A romance turned deadly or police frame job? Closing arguments loom in Karen Read trial

DEDHAM, Mass. — Jurors in the long-running murder trial of Karen Read must decide whether she was a callous girlfriend who drove away after running over her Boston police officer boyfriend with her luxury SUV, or whether police framed her for a brutal beating by his colleague agents to cover up.

After nearly two months of testimony and a media firestorm fueled by true crime bloggers, attorneys were scheduled to make closing arguments Tuesday before jurors charged with sifting through the wildly differing stories surrounding the death of Boston police officer John O’Keefe.

Prosecutors allege Read struck O’Keefe with her Lexus SUV in January 2022, leaving him unconscious outside in the snow after a night of pub crawling. He died at a hospital after being found unconscious hours later outside the Canton home of another Boston police officer who had hosted a party. The cause of death was hypothermia and blunt force trauma, a medical examiner testified.

Arguing that Read was framed, Her lawyers claim O’Keefe was dragged outside after being beaten and bitten by Albert’s dog in the basement of fellow officer Brian Albert’s Canton home.

Read, a former adjunct professor at Bentley College, is charged with manslaughter, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death.

On Monday, three defense witnesses cast doubt on prosecutors’ version of events.

Dr. Frank Sheridan, a retired forensic pathologist and former chief medical officer of San Bernardino County in California, testified that O’Keefe should have suffered more bruises if he had been hit by the SUV. He also suggested that scratches on O’Keefe’s arm could have come from a dog and that other injuries were consistent with an altercation.

Two witnesses from an independent forensic consultancy firm also suggested that some of the evidence did not match the prosecution’s version of events. In describing their detailed reconstructions, the witnesses said they concluded that the damage to Read’s SUV, including a broken taillight, did not match O’Keefe’s injuries.

“You can’t deny the science and the physics,” Andrew Rentschler of the ARCCA firm said at one point, describing an analysis of the level of injuries associated with different speeds of a vehicle like Read’s. ARCCA was hired by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a federal investigation into state law enforcement’s handling of the Read case.

The defense claims that investigators focused on Read because she was a “convenient outsider” who prevented them from considering other suspects, including Albert and other law enforcement officers present at the party.

Testimony began on April 29 after several days of jury selection. Prosecutors spent most of the trial presenting methodically evidence at the scene. The defense called only a handful of witnesses, but used its time cross-examining prosecution witnesses questions about the investigation, including what it described as conflicts of interest and sloppy police work. The defense was echoed by complaints from a chorus of supporters who often camp outside the courthouse.