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Tonight on Date Live. Leanne's dad called me and told me Anne was dead. I looked down the basement, could clearly see somebody's legs. Cara says, I don't know, maybe she fell down the stairs. I had nightmares for months. There was paint all over the place. One of the most odd scenarios I could have ever dreamed of. What are you making the paint to cover up? As simple as that. Things were moved before we got here. This isn't what it's made out to be. I know they had their problems. I think every relationship struggles. Anna Marie was a big spender. She owed other people money. It was a relationship of extremes, hot, cold, wild, calm. There's a guy named Mark. He was a married man. Clearly, there was an emotional affair between Mark and Aunt at a minimum. When buttons are pushed, people get angry, people get upset. A history-making case, and now after four trials, a surprising new verdict. Ladies and gentlemen, this whole investigation started with a lot. It was a blow. It was a little of a gut punch. You know, love is crazy. I'm Lester Holt, and this is Daydly. Here's Dennis Murphy with Down the Basement Stairs.


March 29th, 2010, a dang rainy day in Gramby, Massachusetts. Cara Rintawa, a 30-something mom, was out running errands with her two-year-old daughter. When they got home around 7:00 PM, they found something truly shocking. Cara's wife, lying at the bottom of the basement stairs. Cara grabbed their daughter and raced to her neighbors, then home again. Up this time alone. My neighbor just came over and she told me to call 911. She was pretty distraught. She was. When Sergeant Gary Polar of the Grand Bay Police Department arrived at the Rintala house about 7:20, he heard Cara before he saw her. It was, She's dead. I can't believe she's dead. Crying. Lots of crying. Nothing prepared Sergeant Polar for what he saw when he went down those basement stairs. There was Cara Rintala sitting on the floor with a female, it looked like a female party across her lap. Later found out it was Anne-Marie. She had her eyes open, her arms were out, extended like this. There was blood, smeared, and streaked, and something truly weird. Paint all over the place, all over this female that she had across her lap. Within minutes, more first responders arrived.


A surreal scene because both Cara and her wife were paramedics, had worked with some of these same responders, now helping an hysterical Cara out from beneath her wife's body. I said, Oh, my God. You got to be kidding me. The phone calls to family and friends started later that night. A shattered Cara on the line. The news, heartbreaking, incomprehensible. It was devastating. Thirty-seven-year-old Anna Marie Cochran-Rintala was dead. I couldn't be. I couldn't be true. It's just wrong. As police videosure to the basement, Massachusetts State Trooper, Jamie McGarian, the lead investigator, arrived at the scene, studied it, let it talk to him. Any obvious injuries to the victim here? Are we talking about stab wounds, bullet hole, laceration, abrasions? The things that it striked me is a large amount of blood, and there's several laceration to the head. It seemed as though the body had been there for a while. When I touched the deceased for the first time with the rigor mortis setting in, I thought, How long that body had been on that floor? There was an open paint bucket at the scene, and paint, light-colored paint, everywhere. The paint, to me, is fresh paint.


It's wet. There was a thin layer of paint on the deceased that appeared to be dry in some spots, but then there was other paint on the deceased that was still wet, and a large amount of paint on the floor that was wet. Did this look like the case of somebody who had taken a bad fall and somehow ends up knocking into the paint can and causing the paint to spill over them? No, because in the configuration of where the deceased was in relation to the stairs and where the paint bucket was, you couldn't fall directly down those stairs and tip that paint over. Other things spoke to the trooper. Items on the basement floor with blood under them, like a laundry basket. What did that tell you? That tells me that things in this crime scene were moved before we got here. Late that night, Cara went to the Grand B Police Department for an interview. It was almost midnight when Detective Lieutenant Robin Whitney hit record, turning the clock back to 8:30 that same morning when Anne got home from her overnight shift. We were talking. She gave me coffee. Playtime with the couple's daughter, Brianna, followed.


There was lunch and then a request from Anne who was trying to nap before another overnight shift. She's like, Can you just go to the mall or whatever? That's why Cara said she and Brianna ended up on that afternoon of errands. They left the house about 3:00 PM, she told Detective Lieutenant Whitney. The goodbye to Anne just matter of fact. That's all I can think of. It's a little goodbye, Grady. See you later. And here we are. Mother and daughter shopped at the mall, going to McDonald's to grab food and then Change of Heart going to a Burger King instead for Mac & Cheese. And then Captain Banana will get a hold of Anne. We've been texting, we've been calling. Then home. Brianna spotted Anne's body first. And Brianna was like, Mom, I'm not down there. And I didn't know what to do. I just don't want to scream. I want to run down there. But I didn't want to freak Brianna out. I didn't know. So I ran out of the house. After she left Brianna at the neighbors, Cara went downstairs to Anne. I did. I did not move. I'm not moving. Not moving.


Not moving. You turned her over? I am, yeah. I did. I did. I want to turn her over? Yeah, I did. I did. I want to turn her over. It's cold. And then she said she sat with her arms around her wife's body. This is nothing like I've ever been trained for. I've never experienced anything like this. Honestly, training, I know now I couldn't work on a loved one. It was a poignant picture to be sure. A dead wife, a devastated spouse, a little girl who'd lost a mother. But what had really happened at the bottom of those stairs? The news of Anne Coughran Rintala's death reverberated among her friends and family for days. A young mother, her daughter, still a toddler, was dead on the basement floor. How did you find out something awful had happened? I was at my desk at work, and my wife at the time called me and said, Sit down. I heard there was an accident. That's what I heard. A huge loss, because if ever there was a woman who took life in big gulps, it was Anne. She loved laughing, singing, and parades on the fourth of July.


The parade and the music and the fireworks, and it was just like a huge celebration. That was Anne. If she could have celebrated every day, she would celebrate every day. Jen Cochran, Anne's former sister-in-law. I remember my 30th birthday party. She was there, and she would be the MCAP, and that was her. I can't even explain what she would do. And you would laugh to the point where your stomach would hurt. But that was her. Even as a little girl growing up in a big Irish Italian family in Springfield, Mass, Anne loved the limelight. Her uncle, Pest squally Martin. The first time I had seen her take the stage and sing Mombo Italiano, it just knocked me out. Not afraid of the spotlight, huh? No, she loved it. She could belt it out to the Raptors, but was she any good? Her friends, TJ Donoghue and Mary Petrone, are diplomatic. She thought so. She was... Oh! I know. She could carry a tune, but she thought she was much better than she actually was. It didn't really matter because she had the charisma to pull off anything. When she settled into a career, the bright light she went for were a top in ambulance.


That's how she came to be a paramedic. That was another thing about Anne. She wasn't all, Look at me in the spotlight. She wanted to serve, too. She liked helping people, so I'm not surprised that she ended up working with people. Did she like the adrenaline of it? Running hot with the blue lights going? I would say yes. I would say yes, 100%. You can see that in her character? Definitely. Yeah, that's who she was. It was under those flashing lights back in 2002 that Anne met another paramedic named Cara Rentala and fell for her. Like Anne, Cara was compassionate, but in other ways, she was Anne's opposite. If everything about Anne was larger than life, everything about Cara was contained, even cautious. Sandy Montana is Cara's mom. Carl Montana, her stepdad. She had a plan, always had a plan, was very conscious of where she was headed in life. After a couple of years together, Anne moved into Cara's house in the Western Mass town of Granby, and they decided to adopt. This is a real step-step. I mean, this is a commitment. And so I don't think it was looked upon lightly. I remember that Cara wanted a two or three-year-old boy, and they ended up with a six-day-old girl.


Day-old girl. Weeks after Brianna came into their lives, Anne and Cara quietly went to the courthouse and got hitched. She and Anne are defining the relationship at a very prominent time in American sexual politics, and especially in the state of Massachusetts, was just taking the lead on same sex relationships and courts. And all of a sudden, couples are getting married in the courthouse. Well, I don't think that Kiera would have gotten married, but Anne really wanted to have the same last name as Brianna. In the years that followed, there were happy times with Brianna, the little girl who meant the world to them. A day before Anne died, they attended service at the Reverend Laurie Sauter's Sereen Church, and everyone seemed so contented, fresh from a vacation. When I stand at the pulpit, I look around and it's like, They're here. They've returned. I knew they were away in Florida, and they were full of light. When Suzanne Court, as a friend from church, saw them after the service, they struck her as a couple who had it all together. They were showing me pictures of a trip they had gone on, and they seemed perfectly happy.


So how to explain that horror at the bottom of the stairs? The investigators focused on that paint all over the place, on the body and beside it. They asked Cara to explain. It's where the paint come from. It's been down there for months. It looked as though Anne fell down those stairs. But was it really an accident or something more sinister? I seriously don't know. You couldn't rule that out at that point. You can't rule anything out. Trooper McGarion was determined to find out. Little did he know how long it would take. Over time, investigators became convinced that something sinister had happened in the Rintala basement. Lead investigator, Jamie McGarion. We have wet paint. We know items are moved in the basement. Those are all flags that come up. The medical examiner confirmed those suspicions: cause of death, strangulation, Anne was a homicide victim, her uncle, Pasquale Martin. An accidental death would have been easier, wouldn't it? Of course it would. But to have somebody rob somebody from you, steal, take, murder, just rip them from the world, hard to fathom, hard to swallow. Now, investigators were looking into a murder. They began a deep dive into Anne's life.


Prosecutor Steve Gagney and Jen Sewell of the district attorney's office joined the team. They learned that while Cara and Anne both had male friends, Anne's relationships could be complicated. Take the things she had going with a fellow paramedic named Mark Olexac. Mark Olegsak was a very close friend of Anna Marie. They started as coworkers then became very very close friends. The two were on intimate texting terms. That last morning, Anne texted Mark, asking him to go to Best Buy for her. Can you please go sat at 6:00 a. For me? I will get there about 8:25 a. With a coffee and a big kiss. Mark, at the time, was a married man. He was a married man to children. I think very clearly there was an emotional affair at a minimum that happened between Mark and Anne. Investigators didn't think the two had a sexual relationship, but it was clear they had a financial thing going. Mark opened his line of credit to Anne. No small thing where Anne was concerned because her big passion was shopping. Anne's friends, TJ Donoghue and Mary Patron. I do know that Anne loves jewelry. She loves nice things.


Gadgets, right? -i said, yes, gadgets, cameras. I mean, she loves to spend money. And sometimes the spending got ahead of her. Mark learned that. He cosigned, I think it was three total credit cards with her, one of which had racked up about a $7,000 balance at one point. Another thing. When investigators asked Mark what he was doing the day of the murder, he wasn't straight with the facts. He told them he was at home. Then he said he'd actually gone shopping and dined out. That must make your nose twitch when a guy doesn't give you the straight-out story. I agree. It's going to raise the suspicions a little bit. But Mark had receipts for his purchases that day, and his final text with Anne were affectionate. Even the morning of the murder, they were very lovey-dovey on text messages that morning. And you don't think the financial, the outstanding debt gets you there? No, there was nothing to suggest that Mark was upset about that outstanding debt. She was paying him back for that debt. He seemed to be in the clear. Investigators, meanwhile, were looking at another possible, a police officer named Carla Daniele.


Anne dated her before she met Cara, and perhaps more importantly, they had another fling the year before Anne's death when she and Cara briefly separated. And from Carla'sperspective, perhaps the love of her life was coming back to her. And some more credit cards and more spending here, huh? Yes, and as with Anne's friend, Mark, Anne started to rack up a little bit of debt on Carla's behalf. Racked up about $10,000 on Carla's card. But then in late 2009, Anne returned to her wife, left Carla. She was dumped, huh? She was blindsided. Carla said she was devastated. She took it very hard. So was Carla in the basement that March day? Here's a person who is romantically involved, emotionally tied to her, is dumped, and there are money issues between them. She was on the shortlist of persons of interest or suspects, call them what you will. But Carla told investigators she was at her gym, a half-hour drive from the Rintala House the afternoon of the murder. She said she went out for a long run. Security images supported her account. Is Carla's alibi rock-solid, or does it have a window for foul play? I would say it's pretty rock solid unless she had access to a helicopter.


That left investigators with a suspect who topped their list since the murder. The person who knew Anne best, who loved her, and who could get into it with her behind closed doors, as Cara admitted in her police interview. We'd argue and it would get physical, absolutely. I'm no angel, but I can honestly say it was definitely back and forth. You know what I mean? Investigators learned their troubles were well documented. In 2008, Anne had Cara arrested for assault. She dropped the charges. A year later, the couple not only separated, each woman filed for divorce, with Anne asking for sole custody of Brianna. Each woman also applied for a restraining order against the other, Brianna, caught in the middle. When the other would try to pull Brianna away, that was problematic. So the child was the glue that held them together, but it was also the source of a lot of this friction. Correct. Money was an issue, too, as it so often was with Anne. Their finances were now starting to become commingled, and Anne's debt and Anne's spending problems were starting to become a problem for Kare, too. But in early 2010, they appeared to be working on their marriage.


In February, they went on that trip. Then came March 29th, the bottom of the stairs. Only one person investigators believed had the opportunity and motive to kill that day. All the evidence kept leading us right back to Barton Street where that homicide occurred. But they knew they had a circumstantial case. There was no single piece of evidence which conclusions said Karewintala killed her wife. Even so, 18 months after Anne's death in October 2011, Kare Rentalah was arrested and charged with murder. Kare's mom got a call to pick up Brianna. And Brianna, when I got there, she said, Why is Mommy crying? I had to think fast. I said, Because she's a great paramedic, and they needed her for an important job. And so they took her, and that's why she's crying because she's not going to get to see you right away. Cara Rentala became the first woman in Massachusetts history to be charged with the murder of her lawfully wedded wife. An extraordinary journey through the criminal justice system was just beginning. Prosecutors knew when Cara Runtala was arrested in late 2011 for murder, they had a mighty challenge on their hands, and so it proved.


The trial opened in early 2013, and it ended three weeks later with a hung jury. Breaking news, a North Hampton jury has failed to come to a unanimous verdict. A year later, in 2014, trial number two, same thing happened. Incredible as it seems, another hung jury. Anne's family, convinced that Cara was the killer, was frustrated, wondering why a jury couldn't get there. I trusted her with my niece's life, and she took it. Soon after, Cara was bonded out of jail, free to spend precious time with Brianna. Meantime, prosecutors wrestled with the facts. They had a circumstantial case, no smoking gun, no eyewitnesses. Would they go again? You really do have to step back and say, Are we going to do this a third time? We did. The first thing we did was we consulted with Anne's family. They were on board, and that, I think, gave us the strength and the courage to step up again. So it was set. Cara Runtala would be tried a third time for the murder of her wife, Anne. But first, Cara had a heart-to-heart talk with Brianna, now nine years old. She says, Some people think I did something bad, something terrible, but I just want you to know that it's not true.


In September 2016, trial number three opened here at Hampshire Superior Court in North Hampton, Mass. Prosecutor Steve Gagney and Jen Sewell returned with a streamlined argument. We were caught in this trap of being responsive to the defense, and we decide let's play offense. In trial number two, they put the possibility on the stand, only to knock them down as viable suspects. And that might have been confusing. So this time, they were gone. Now they focused on and the helpless victim at the bottom of the basement stairs. The wife who was strangled, they said, for as long as four minutes until she died. Her last precious best that she took on this earth were taken with the defendant's hands around her neck, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing and squeezing more until every last breath of her was gone. Prosecutors laid out a timeline for murder that began with a nasty fight by text the night before, and working the overnight, angry when she learned Cara had a male friend over to the house. I hate the relationship we have. No one does that. No respect. Cara's response, Okay, you being over the top and crazy. It really is, in our mind, a fuse being lit, something that continues to the next day.


The next morning, the last of her life, Anne, a phoneaholic, called or texted friends and family members 58 times. I want to show you just one final entry here. The final call to her beloved Aunt Nancy was placed at 12:21, then, uncharacteristically, Anne went silent. Can't you remember to shoot a voicemail on that occasion? No mail. So you did not speak to Anna Murray that day at all. Is that correct? No, I didn't. The timing of that last call was important, prosecutors argued, because they theorized that Cara murdered her wife soon after, then spent hours cleaning and covering up. Remember that afternoon of errands. Prosecutors showed security video of Cara and Brianna shopping and argued it was part of the cover-up. She leaves the house around 3:00 according to her, but she doesn't pop up on surveillance video until 5:00 or so PM that evening at the Holyoke Mall. Suddenly starts using her debit card left and right to make minuscule little purchases. What was going on, do you think? She was trying to be seen. She was trying to be elsewhere. In short, she was creating a digital alibi for herself. We are a single-time lovey-boy.


An audio alibi, too. Prosecutors played voicemails, all play acting, they said. I don't want to be a murder king. Call, please, please, please. The whole reason she's out is to try to let her get some sleep. That just didn't add up. And now a pretty big deal, these cleaning rags. Can you just hold that up for the jury to see? Prosecutors said, Cara, used them to mop up. One contained a woman's DNA, which the prosecution's expert said could have been Anne's. But it was what Cara did with the rags that prosecutors wanted to talk about. That's her vehicle on surveillance video leaving McDonald's. She decides to get out of her truck in a pouring rainstorm, walk over to the farthest most trash receptacle in McDonald's, dispose of three cleaning rags, and drive away. Prosecutors also highlighted Cara's odd behavior after she saw Anne's feet at the bottom of the stairs. Cara is a paramedic. This is her wife. What does she do? Does she rush down there? Oh, my God, Anne, are you okay? No. She raced to the neighbors, prosecutors told jurors, then ran back home with one more job to do. Before the paramedics and the police arrive, she makes one final, desperate attempt at covering up.


She picks up that container of paint. She pours that paint. But instead of masking the evidence, the prosecutor said that paint pointed to Cara's guilt. The stiff body was clearly not something that had just happened. The paint being on the floor was something that had just happened. And now, prosecutors played their ace. They called a new witness to bolster their case, someone not heard from in previous trials. Engineer David Juliennay. He really did watch paint dry, conducting dozens of lab experiments. Were you able to form an opinion as to the time frame within which that paint was applied to the floor? Yes. And what is your opinion? Within approximately 30 minutes of the time the first responders arrived. That would be many hours after prosecutor said Anne died, the final coat of a slap-dash cover-up. But motivation. Why did the more sensible one of the two, by most accounts, turn on her fiery partner? Prosecutor said the seeds were planted some 10 months earlier, and they played an audio tape from a contentious court hearing to prove it. I'm not going to play games with this. It was May 2009. Anne and Kara had each filed those restraining orders against the other.


A district court judge heard them sniping at each other and erupted, threatening to have DCF, the Department of Children and Families, take custody of Breonna. If I see that come into this court, I will be on the phone to DCFSend me a picture of you. So fast, they'll be here before you get out the door. It was a turning point. Because of the judge's warning, each woman now knew that one wrong move could cost them custody of the daughter they adored. So the prosecutor's theory of what happened on March 29th. There was a violent fight, and Anne went down those stairs. Whether she was pushed or not, they couldn't say. What mattered, they told jurors, was what happened at the bottom of the stairs. The defendant had to make a choice: call for help, likely face criminal charges, lose her home, lose her daughter, lose her livelihood, or on the other hand, make Anne go away. And she made her choice. Now it was over to Cara's defense team. They'd managed to avoid conviction twice. Could they do it a third time? Kara Rentala's family and friends agree on a couple of things. First, that Kara is a great mom.


And if she has to sing herself silly to entertain her daughter, well, she's in. The second thing friends say is this. Kara did not murder her wife, not in a million years, Suzanne Cordis. Kara would never do that. The woman that I know, the devoted, faithfulful mother that I know, would never, ever do that to her wife. When the third trial commenced, friends and family sat behind Kara in court, practically willing of victory. Attorney David, who's open as he had in trials one and two for the defense. This case, ladies and gentlemen, is about unconscious bias, a mindset that caused the investigators and the experts to focus on one theory, one person, and to ignore everything that didn't fit. That one theory was, of course, that Karen murdered her wife in the course of one final terrible fight. The mindset, attorney who said, was there from the very beginning in the neighbor's 911 call. Listen to the dispatcher's words. She said the other one was down on the basement, but she didn't say much- Well, maybe it's domestic. And attorney who said, remember this question from Detective Lieutenant Whitney, a scant seven minutes into the lengthy police interview on the night Anne died.


All right, so let's back up a bit. You have a history of domestic violence, LaVanna, right? Even that powerful voice from court. If I see that, come into this court. Karaside insisted that noisy, scolding from the judge was anything but the trigger for murder. Did that scare them? Yeah, absolutely. That was when they did a turnaround and they decided they had to- Straighten up for the daughter. Yeah, pretty much. And by March 2010, although prosecutors hadn't acknowledged it, the defense told jurors the couple had put their troubles behind them. They focus on a nine-month period, which was undeniable a rocky patch in this relationship. A nine-month period out of a nine-year relationship. But what about that angry volly of text messages the night before the murder? The fuss over Cara's male friend's visit? Attorney Huse hit that hard. The Commonwealth wants you to believe that this was the battle of all battles and the fight that ended everything. Well, you've got to have some proof of that. And they don't. I'll tell you why. You can look at these texts. Once again, Cara is the calm one. Anne is the one who goes from zero to 60 in about three seconds.


By the next morning, the defense attorney said Anne was going her breezy way, promising her buddy, Mark, that big kiss in a text. Not a word about fighting with Cara. Not a word, even like, Gee, things aren't too good around here right now. Cara and I had a big fight. Nothing like that. Then to that afternoon of errands, and from Cara's side, an explanation for the trip to that trash can at McDonald's. Because that's what they did. They had to pay for their trash bags in Gramby, so they were dumping their trash wherever and whenever they could. Very low levels. The defense brought in its own expert to knock down the prosecutor's argument that one of the rags contained Anne's DNA. I have no idea what the source of the DNA on that rag is. It's a solid paint. But perhaps the most damaging evidence against Cara was the paint. Attorney, who's went after the prosecution's paint guy on cross. His weapon of choice, sarcasm. You are the first guy, as far as you know, who's ever testified about reading wrinkles and cracks in paint. Is that correct? That I'm aware of? Yeah. Okay, congratulations.


You're the first, as far as we know. Let me please change the tone here. The defense attorney had to persuade jurors that Kara hadn't poured the paint. He accused the paint expert of buying into the first responder's observation that the paint was wet. And your first responders' responses are, these are people you've never met, correct? Correct. You don't know how much training they have if they've ever even seen a bucket of paint before, correct? Correct. Yet you're willing to credit their subjective impression that the paint was either wet or shiny, correct? Correct. Finally, the defense called of all people, State Trooper, Jamie McGarion. In the first two trials, the lead investigator had been a heavyweight witness for the prosecution. Not this time. The trooper was vital to the defense theory of a Keystone cops investigation, and the defense attorney had pressing questions for him. Is he going to say, investigator, you ran a shabby case here. You didn't secure the scene. There were tests you didn't run. There were things to be known. You're relying on this junk science of how paint dries. Yes, that's his job. He just needs one nugget of doubt. In pursuit of that nugget, the defense attorney grilled the investigator about the two people of interest.


First, Mark Olegsac. Remember, he changed his alibi. But what motive could he have for murder? Well, maybe this. Anne, the drama queen, had angered him when she left her wife for her old girlfriend. He described that he had a big fallout with Anne. Is that correct? Yes. And the fallout was when he became aware that Anne was seeing an old girlfriend, correct? Yes. An old girlfriend named Carla Daniel, correct? Correct. A wisp of doubt, perhaps dating back to Anne and Cara's separation. And what about Carla? Remember, she said she'd been miles away at the gym and outrunning on the day of the murder. Security images seemed to support that account, but the defense produced a bank record dated the day of Anne's death from an ATM closer to the crime scene than the gym. Did you ever ask her about how that could have happened if she was running an East Long Meadow? I don't know that. I never asked for that. The name of the game for criminal defense lawyers is creating reasonable doubt. Had Huse managed to do that? We've got the answer next, and Moore will tell you why this case is still making headlines seven years later.


This is the most unusual, procedureally, unique case that I've worked on in my 20-some-odd years of being a prosecutor. The jury deliberated for one day, two days, three days. Would it be another Hong jury? That was the question. The defendant would please rise. It would not. On day four, a verdict. She's guilty of murder in the first degree. What? Guilty of murder one. The most severe charge. After two hung juries, it was a stunner all right, and the sentence was mandated. My daughter. Life without parole. It's like you can't believe it. There's nothing, nothing to point to Kara, how could this possibly be the worst possible outcome? How? Team Kara struggled to accept the verdict. In prison, Cara struggled, too, figuring out how to be a long-distance mother to Brianna, who went to live with Carl and Sandy, everybody holding on to hope for a successful appeal. That took years. Attorney Chauncey Wood argued the case. The core of our argument was that the Commonwealth introduced an opinion from a fellow who claimed to be an expert on paint, and in fact, the opinion he delivered was not reliable. Five years after Cara was convicted, Wood's argument carried the day.


The state's highest court has overturned the 2016 murder conviction against Cara Rintala. It was a blow. It was a real gut punch. Prosecutor Steve Gagney prepared to have yet another difficult talk with Anne's family. Anne's father, Bill, had passed by that point. Our concern was, can the family even get through another trial? But after some thought and after some deliberation, they said, We're willing if you're willing. And we decided to go again. Good morning. Now before the court, this Hampton County indictment… It's rare that someone stands trial four times for murder, but that's what happened here. Cara Runtala's fourth trial opened in September 2023. The prosecution pared down its witness list again. This time, there would be no paint expert. Instead, they stuck to what they thought was their strong suit. I would say the strongest part of our case, in my opinion, was the time of death. The prosecution called a former chief medical examiner to the stand. Did you, in fact, form an opinion as to Anne-Marie Ventala's estimated time of death? My review of the evidence suggests that Anne-Marie Rintala died in a window of time between mid to late morning and early afternoon.


I think the evidence does not support death having occurred any later than one o'clock or so. And Cara, by her own admission, was in the house until about 3:00 PM. So that was, I think, our bedrock throughout this case. The prosecution had merely tweaked its case. But the defense? Ladies and gentlemen, this whole investigation started with a lot. There was a brand new team for trial four, led by a brash Boston attorney named Rosemary Scapiceo. We put our heart and soul into her defense because we believe in her and we believe in her innocence. In this case- Scapiceo pounded home the message that the investigators wore blinders and never looked seriously at other suspects. They were only looking at Kara and Tom, and they were working really hard to make the pieces fit. And if you don't look anywhere else, if you keep those blinders on, then you don't have to do the rest of the investigation. Time of death was key to the defense case, too. Scapiccio went after the prosecution's argument that Anne died before Cara left the house at 3:00 PM. She put her own medical expert on the stand to cast doubt on the prosecutor's timeline.


I have an opinion as to whether or not you could rule out Ian-Marie Rintala dying after three o'clock. I could not rule that out. Ladies and gentlemen, when you take the blinders off, when you look at the information regarding time of death without blinders, you'll come to one conclusion, and that's that Commonwealth has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt because Kara Rintala didn't kill her wife. With that, a fourth jury got the case. You can't predict what a jury is doing. You always have hope that your client's going to walk out the door with you. What say you men a poor person? Not this time. We, the jury, unanimously find the defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Not murder one, the verdict at her last trial, not even murder two. This time, the jury found Cara Rantella guilty of a lesser charge that carried a lesser sentence, but still a loss for the defense. Devastating. To have your client stand next to you and have a jury come back and say that she's guilty and understand then that she's probably going to go back to jail is just devastating. Two weeks after the trial ended, everyone was back in court for sentencing.


Cara in handcuffs. Her daughter, Brianna, now 16, in tears as she appealed to the judge for her mom's release. I need my mom. This case started when I was very young. I do not remember my mother, Anne, at all. The only mother I have ever remembered is Cara. There is not enough words in the dictionary for me to explain my hurt, my pain. I'm asking you to release my mom right away and let her go. Anne's former sister-in-law, Jen Cochran, was in court for the sentencing. She found Brianna's statement hard to sit through. The fact that I was witnessed to Brianna sitting in that courtroom and didn't even call her mom, called her Anne Cochran. She did not know who she was. And there's one person to blame for that. Carol was sentenced to no less than 12 years and no more than 14. She'll get credit for the more than seven years she's already served. Another appeal is in the works. It's been more than a dozen years since Anne died. Jen, for her part, still misses that exuberant spirit. I don't want people to remember that she was lying on the basement floor covered in paint.


I want them to remember her the way that I do, which is her infectious smile. And I want that memory. I don't want the bad memory. Anna Marie Cochran-Rintalh. A woman who took life in big gulps, a joyous soul with a huge smile and a heart to match. That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt. Thanks for joining us.