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A Massachusetts adjunct professor will stand trial for the alleged murder of her boyfriend, a Boston police officer, whom she allegedly ran over and left to die during a winter storm earlier this year.
Karen Read, 42, was indicted by a Norfolk County grand jury on June 9 and was arrested at her Mansfield home later that day, prosecutors said in a press release. She was charged with second-degree murder, motor vehicle manslaughter and leaving the scene of a collision.
Read pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment last Tuesday. She previously had pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge in the case.
O’Keefe was discovered face-up and unresponsive in a snowdrift outside a residence in Canton, Massachusetts on Jan. 29, after a severe winter storm dumped upwards of 21 inches of snow in the area.
Prosecutors allege that Read dropped O’Keefe off at a house party at the home around midnight after bar-hopping together. According to police, Read then drove home. But, they say, the next morning she observed that her SUV had a broken taillight and, after she wasn’t immediately able to reach O’Keefe, ultimately went back to the Canton home where she'd dropped him off.
Read and two acquaintances found the Boston police officer laying in the street, covered in a dusting of snow, bleeding and barely alive, at approximately 6 a.m.
"I hit him, I hit him, I hit him, I hit him," Read allegedly told firefighters who descended on the scene, Boston NBC reported.
O’Keefe was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities believe that Read reversed into O’Keefe in the early morning hours of Jan. 29 while conducting a three-point turn after dropping him off.
He suffered several skull fractures, a cut to the back of his head, two black eyes, forearm wounds and his clothes were covered in blood and vomit, NBC Boston reported. Officials indicated that hypothermia was a contributing factor to his death.
Massachusetts State Police conducted the investigation into O’Keefe’s death.
David Yannetti, Read’s defense lawyer, however, denied Read was responsible for her boyfriend’s death at all and instead accused state police and Norfolk prosecutors of a sprawling conspiracy to cover-up the true events leading up to O’Keefe’s death.
“There are a lot of other things that don’t make sense in this case and lead one to question what is going on here,” Yannetti told Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
Yannetti stated that O'Keefe's injuries are “inconsistent” with a vehicular injury, said prosecutors purposefully ignored exculpatory evidence, and that they misrepresented the nature of Read and O’Keefe’s romantic relationship in court.
He also accused investigators of tampering with Read’s taillight after O’Keefe’s death.
“We have in our possession photographic evidence that shows that the taillight on my client’s vehicle (which the police claim struck Officer O’Keefe) was in different condition when it was towed from my client’s property than when the police took photos of it after impounding,” Yannetti explained. “The police photos show significant damage that was not present on the vehicle before the police [towed] it.”
Yannetti also accused the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office of withholding potential exculpatory geolocation evidence from the night of O’Keefe’s death that he insisted would exonerate his client.
“We have been demanding that the D.A.’s office obtain a Google Geofence warrant to piece together the events on the night in question, but they have so far refused,” Yannetti added. “Google Geofence data will show — within a one-meter margin of error — the movements of Officer John O’Keefe on the night he died. Importantly, the data will also show what other cell phones were on the property where he died – and which ones came close to him before and after his demise."
"The data will tell the story of when and potentially how Officer O’Keefe died,” he added. "The police appear to want to blame my client without investigating whether someone else actually caused Officer O’Keefe’s injuries."
Yannetti claims that Read had no motive to kill her boyfriend; she “deeply cared” for O’Keefe, he said. He blasted prosecutors’ assertions that O’Keefe was planning to break up with Read as false, pointing to two vacations the couple had booked shortly before the man's death. Yannetti added that his client was a “mother figure” to O’Keefe’s two adopted children.
“Neither trip came to fruition because of his untimely death, but this evidence contradicts the prosecution’s theory that he was planning to break up with her,” he added. “It’s completely inconsistent with a relationship thats ending. Every part of their case is going to fall apart.”
The Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, however, denied Yannetti’s assertion that prosecutors intentionally overlooked exculpatory evidence in the case.
“This was an extensive grand jury investigation and we have confidence in their work,” spokesperson David Traub told Oxygen.com on Tuesday afternoon. “Going forward, any issues will be decided by a superior court judge and jury. As with every criminal defendant, the discovery process assures that defense will be able to review the Commonwealth’s evidence prior to trial.”
A spokesperson for both the Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department declined to comment on the active case when contacted by Oxygen.com.
O’Keefe, a 16-year law enforcement veteran, joined the Boston Police Department in October 2005, a department spokesperson confirmed. He was also an adoptive father to his niece and nephew, whom he took in after his sister and her husband died.
“John was not only a dedicated police officer, he was an exemplary guardian, son, brother, uncle and friend and we were so fortunate to have him as a part of our lives,” Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long said in a statement in February. “People talk about someone who would give you the shirt off their back but that was truly who John was, and it is heartbreaking for us to suddenly be talking about him in the past tense.”
Read previously worked at Fidelity Investments and as an adjunct finance professor at Bentley University.
She posted a $100,000 bail and was released pending trial, following her arraignment. Her next scheduled court appearance has been set for Aug. 12 at 2 p.m.
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