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Long Island Couple Charged With Murder After Woman Savagely Beaten Into Coma With A Metal Barbell Dies

Theresa Kiel lost an eye and suffered a partially collapsed skull in a brutal 2016 attack. Her death two years later means the charges against her daughter, Francesca Kiel, and her boyfriend, Ralph Keppler, have been upgraded.

By Eric Shorey

A former corrections officer and his girlfriend have been charged with murder after the woman's mother died from injuries sustained during a vicious beating the pair allegedly delivered two years ago that left her in a coma.

Ralph Keppler, 27, and Francesca Kiel, 21, were arrested by police in Nassau County, New York Sunday on charges of second-degree murder, according to Newsday. Keppler, who previously worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island in New York City, had been out on bail after being charged in January 2018 for second-degree attempted murder and two counts of first-degree assault.

Theresa Kiel, Francesca's mother, was brutally attacked on Dec. 4, 2016, losing an eye and suffering a partially collapsed skull after being struck several times in the face by a metal barbell, according to court documents. The injuries put her in a persistent vegetative state, in which she remained until her death on Saturday, according to NBC New York. Francesca's alleged role in the beating is unclear.

Prosecutors say that Keppler and Theresa Kiel had been involved in a business dispute at the time of the attack, as evidenced by a legal battle between the two that had been ongoing for more than six months. Keppler claimed that Theresa and her son Vincent took $65,000 from him in May 2016 for a dating app the duo said they were developing and instead spent the money on a series of cosmetic surgeries, clothes and cars.

As part of that court fight, Kiel's family alleged Keppler had been keeping Francesca “under his control as a financial, emotional and sexual hostage," by monitoring her phone and email, forcing her to undergo cosmetic surgeries, according to The New York Post. A judge dismissed those specific accusations in December, but the fraud case is ongoing.

Marc Gann, Keppler's Long Island-based lawyer, argued his client's innocence and claimed "there are others who have motives to attack her.”

“We’ve investigated some of those. I can’t get into detail right now. But I fully believe that Ralph is innocent of these charges ... If anything, I think that Ralph has a motive for her to live. Because the only way he was going to recover money that he and his family had invested was if she was alive, not if she had died,” Gann said Sunday, according to Newsday

An attorney for Theresa Kiel's family maintains that Keppler is dangerous and has even threatened him and the Kiel family.

“I have security all over my home because this guy [Keppler] has basically threatened me and the family,” said attorney Thomas Liotti, according to WPIX in New York. 

Both Keppler and Kiel were scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

[Photos: Ralph Keppler (left) and Francesca Kiel (right) via Nassau County Police Department]

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