MA v. Cara Rintala: Body in the Basement Trial

Posted at 6:00 AM, September 14, 2023


BOSTON (Court TV) — A Massachusetts woman is standing trial for the fourth time for the murder of her wife.

Cara Rintala is accused in the death of Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, who was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the couple’s Granby home on March 29, 2010. First responders found Cara sobbing and cradling Annamarie’s bloodied body; both were covered in white paint. Annamarie and Cara were both paramedics.

cara rintala mugshot

FILE – Cara Rintala (Narragansett Police Department)

According to the medical examiner’s ruling, Annamarie died of manual strangulation.

Cara maintains she was running errands with the couple’s two-year-old daughter and arrived home to find her wife dead. Prosecutors allege Cara fatally strangled Annamarie before staging the scene to look like an accident occurred. They say she ran errands to establish an alibi, and even sent Annamarie a series of texts that went unanswered in order to fuel her narrative.

Cara’s first trial in 2013 and second trial in 2014 ended in mistrials because the deadlocked juries could not reach a unanimous verdict.

At her third trial in 2016, Cara was convicted of Annamarie’s murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. That conviction, however, was overturned by Massachusetts’ highest court, which stated that a witness for the prosecution who testified about paint evidence found at the scene “lacked the necessary expertise.”

The witness was a paint quality engineer who told the jury that paint discovered on and near Annamarie’s body was still fresh. Medical experts, in the meantime, had testified that Annamarie’s deceased body had been in the basement for up to eight hours. Prosecutors argued that Cara herself had contaminated the crime scene with the paint.

Upon announcing their decision to overturn the case, the high court stated that the paint quality engineer’s testimony “lacked the requisite reliability and therefore should not have been admitted,” and because “it was significant and likely swayed the jury’s verdict, we conclude that the error was prejudicial, and we therefore vacate the judgment against the defendant.”

The paint expert also testified that Cara had poured ceiling paint over the crime scene within a four hour window of the time emergency responders took photos of the scene.

Cara, now 56, has been free on bail since November 2021. She has been living with family in Rhode Island where she is subjected to a curfew and GPS monitoring.

DAY 1 – 9/13/23

  • Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl delivered the State’s open
    • Right out of the gate, prosecutor Jennifer Suhl told jurors that the victim, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, took her last breath with the hands of her own wife, Carla Rintala, on her neck
    • Suhl stated that Annamarie’s killing was the culmination of a a relation that had been volatile and unstable for years — a union fraught with explosive arguments, physical battles, 911 calls, restraining orders, and the involvement of Child Protective Services
    • Suhl noted that the couple, who had been together since 2001, were both paramedics; but their similarities ended there. They were very different people who constantly fought: about work hours, finances, how to care for their daughter, and more
    • The couple got married in 2007 and adopted a baby girl in 2008
    • Police were called to their home for the first time about a month after the baby was adopted — Cara was arrested for assault and battery; Annamarie got a restraining order against Cara
    • Cara was kicked out of the house, and the baby remained with Annamarie
    • That particular restraining order and subsequent charges were eventually dropped, but the events set the tone for future occurrences: Cara saw Annamarie as having the “upper hand” and wouldn’t drop the matter
    • Both Cara and Annamarie filed for divorce in Spring 2009. Cara (the defendant) planned for an amicable split, but Annamarie asked for the house, spousal support, child support, and custody of their daughter
    • Within hours of Annamarie serving Cara papers, Cara was calling 911
    • Both Cara and Annamarie sought restraining orders to force the other out of the home; both wanted custody of their daughter. The judge refused to force either woman out of the home, and refused to grant custody to just one of them. He instructed them to go home and figure things out, and said he’d call CPS and have the child taken away if they came back to him
    • Suhl established that Annamarie used her cell phone a lot, and sent lots of texts and photos. Her final call was made to her aunt at 12:21pm and the prosecution contends that Cara killed her shortly after that. One tipoff was that Annamarie neglected to answer a text that she normally would have answered promptly
    • The prosecution contends that a fight between the defendant and victim had been going on throughout the house, the pair found their way to the top of the basement stairs, and eventually ended at the bottom of the stairs
    • Suhl told the jury that Cara strangled Annamarie and then attempted to conceal what she had done by altering the crime scene, attempting to clean up, and attempting to make it look like a break-in occurred
    • Suhl said that Cara left with her daughter and ran errands in order to establish an alibi: between 5pm and 7pm she went to the mall, grocery store, Burger King, and McDonald’s. She was seen on surveillence video at these locations and had receipts. She was seen on camera disposing of items that she never told the police about, including rags and a cloth diaper
    • Cara attempted to create a “digital alibi” by calling and texting Annamarie incessantly
    • Upon returning home, Ann ran to a neighbor’s house and told them to call 911. She then dumped a 5-gallon paint bucket over Annamarie’s body before rolling her body on top of Annamarie’s and covering herself in blood and paint
    • Police arrived at 7:15pm to find Cara under Annamarie’s body and told them she was stuck
    • Cara told cops she left the house at 3pm, and this was significant because the paint was apparently still fresh (the defense called for an objection at this point)
    • According to first responders who helped move Cara’s body from under Annamarie’s, Annamarie’s body was completely stiff — this is significant because medical examiners believe Annamarie’s body was in well-developed rigor mortis by this point. A doctor opined that Annamarie died well before 3pm, but Cara had already told cops that she and Annamarie were the only two adults there at that time
    • Suhl wrapped her opening statement by telling jurors that Cara intended to kill Annamarie and did it with premeditation
  • Defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio delivered her opening statement
    • Scapicchio told the jury that the entire investigation started as a lie, because the dispatcher called the incident in as a domestic
    • She said the State wants the jury to believe that no one but Cara could have killed Annamarie
    • Scapicchio suggested that Annamarie’s EMT partner, Mark, had been in love with her and that he had lied in interviews
    • She said that Mark slept in Annamarie’s pink sleeping bag that she left at the fire station and co-workers thought that was odd, but he insisted they were just great friends
    • Mark gave Annamarie 3 credit cards that his wife didn’t know about
    • Annamarie had a great deal of debt
    • Scapicchio also suggested that police turned a blind eye towards other potential suspects or at least witnesses, including a woman named Cala (NOT Cara) that Annamarie was dating
    • Scapicchio said that the reason Cara took the baby on those errands was because she was trying to get her to fall asleep and car rides always helped
    • She said the reason Cara was seen on camera throwing out a cloth diaper was because she had changed the 2-year-old’s diaper and didn’t want to drive around witha dirty diaper in her car — not to establish an alibi
    • Scapicchio pointed out that Cara gave cops access to her phone and let them search the house
    • She also said that police on the scene did not follow procedures or do all the tests they could have done
    • Scapicchio wrapped her opening by insisting that Cara Rintala did not kill her wife and questioned what they were even doing there
  • Two responding officers were the State’s first and only witnesses today. They described the crime scene, “wet paint” and “stiff as a board” body they encountered. They also described Cara’s hysterical demeanor and telling officers almost immediately she understands that she would be the “number one suspect.” The defense aggressively cross-examined the first officer on the stand, questioning his actions and the possibility that the paint boot prints he said he left could have come from someone else. Cross-examination for the second witness will take place when court resumes in the morning.