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At Karen Read’s murder trial, prosecutors accuse her of drunken crash while defense alleges a vast police cover-up

<i>Steven Senne/AP via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Eva Jenkins
Steven Senne/AP via CNN Newsource
Eva Jenkins

By Eric Levenson and Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN) — Is Karen Read a rage-filled cop killer, or the convenient patsy of a vast police cover-up?

That’s the question put to a Massachusetts jury on Tuesday in closing arguments of her murder trial in a case that has riveted the Bay State.

The case stems from the death of 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.

Prosecutors have alleged Read and O’Keefe, who were dating, had gotten into an argument that night, and that she drunkenly drove a vehicle into him and fled the scene, leaving him to die in the cold.

“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.

In contrast, her defense has accused off-duty police inside that Canton home of fatally beating O’Keefe, dumping his body on the lawn and then conspiring through fabricated evidence and false testimony to frame Read.

“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.”

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

After closing arguments Tuesday morning, the jury began deliberations at about 1:30 p.m. and continued for about three hours. They will return on Wednesday morning.

The closing arguments represent the end of a murder trial that has garnered interest both local and widespread, including accusations of witness tampering, a federal probe into the investigation, and groups of pink-wearing supporters chanting to “Free Karen Read.”

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 for the “unprofessional” comments on the stand, 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.

How the trial has gone

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.

The prosecution alleged that the couple got into an argument that led to O’Keefe getting out of the vehicle. A drunken Read then struck him with the vehicle and fled, leaving him to die in the snowy cold, prosecutors say.

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. The next morning, when she realized he was still not home, she drove in a snowstorm to look for him, and finally found his body in the front yard of the Canton house.

Read and her legal team have alleged O’Keefe was injured in a fight inside the house – including being mauled by the homeowners’ German shepherd, Chloe – and then tossed out in the snow. They argued that Read was framed for his death and alleged a vast cop conspiracy and a corrupt investigation.

Prosecutors have rejected that theory. 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. In addition, Read’s vehicle had a broken taillight, and pieces of the taillight were found outside the Canton home, prosecutors said.

“From all of those people within that house that evening, none of them at any point in time observed John O’Keefe come into that house,” Lally said in opening statements. “They saw the vehicle pull away and they just assumed that they (O’Keefe and Read) left and that no one was coming.”

The trial began in April and featured testimony from several law enforcement officers, with some as witnesses and others as investigators.

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 have 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.”

Aidan Kearney, a Massachusetts blogger nicknamed Turtleboy, has fed the ongoing debate with numerous posts alleging a murder coverup by law enforcement and local politicians. In October, Kearney 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.

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