Skip to Content

Text messages suggested tensions between Karen Read and her police officer boyfriend, prosecutor says at her murder trial

<i>Pool/Court TV via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Karen Read is seen during opening statements in her trial on Monday
Pool/Court TV via CNN Newsource
Karen Read is seen during opening statements in her trial on Monday

By Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN) — Opening statements in the high-profile murder trial surrounding the 2022 death of a Boston police officer drilled Monday into two key questions that have long dominated the case: Is the officer’s girlfriend a killer? Or is she a victim of a sprawling coverup involving law enforcement?

Karen Read is accused of backing her black Lexus SUV into her boyfriend, Officer John O’Keefe, after a night of barhopping that January and leaving him to die in the snow. The 46-year-old was found dead hours later outside the home of another police officer in the Boston suburb of Canton.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally laid out the prosecution’s theory of the case, saying Read is guilty of striking O’Keefe with her car, “knocking him back to the ground … causing the bleeding in his brain, the swelling … and then leaving him there for several hours, in a blizzard, with temperatures in the teens … (and) snow piling up on his body.”

The relationship between Read and O’Keefe had soured in the weeks before his death, Lally told jurors, saying that Read had accused him of flirting with another woman during a New Year’s vacation in Aruba. The couple engaged in a “screaming match” for about 20 minutes during the trip, and their troubled relationship was reflected in text messages that will be revealed during the trial, Lally added.

But the defense said Read was framed as part of a cover-up to protect the homeowner and other people inside the house that night. They allege O’Keefe was badly injured during a fight inside the home — including being mauled by the homeowners’ German Shepherd — before being tossed outside in the yard to die.

“It was no accident that John O’Keefe was found dead on the front lawn” of the home on Fairview Road, defense attorney David Yannetti told jurors.

“At that address lived a well-known and well-connected law enforcement family in Canton,” he added. “Because the others were involved and because they had close connections to the investigators in this case, Karen Read was framed for a murder she did not commit.”

“Someone — not Karen Read — ambushed John O’Keefe,” Yannetti said. “Somebody probably did not mean to kill him. But somebody went too far.”

Read, 44, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a collision.

The trial started in earnest Monday after two weeks of jury selection and caps the latest chapter in a tumultuous case that has sharply divided the town 20 miles south of Boston. Residents have spent months debating potential scenarios of what happened that fateful night.

Read’s supporters showed up Monday outside the courthouse in Dedham – as they have for most of her court appearances – wearing pink and carrying placards reading, “Free Karen Read.”  They shouted, “we love you Karen!” and “stand tall” as she walked into the courthouse flanked by her attorneys.

For months, her supporters have accused local authorities of framing her and have stormed city council meetings to demand answers. Some have formed private Facebook pages and frequented blogs to discuss intricacies of that fateful night, turning what began as a local homicide case into a national sensation.

With the trial now underway, some of Read’s supporters have added a pink background to their Facebook profile photos, a color they chose as a show of solidarity.

Attorneys gave opening statements for about two hours

Both sides agree that Read and O’Keefe had met up with some friends and acquaintances while barhopping and had followed them back to the Fairview Road house about midnight for a small after-party.

But they strongly disagree on what happened next.

O’Keefe never set foot inside the house, Lally told jurors.

“From all of those people within that house that evening, none of them at any point in time observed John O’Keefe come into that house,” Lally said. “They saw the vehicle pull away and they just assumed that they (O’Keefe and Read) left and that no one was coming.”

But Yannetti argued that if O’Keefe was killed outside the home after Read dropped him off shortly after midnight, why didn’t the other people at the house notice his body lying in the yard when they left?

“Each of them walked out facing the front lawn, where the Commonwealth will tell you that a 6-foot-2, nearly 220 pounds, big man in dark clothing was sprawled on the front lawn and there was only a dusting of white snow on the ground,” he told jurors. “And not one of these people saw John O’Keefe laying there. Not one.”

Yannetti added, “The police did no real investigation of this case. And you will question why.”

The case revolves around the six hours before O’Keefe’s body was discovered that winter night. Read has said she dropped off O’Keefe at the Fairview Road house, then drove to his home to sleep because she wasn’t feeling well. She said she later woke up in the predawn hours and panicked when she realized he wasn’t home.

She told investigators she then called two female acquaintances, and the three women drove through the streets of Canton in near white-out conditions, looking for O’Keefe and calling his name, court documents show.

Read spotted her boyfriend’s body in the front yard of the house, covered in snow, and rushed to perform CPR on him, court documents show. Firefighters who responded to the scene that morning asked about his injuries, and Read told them, “I hit him, I hit him,” Lally said. The defense countered that Read was confused and trying to figure out what had happened to her boyfriend.

“Like many of us, (she) was worried about the worst. Did I hit him? Could I have hit him? That’s what she was saying, both to herself and to other people. She couldn’t think of anything else that made sense,” Yannetti said.

The defense also said a computer forensic expert will testify that the homeowner’s sister-in-law — who was inside the house that night and was one of the women who accompanied Read to look for her boyfriend — searched the phrase “Ho(w) long to die in cold” around 2:27 a.m., hours before Read called her looking for O’Keefe.

But Lally disputed the timing and reason for the internet search and said that Read asked the woman to search that phrase shortly before 6:30 a.m. after they found O’Keefe in the snowy yard.

A taillight on Read’s SUV was found broken the next morning, a detail prosecutors seized upon after investigators found pieces of Read’s broken taillight outside the Fairview Road home.

But the defense noted that the taillight pieces weren’t found until hours after the initial search — a delay Read’s supporters have used to claim a botched investigation.

“During that thorough search of (the) front lawn, the number of pieces of taillights that was found by a minimum of four officers looking for evidence was zero. It was only later in the day, when the snow was really starting to accumulate, and the police miraculously started to find pieces of light on the property,” Yannetti said in his opening statement.

Read broke her taillight when she struck O’Keefe’s car as she was pulling out of their driveway at 5 a.m. that morning in a panic to look for him, Yannetti said.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has launched a federal probe into Read’s arrest and prosecution. And last month, the Massachusetts State Police announced an investigation into a state trooper who is involved in the case.

The defense has claimed the trooper, Michael Proctor, did not disclose his relationship with key witnesses in the case. But Proctor’s attorney, Michael DiStefano, said his client has done nothing wrong and is cooperating with the investigation.

“Trooper Proctor remains steadfast in the integrity of the work he performed investigating the death of Mr. John O’Keefe,” DiStefano told CNN last month.

Read’s trial continued Monday afternoon with the prosecution’s first witness — the victim’s younger brother, Paul O’Keefe. He testified about the loss of his two siblings – John and their sister, who died in 2013. John O’Keefe was taking care of their sister’s two children, the brother said.

The trial is supposed to last at least six weeks.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - National

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content