Cara Rintala seeks dismissal of Granby murder case

Staff Writer

Published: 08-16-2023 5:37 PM


NORTHAMPTON — An attorney for Cara Rintala, facing her fourth murder trial for allegedly killing her wife almost 13½ years ago, urged a judge Wednesday to overturn a high court ruling and dismiss the case.

With Rintala beside him at the defendant’s table, Chauncey Wood argued that prosecutors cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client beat and strangled Annamarie Cochrane Rintala to death in their Granby home on March 29, 2010, without relying on speculation.

“Yet, 13 years and three trials later, it’s what they have relied on, and it’s what they will have to rely on,” Wood argued before Hampshire Superior Court Judge Francis Flannery.

After juries deadlocked at her first two trials, Rintala, now 56, was found guilty at her third trial in 2016 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The verdict was appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in September 2021 that the commonwealth’s paint expert “lacked the necessary expertise” and that his testimony — that Cara Rintala had poured paint over the crime scene within four hours of the time emergency responders took photos — “likely swayed the jury’s verdict.”

The SJC overturned the guilty verdict and sent the case back to Superior Court for a new trial.

Police who responded to the Barton Street home after 7 p.m. found Cara Rintala in the basement, weeping and cradling the body of her wife, Wood recounted. He then detailed some of the expert arguments concerning the temperature and condition of Cochrane Rintala’s body, and what those said about the time of death.

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Trial witnesses had described the body as cold and stiff, Wood said, with the Granby officer who was first on the scene describing it as “stiff as a board,” but none of the first responders was trained in assessing time of death.

Expert witnesses offered differing testimony on how much time it would take between death and rigor mortis, Wood said, with estimates ranging from 3 hours to 4½ hours. The commonwealth’s assertion that Cochrane Rintala was killed at least 4½ hours before police arrived was speculative, he said.

At Rintala’s trials, the prosecution had argued 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.

Wood suggested the SJC had overlooked some key evidence, but it had raised the concern that multiple trials eventually will lead to a conviction.

“This court is obliged to make an independent assessment,” Wood argued. “The court needs to look rigorously at the evidence and decide whether the jury will be forced to rely on speculation.”

In response, Northestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said the SJC had already answered the question of whether the evidence was sufficient to convict.

“The defense would have this court say the SJC is conflating or ignoring evidence,” Gagne said.

He suggested to Flannery that he did not have the discretion to do that, and urged him to follow the high court’s guidance.

Flannery said he would review the hearing arguments and issue a ruling in due course.

Rintala has been free on $50,000 cash bail since November 2021 and the court allowed her to move in with her family in Narragansett, Rhode Island, pending the new trial. Since her incarceration, Rintala’s parents had been raising Brianna, the now-teenage daughter she shared with Cochrane Rintala.

More than a dozen family members and supporters from her church in Rhode Island attended Wednesday’s hearing.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection Sept. 6.