name, emptying a savings account for Brianna and taking out a $25,000 loan in Cara’s name.

Whitney questioned whether Cochrane Rintala had a drug or gambling problem, but Rintala denied this. She said she took her wife at her word when she said it was to pay off a college loan.

Rintala said she didn’t press charges when the alleged embezzlement came to light, because she didn’t want her daughter to have a mother in jail.

“She makes bad choices,” she said of her wife. “I’ve forgiven them. I haven’t forgotten them, but I’ve forgiven them.”

Rintala said her wife would get jealous of her relationships with other people, and made her feel cut off from her family and friends.

Jurors will view the last hour of the videotaped interview Wednesday.

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