Jury hears murder defendant Cara Rintala deny pouring paint on wife’s body


Staff Writer

Published: 09-20-2023 8:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Jurors on Wednesday watched surveillance videos and police interviews with Cara Rintala, while the defense tried to show that investigators failed to thoroughly question other possible suspects in the strangulation death of Annamarie Cochrane Rintala.

Rintala is charged with killing her wife in their Granby home March 29, 2010. This is her fourth trial in Hampshire Superior Court since her arrest in October 2011.

Toward the end of a 2½-hour police interview early on March 30, six hours after Cochrane Rintala’s paint-covered body was discovered, Rintala was asked where the paint came from.

“I don’t know,” she told Detective Lt. Robin Whitney, commander of the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

“It was clearly still wet,” Whitney said.

Rintala denied pouring the paint, and couldn’t explain how the body, found at the bottom of the basement stairs, got into such a state.

She also said she couldn’t see anyone hurting or killing her wife.

“I hurt so bad right now,” she said just past 2 a.m. “I’m so sad, I’m tired, I’m sad.”

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She became emotional again remembering her wife’s body being cold to the touch.

“I don’t want to recall this anymore, please,” she said.

Whitney asked if she had any marks on her, and checked her neck area, torso and legs. Rintala had a mark on her neck that she said was a hickey, and she chided Whitney for having to ask. She also had blood and paint on her legs and feet.

But Whitney told Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl the 2-inch-long mark on Rintala’s neck didn’t look like a hickey to her.

In a second interview at the district attorney’s office the next day, Whitney pressed Rintala on what time she left the house the day before. Rintala remained vague on the answer, talking instead about her young daughter’s eating and napping habits. It could have been 2:30, or 3, or 3:30, she said.

Whitney also asked her to describe the route she took after leaving the house, which by Rintala’s account turned into a long, roundabout journey to the Holyoke Mall.

Whitney testified that this was different from the route she had described in her previous interview. She also testified that a diamond earring was found in the body bag in which Cochrane Rintala’s body was taken to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.

Under questioning from defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio, Whitney acknowledged that she did not document the mark that Rintala claimed was a hickey, and it was not mentioned in her report.

Scapicchio pressed Whitney on investigators’ actions with regard to Cochrane Rintala’s friend Mark Oleksak. She established that police never subpoenaed Oleksak’s phone, even knowing he had deleted a text on the day of the murder, and accepted his initial statement that he’d gone to physical therapy then home on March 29.

At his second police interview, in November 2010, Scapicchio asserted, he altered his story, saying he had gone to Home Depot and Bob’s Discount Furniture and had bought a $7 pair of fleece pants at Walmart at around 4:30.

“Is lying to police cooperative?” Scapicchio asked.

“I didn’t feel it was a lie,” Whitney responded.

Oleksak had given Cochrane Rintala three credit cards to help her re-establish credit following bankruptcy several years earlier, Scapicchio said, and $7,000 was owed on the cards at the time of her death.

Oleksak and Cochrane Rintala had recently taken a trip to Connecticut and she asked him for money to buy a dog. He gave her $350, according to Whitney, but she never got the dog.

Scapicchio quoted Oleksak as telling police, “I’d be willing to do anything for a friend as long as they didn’t lie to me.”

“Ever ask what he meant?” she asked Whitney.

Whitney said no.

Scapicchio asserted that Oleksak had stopped talking to Cochrane Rintala and stopped paying for her phone after learning she was still seeing her on-and-off girlfriend Carla Daniele.

Suhl asked Whitney if there was any animosity between Cochrane Rintala and Daniele.

“She wasn’t a suspect,” Whitney said.

Suhl also established from Whitney that Oleksak had never refused to provide anything the police asked for, that he harbored no animosity to Cochrane Rintala, and was not considered a suspect.

Silent film

Christopher Ray, a retired state trooper who worked as an investigator for the district attorney’s office, testified that he was asked to retrieve surveillance video from the places Cara Rintala said she had visited on the afternoon of March 29.

He said he was looking for a 2005 Ford Sport Trac pickup driven by a white woman in her 40s accompanied by a small child with long blond hair.

Jurors viewed footage from the Holyoke Mall showing the truck, a woman and child coming and going between 5 and 5:35 p.m. They also viewed footage from the Holyoke Stop & Shop between 6 and 6:30 p.m., and a receipt for kid’s mac and cheese from the Burger King in Chicopee at 6:48 p.m.

At the McDonald’s on Northampton Street in Holyoke around 5:47 p.m., the footage showed the truck pull around to the southeast corner of the parking lot and a figure going to the trash bin and back.

When Ray checked the trash bin on the evening of March 30, he said, he found three rags, one red, one gray and a pink diaper. They were wet, but there was nothing else on them, he said.

He secured the trash as evidence and turned it over to investigators.

Under questioning from First Assistant District Attorney Steve Gagne, Ray noted that objects could be seen in the back of the pickup at McDonald’s and Stop & Shop, but they were not there when he inspected the truck at the Rintalas’ Barton Street home two days later.

Ray said he did not know what the objects were. But he testified that he found a pink diaper in a cabinet under the kitchen sink at the home.

Testimony continues Thursday.