Crime scene analysts testify in trial of woman accused of killing boyfriend with SUV

Crime scene analysts testified Monday about the SUV prosecutors say a Massachusetts woman was driving more than two years ago when she backed into her Boston police officer boyfriend and left him to die in a snowbank.

Karen Read is charged with second-degree murder in the January 2022 death of John O’Keefe. Prosecutors say she dropped him off at a house party hosted by a fellow officer in Canton, Massachusetts, after a night of drinking, struck him with her SUV and then drove away. The defense has said Read was framed by someone who beat O’Keefe inside the home and that the homeowner’s relationship with local and state police tainted the investigation.

As the highly publicized trial entered its sixth week, jurors heard from several state police forensic scientists, including Maureen Hartnett, who examined Read’s vehicle a few days after O’Keefe’s death. She observed a dent in the trunk door, scratches on the rear bumper and a broken taillight, as well as what appeared to be a hair next to the taillight and pieces of glass on the bumper. The hair and a swab used on the taillight were sent to outside labs for DNA testing, said Harnett, who also analyzed O’Keefe’s clothing.

Questioning Hartnett, Read’s attorney suggested the glass and hair may have been planted. Alan Jackson asked Hartnett if those items were “just sitting” or “perched” on the SUV despite the fact that the SUV had been driven or towed roughly 50 miles in a snowstorm. She agreed with his characterization of the items’ placement but declined to speculate about the travel involved.

“I don’t know when the glass pieces ended up on the bumper,” she said. “I don’t know when that hair was deposited on the vehicle.”

Jurors also heard from a state police officer who helped search the area where O’Keefe was found. Lt. Kevin O’Hara described finding six or seven pieces of a broken taillight and O’Keefe’s sneaker in the snow, but acknowledged that the scene was left unsecured for hours before the search. Though he said that wasn’t unusual, “I’d prefer that it was secured,” he said.

Multiple witnesses have described Read frantically asking, “Did I hit him?” just before O’Keefe was found the next morning or saying afterward, “I hit him.” Others have said the couple had a stormy relationship and O’Keefe was trying to end it.

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 have implicated include Brian Albert, who owned the home in Canton where O’Keefe died, and Brian Higgins, a federal agent who was there that night.