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

May 17, 2024, 3:24 PM | Updated: May 24, 2024, 1:12 pm

A highly publicized 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 finishing its fourth week on Friday.

John O’Keefe, 46, died in the Boston suburb of Canton on Jan. 29, 2022. Prosecutors say Karen Read, 44, dropped him off at a house party after a night of drinking, struck him while making a three-point turn and drove away.

Read has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges, and her defense team argues that she has been framed. O’Keefe’s body was found on the front lawn of another officer, and the defense argues the homeowner’s relationship with local and state police tainted their investigation.

A look at the facts and legal arguments:


Prosecutors have put up several witnesses who recalled hearing Read say she hit O’Keefe as well as those who say the couple had a stormy relationship and that O’Keefe was trying to end it at the time of his death.

On Wednesday, jurors heard from two sisters who vacationed in Aruba with Read and O’Keefe a few weeks before his death.

They testified that the couple fought because Read falsely accused O’Keefe of kissing Marietta Sullivan, the younger sister. Marietta Sullivan said Read swore at her after seeing her talking to O’Keefe, and Laura Sullivan said O’Keefe seemed “distant” during the trip.

According to Laura Sullivan, when she asked him if he was happy, he said, “It is what it is.”

On Friday, a federal agent testified that he exchanged flirtatious texts with Read later that month after she unexpectedly kissed him after he watched a football game with her and O’Keefe.

Brian Higgins, a special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, read a series of text messages in which they both said they were attracted to each other, and Read said her relationship with O’Keefe had “deteriorated.”

“There’s cracks and it’s far from perfect,” she wrote.

Higgins said he was trying to “suss out” Read’s intentions.

“Was the defendant interested in me? Was she at the end of her relationship with John? Was she trying to weaponize me against John and put me in the middle?” he said.

On cross-examination, Read’s attorney suggested Higgins grew frustrated when Read “ghosted” him about a week before O’Keefe’s death and ignored him at a local bar the night O’Keefe died. Higgins, who said he didn’t feel ignored, acknowledged he was sexually attracted to Read but denied being interested in a romantic relationship.

“I’m not going to go there,” he said.

“Of course you’re not going to go there because that would put you in a very awkward position, wouldn’t it?” attorney Alan Jackson said.


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.

The defense, which has been allowed to present what is called third-party culprit evidence, argues that investigators focused on Read because she was a “convenient outsider” who saved them from having to consider other suspects. Those they’ve implicated so far include Higgins, Brian Albert, who owned the home where O’Keefe died; and his nephew, Colin Albert.

This week, the defense also sought to implicate Brian Albert’s sister-in-law, Jennifer McCabe, who was at his home that night and was with Read when O’Keefe’s body was discovered the next morning. Read’s attorney pressed McCabe on why she told grand jurors a dozen times that Read asked, “Did I hit him?” or “Could I have hit him?” but now says she heard Read declare “I hit him,” three times.

“The truth of the matter is you’ve manufactured this new story for this jury because you think it helps you out,” Jackson said.

“Absolutely not,” McCabe replied.

McCabe has said Read also asked her to Google how long it takes for someone to die of hypothermia moments after the body was discovered. But on Wednesday jurors saw cellphone data that suggested McCabe also did a similar search four hours earlier and later deleted it.

“I did not delete that search. I never made that search,” McCabe said. “I never would have left John O’Keefe out in the cold to die because he was my friend that I loved.”

The defense, which alleges the group of friends concocted a cover-up together, also questioned Higgins about phone records that show a one-second call from Brian Albert to Higgins at 2:22 a.m., followed by a second call moments later from Higgins to Albert that lasted 22 seconds.

“I have no recollection of answering the phone or calling anyone back,” Higgins said. “There was no discussion. I never talked to Brian Albert.”

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