What we know about the Karen Read murder trial and the death of her police officer boyfriend

The closely watched murder trial of Karen Read is nearing its end as Massachusetts jurors deliberate her fate while her supporters rally in her defense outside court.

So how did we get here?

Read, 45, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of a collision resulting in death.

The case stems from the death of her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, whose body was found bruised and battered in the snow on January 29, 2022, outside the home of a fellow Boston police officer in the suburb of Canton.

The trial began in April and has garnered interest as it featured accusations of a police cover-up, sexist and offensive texts from the lead investigator, a federal probe into the investigation, and groups of pink-wearing supporters chanting to “Free Karen Read.”

Here’s a review of what we know about the case.

The death of John O’Keefe

The heart of the trial stems from what happened on one wintry evening in Canton over two years ago.

On the night of January 28, 2022, Read and O’Keefe went out drinking at two bars with friends. Shortly after midnight, the couple climbed into Read’s SUV and drove to the home of O’Keefe’s colleague on Fairview Road for an after-party, court documents show.

O’Keefe got out of the vehicle, and Read drove home. Early the next morning, she drove around in a snowstorm to look for him and found his body in the front yard of the Canton house, according to court documents.

What exactly happened to O’Keefe between getting out of the vehicle and when he was found the next morning?

The prosecution has alleged the couple got into an argument that led O’Keefe to get out of the vehicle, but he never made it inside the house. A drunken Read allegedly struck him with the vehicle while driving in reverse and then fled, leaving him to die in the snowy cold, prosecutors say.

Firefighters who responded to the scene that morning asked about his injuries, and Read told them, “I hit him, I hit him,” according to their testimony. People at the house that night testified O’Keefe never came inside.

In addition, Read’s vehicle had a broken taillight, and pieces of the taillight were found outside the Canton home, prosecutors said. Data from the vehicle’s internal system also indicated she reversed at a rapid speed, according to testimony.

“What the constellation of the facts and the evidence ineluctably demonstrate here is that the defendant drove her vehicle in reverse at 24.2 miles per hour for 62.5 feet, struck Mr. O’Keefe, causing those catastrophic head injuries, leaving him incapacitated and freezing him to death,” prosecutor Adam Lally said in closing arguments Tuesday.

However, Read has said she dropped off O’Keefe at the house and then drove to his home because she wasn’t feeling well, according to court documents.

Her defense has accused off-duty police inside that Canton home of killing O’Keefe and framing Read. The defense has theorized O’Keefe was beaten in the home and mauled by the homeowners’ German shepherd, Chloe, and then tossed out in the snow to die. The police then conspired to fabricate evidence and lie under oath to protect their own, the defense alleged.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there was a cover-up in this case, plain and simple,” defense attorney Alan Jackson said. “You’ll surely say to yourself, ‘I don’t want to believe it, I don’t want to believe that could happen in our community,’ but sadly over these past eight weeks you’ve seen it right before your eyes.”

Lead investigator apologizes for offensive texts

The prosecution’s case also has been hampered by a series of missteps and unusual investigative practices.

Most notably, a lead investigator in the case, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Proctor, admitted that he sent a series of sexist and offensive texts about Read in a private group chat, calling her a “whack job,” mocking her medical issues and commenting to coworkers that he had found “no nudes” while searching her phone for evidence, CNN affiliate WCVB reported.

Proctor apologized on the stand for the “unprofessional” comments, but the vulgar texts have been sharply criticized in and out of court, including from the governor.

“It’s completely unprofessional,” Gov. Maura Healey told WCVB of the texts. “It does harm, frankly, to the dignity and the integrity of the work of men and women across the state police and law enforcement. So as a former attorney general and as governor, I am disgusted by that.”

At closing arguments, the prosecution condemned the texts as “unprofessional, indefensible, (and) inexcusable” but said they had no impact on the integrity of the investigation.

The defense disagreed. “They cannot distance themselves from the stench of him on this case and this investigation. Those secret group chats illustrate the quality and care of this investigation,” Jackson said.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has launched a federal probe into Read’s arrest and prosecution. And in March, the Massachusetts State Police announced an investigation into Proctor for potential policy violations.

The prosecution has presented evidence that Read and O’Keefe had a volatile relationship. O’Keefe’s niece and nephew said they heard the couple yelling in arguments prior to his death, and an ATF agent testified about his romantic kiss and text messages with Read, according to WCVB.

Further, in the minutes after prosecutors say she hit him with the SUV, she called his phone and left a voicemail yelling, “John, I f**king hate you!”

The defense has sharply questioned witnesses about whether Read truly confessed to hitting him with her vehicle and has challenged investigators about the quality of their work. For example, investigators used red plastic cups to collect evidence from the scene, and surveillance video of Read’s vehicle was inexplicably flipped to a mirror image, WCVB reported.

“Lie, obfuscate, manipulate, alter, and when they’re caught, they just excuse it away,” Jackson said in closing arguments.

“That’s not sloppiness,” he added. “That’s evidence manipulation.”

But prosecutors have rejected those theories as nothing more than speculation.

“There is no conspiracy, there is no cover-up, there is no evidence of any of that beyond speculation, rampant speculation and conjecture on behalf of the defense,” Lally said in closing arguments.

The case has divided a small town

Eva Jenkins waves to passing cars as other supporters place a "Free Karen Read" banner a block away from Norfolk Superior Court on Tuesday in Dedham, Massachusetts. - Steven Senne/AP
Eva Jenkins waves to passing cars as other supporters place a "Free Karen Read" banner a block away from Norfolk Superior Court on Tuesday in Dedham, Massachusetts. - Steven Senne/AP

The accusations of a cover-up and high stakes of the trial have spilled over to local residents and divided the town.

Aidan Kearney, a Massachusetts blogger nicknamed Turtleboy, has fed the ongoing debate with numerous posts alleging a cover-up by law enforcement and local politicians. In October, he pleaded not guilty to charges of witness intimidation and conspiracy, CNN affiliate WBZ reported, after he allegedly called and sent messages to witnesses and investigators in Read’s case.

Near the courthouse, dozens of people have gathered daily to support Read and offered their approval of her defense’s accusations that she was framed. Wearing pink in solidarity, they have held signs reading “Free Karen Read” and waved American flags. Police have set up a buffer zone to keep them from being too close to the courthouse.

Rita Lombardi, a local Read supporter outside the court, told CNN on Thursday she got into the case by following Turtleboy’s work.

“The information in the court filings didn’t add up,” she said. “This woman was framed, and there is overwhelming evidence, overwhelming scientific evidence that she was framed for murder by the very people we trust to protect us.”

“We are not protesters, we are supporters,” she added. “We bring love, we bring joy, we bring hope, compassion.”

CNN’s Faith Karimi, Sabrina Shulman and Jean Casarez contributed to this report.

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