Trial starts in conspiracy-fueled case of girlfriend charged in Boston police officer’s death


DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The trial of a Massachusetts woman who prosecutors say killed her Boston police officer boyfriend by intentionally driving her SUV into him begins Monday amid allegations of a vast police coverup.

Karen Read, 44, of Mansfield, faces several charges including second degree murder in the death of John O’Keefe, 46, in 2022. O’Keefe, a 16-year police veteran, was found unresponsive outside a home of a fellow Boston police officer and later was pronounced dead at a hospital. Read has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.

As the case unfolded, the defense’s strategy has been to portray a vast conspiracy involving a police coverup. It has earned Read a loyal band of supporters – who often can be found camped out at the courthouse — and has garnered the case national attention.

The couple had been to two bars on a night in January 2022, prosecutors alleged, and were then headed to a party in nearby Canton. Read said she did not feel well and decided not to attend. Once at the home, O’Keefe got out of Read’s vehicle, and while she made a three-point turn, she allegedly struck him, then drove away, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors haven’t said where they think she went after that, however they allege she later became frantic after she said she couldn’t reach O’Keefe. She returned to the site of the party home where she and two friends found O’Keefe covered in snow. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. An autopsy concluded he died from head trauma and hypothermia.

One friend who returned to the home with Read recalled her wondering if she had hit O’Keefe. Investigators found a cracked right rear tail light near where O’Keefe was found and scratches on her SUV.

The defense have spent months arguing in court that the case was marred by conflicts of interest and accused prosecutors of presenting false and deceptive evidence to the grand jury. In a motion to dismiss the case, the defense called the prosecution’s case “predicated entirely on flimsy speculation and presumption.” A Superior Court judge denied the request.

Among their claims is that local and state police officers involved in the investigation failed to disclose their relationship with the host of the party. They also alleged the statements from the couple who owned the home were inconsistent.

The defense also floated various theories aimed at casting doubt on Read’s guilt, including suggestions that partygoers in the house beat up O’Keefe and later put his body outside.

In August, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey criticized suggestions that state and local enforcement were orchestrating a cover up, saying there is no evidence to support O’Keefe was in the Canton home where the party took place nor was in a fight.

The idea that multiple police departments and his office would be involved in a “vast conspiracy” in this case is “a desperate attempt to reassign guilt.”

Such comments have done little to silence Read’s supporters.

Most days, a few dozen supporters — some carrying signs or wearing shirts reading “Free Karen Read” — can be seen standing near the courthouse. Many had no connection to Read, who worked in the financial industry and taught finance at Bentley University before this case.

Among her most ardent supporters is a confrontational blogger Aidan Timothy Kearney, known as “Turtleboy.” He has been charged with harassing, threatening and intimidating witnesses in the case. For months, he has raised doubts about Read’s guilt on his blog that has become a popular page for those who believe Read is innocent.

“Karen is being railroaded,” said Amy Dewar, a supporter from Weymouth from outside the courthouse where the jury was being chosen. “She did not do it.”

Friends and family of O’Keefe fear the focus on Read and the conspiracy theories are taking away from the fact a good man was killed. In interviews with The Boston Globe, they described how O’Keefe took in his sister’s two children after their parents died.

To them, Read is responsible for his death. “No one planted anything in our heads,” his brother, Paul O’Keefe told the Globe. “No one brainwashed us.”

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