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A murderous romance or frame job? Things to know about Boston’s Karen Read murder trial

John O’Keefe died in the Boston suburb of Canton on Jan. 29, 2022
Karen Read listens to testimony during her trial at Norfolk County Superior Court, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Dedham, Mass. Read, 44, is accused of running into her Boston police officer boyfriend with her SUV in the middle of a nor’easter and leaving him for dead after a night of heavy drinking. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)

A highly anticipated trial in Massachusetts involving a woman accused of striking her Boston police officer boyfriend with her SUV and leaving him for dead in a snowbank is finished its third week on Friday.

The case has garnered national attention because the defense alleges that state and local law enforcement officials framed Karen Read and allowed the real killer to go free.

John O’Keefe died in the Boston suburb of Canton on Jan. 29, 2022. His body was found on another officer’s front lawn, and the defense argues the homeowner’s relationship with local and state police tainted their investigation.

A look at the facts and legal arguments:


Read, 44, of Mansfield, Massachusetts, has been charged with second-degree murder, among other charges, in the death of O’Keefe, 46. She has pleaded not guilty. The 16-year police veteran was found unresponsive outside the home of a fellow Boston police officer.

After a night out drinking at several bars, prosecutors say Read dropped O’Keefe off at a house party just after midnight. As she made a three-point turn, prosecutors say, she struck O’Keefe before driving away. She returned hours later to find him in a snowbank.

Prosecutors have put up witnesses who testified the couple had a stormy relationship before O’Keefe died and several first responders who recalled hearing Read say she hit O’Keefe.

On Friday, jurors heard from Jennifer McCabe, whose sister and brother-in-law were hosting the party. She said Read asked frantically and repeatedly, “Did I hit him? Could I have hit him?” even before O’Keefe’s body was discovered.

McCabe said she saw Read’s SUV outside the home around midnight, but O’Keefe never came inside. Read called her the next morning, hysterical, and then showed up at her house, McCabe said. Together they went to McCabe’s sister’s home, where Read immediately ran over to O’Keefe’s body, McCabe said.

McCabe called 911 and one of the first responders asked what happened.

“I hit him. I hit him. I hit him,” McCabe said Read told him. “Earlier it was, ‘Could I? Did I?’ When she spoke to the paramedic it was crystal clear: I hit him.”


Read’s lawyers have alleged that O’Keefe was beaten inside the home, bitten by a family dog and then left outside. They have portrayed the investigation as shoddy and undermined by the close relationship investigators had with the police and other law enforcement agents at the house party.

They argued that investigators focused on Read because she was a “convenient outsider” who saved them from having to consider other suspects.

The defense said police have not searched the house where they say the crime happened and that forensic teams never looked for trace or physical evidence there.

This week, they have tried to raise doubts about the integrity of the investigation, showing that many of the investigators and prosecution witnesses came from the suburban town where the crime happened and were either close friends or related.

They challenged Colin Albert, a witness who is the nephew of the homeowner and had been at the gathering, about his relationship with Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Proctor, who was investigating the case. Proctor interviewed Albert, despite the fact that they had known each other for most of Albert’s life and Albert had served as ring bearer at a Proctor family wedding.


Through their questioning, the defense has started hinting that at least three people — Boston police detective and the homeowner where the body was found, Brian Albert, Colin Albert or Brian Higgins, a special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who was with the group drinking that night — all had a motive and means to kill O’Keefe. They successfully argued ahead of the trial they should be able to present what is called third-party culprit evidence.

The defense tried this week to show that Brian and Colin Albert had the means to kill O’Keefe. They pressed Brian Albert on his past boxing experience and brought up the fact he was play fighting at the bar that night with Higgins - suggesting he was capable of actually fighting. They also questioned late night phone calls between Albert and Higgins that were made before the body was found. Albert said he must have “butt dialed” Higgins and does not remember a phone call that lasted for 20 seconds less than a minute later.

They also questioned Colin Albert about cuts on his hand that he said resulted from a fall on an icy driveway and from hitting a punching bag. They were also allowed to introduce videos showing Albert making unrelated verbal threats directly into a camera when he was a teenager. Albert said the threats involved a beef with a group of boys over girls that never resulted in a physical altercation.


At least two witnesses this week detailed the toll that harassment from supporters of Read has taken on their family.

Allison McCabe, a good friend of Colin Albert, testified about text exchanges with him before she picked him up from the party. She also broke down as she explained that her family endured harassment in the months leading up to the trial from people online.

Albert also said his family has endured harassment for the past year mostly from people on social media calling his family murderers.

Neither witness singled out any person or people responsible for the alleged harassment.

Aidan Timothy Kearney, a blogger known as “Turtleboy,” has been charged with harassing, threatening and intimidating witnesses in the case.

Michael Casey, The Associated Press

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