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Karen Read's murder trial: What to know about the case involving the mysterious death of a Boston police officer

Karen Read, a 44-year-old Massachusetts woman, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O'Keefe, who was found dead in the snow outside a suburban home in 2022.
/ Source: TODAY

Karen Read's murder trial is underway.

Read is accused of hitting her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O'Keefe, with her vehicle outside of another police officer's home outside of Boston in January 2022 and leaving him for dead in the snow, prosecutors said in court documents.

However, Read's attorneys have alleged in court and in court documents a massive coverup between local and state police that has left the 44-year-old framed for O'Keefe's murder — garnering national attention and dividing the small town of Canton, Massachusetts.

Authorities have denied any coverup in the case, but the intrigue hasn't stopped a crowd of Read supporters from showing up outside the Norfolk County Superior Courthouse since opening statements in her trial began on April 29, NBC Boston reported.

Read has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of a deadly crash in connection with the death of O'Keefe.

Here's what to know about the case.

Karen Read at her pre-trial hearing.
Karen Read at her pre-trial hearing at Norfolk Superior Court on April 12, 2024, in Dedham, Massachusetts. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

What happened to John O'Keefe, according to prosecutors

On the night of Jan. 28, 2022, Read, O'Keefe, Boston police detective Brian Albert, his sister-in-law Jennifer McCabe and others were out drinking at bars in Canton, outside Boston, according to a criminal complaint obtained by TODAY.com.

The region was experiencing heavy snowfall and icy temperatures due to a winter storm, the complaint stated.

At a bar where the group was gathered was shutting down around 12 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2022, the members of the group decided to go to Albert's home, according to the complaint. Read and O'Keefe left in Read's black Lexus SUV, prosecutors said in court filings.

Multiple witnesses told authorities they recalled seeing a dark SUV pulling up to Albert's home around 12:15 a.m., though no one from the car came inside, and it left around 12:45 a.m., prosecutors said.

By 4:53 a.m., Read and O'Keefe's niece both tried contacting O'Keefe, but they were not able to reach him, according to a police report obtained by NBC Boston. (TODAY.com has not reviewed the same report.)

A friend picked up Read and McCabe to start looking for O'Keefe around 5 a.m., the complaint said.

The group found O'Keefe unresponsive in the snow outside Albert's house around 6 a.m. and began performing CPR until medical personnel arrived on the scene, according to the criminal complaint.

O'Keefe was pronounced dead later that morning at Good Samaritan Hospital in Boston, according to the complaint.

In a search of the crime scene, Canton police officers found a broken drinking glass consistent with one O’Keefe had been seen holding earlier in the night and patches of blood, prosecutors said.

Around 6 p.m. on Jan. 29, Massachusetts State Police investigators also recovered three pieces of plastic consistent with the taillight on Read's vehicle, prosecutors wrote in a court memo.

In a phone call, a spokesperson for the Norfolk County District Attorney's office declined to comment on the case to TODAY.com, due to the ongoing trial.

What is Karen Read's defense?

Karen Read supporters gathered around a phone speaker to listen to opening arguments
Read supporters gathered near Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Read was charged with manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of a deadly crash on Feb. 1, 2022, according to the criminal complaint.

At the time, her attorney David Yannetti called the charges “a tremendous reach,” according to NBC Boston.

Four months later, on June 9, a grand jury indicted Read on charges of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of personal injury and death, according the indictment filed in Norfolk Count Superior Court.

She has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and was later released on $100,000 bond, according to NBC Boston.

In court, court filings and statements to the press, Read's attorneys have argued that Read has been the victim of a massive coverup by the Canton Police Department.

The day after Read was first charged in February, Yannetti alleged in court O'Keefe's injuries were not consistent with a vehicle collision.

He also alleged the lead state police trooper on the case, later identified as Michael Proctor, had a conflict of interest when he did not disclose his relationship with key witnesses, NBC Boston reported.

In September 2022, Read's defense team further argued that police framed Read, presenting evidence that showed O'Keefe was severely beaten, and that Albert had ties to both the Canton Police Department and Massachusetts State Police, NBC Boston reported.

In August of that year, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said state and local police were not involved in a coverup, adding that there was no evidence to support O'Keefe was ever in the home where the party took place, according to NBC Boston.

Morrissey called the idea that multiple police departments and the district attorney's office would be involved in a “vast conspiracy” in the case “a desperate attempt to reassign guilt,” according to NBC Boston.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts launched an investigation into Read’s arrest and prosecution last year.

Massachusetts State Police said in March it had opened an internal investigation into a “potential violation of department policy” against Proctor, NBC Boston reported. But state police have not said whether the investigation is related to a specific case.

Michael DiStefano, Proctor's attorney, told CNN his client was cooperating with the investigation and did nothing wrong.

No one has been charged as a result of the federal investigation into the state's prosecution of Read.

In April 2023, Read's attorneys released court documents with evidence they said showed McCabe searched “ho(w) long to die in cold” hours before O’Keefe was found, as well as photos of the lead state police investigator with members of Albert's family.

Prosecutors have disputed the timeline of McCabe's search, saying she searched the query after O'Keefe's body was found.

Read's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case, though Norfolk Superior Court Judge Beverly Cannone denied the request in March, NBC Boston reported, leading to jury selection beginning in the trial on April 16.

Who is 'Turtleboy?'

Aidan "Turtleboy" Kearney sits in court during Karen Read's hearing
Aidan "Turtleboy" Kearney sits in court during Read's hearing on February 26, 2024.Matt Stone / MediaNews Group / Getty Images

Aidan Kearney, a blogger who goes by "Turtleboy," was one of Read's supporters. NBC Boston described him as “a longtime presence in Massachusetts’ news scene.”

He began posting dozens of articles about Read's case, selling "Free Karen Read" merchandise and raising money for Read's legal defense fund over the course of the case.

Kearney was arrested on charges of witness intimidation and conspiracy on Oct. 11, 2023, according to NBC Boston.

The judge ruled for Kearney to have no contact with the people he is accused of intimidating, which include Proctor and witnesses who were at the home where O'Keefe's body was found, NBC Boston reported.

Two months later, he was indicted on 16 additional witness intimidation charges related to his involvement with Read's case, the station reported.

His bail was revoked and he was sent to jail on Dec. 26, 2023 after he was charged with other witness intimidation counts, as well as assault and battery charges in connection with allegations that he pushed a woman he was dating, according to NBC Boston.

Kearney has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied the accusations against him.

“I will not be intimidated, I will not be silenced and we will continue on our journey,” Kearney told supporters outside of Stoughton District Court in October, according to NBC Boston.