Karen Read denies killing Boston police officer as prosecution refutes cover-up allegations

"I have never harmed a hair on John O’Keefe’s head," Read tells ABC News.

August 22, 2023, 8:28 AM

Outside a courthouse last month in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, supporters swarmed around Karen Read, a woman charged with killing her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, in January 2022.

Prosecutors allege Read hit O’Keefe with her car and left him to die in the middle of a snowstorm after the two got into an argument earlier in the day.

Read has strenuously denied the allegations, saying in an interview with ABC News’ Matt Gutman, “I did not kill John O’Keefe. I have never harmed a hair on John O’Keefe’s head."

Now, Read’s defense is making national headlines after her lawyers alleged in court documents that a fellow police officer was involved in O’Keefe’s death and colluded with others in a coverup. After posting bail, Read has spent much of the past 18 months in and out of court.

In a statement to ABC News, the prosecution says, “There was no conspiracy or coverup. Such claims have been systematically refuted by evidence submitted to Norfolk Superior Court."

PHOTO: Karen Read appears in Norfolk County Superior Court for a pre-trial hearing. She is charged with the murder of her boyfriend, John O'Keefe, May 3, 2023.
Karen Read appears in Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham, Mass.,a for a pre-trial hearing. She is charged with the murder of her boyfriend, John O'Keefe, May 3, 2023.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The couple first dated in their 20s and reconnected on Facebook more than a decade later. Read says she admired that O’Keefe was taking care of his sister and brother-in-law’s children after their parents passed away seven years prior.

Read says she soon became part of the O'Keefe family, but their relationship also had its struggles. Read says O’Keefe was relying more on her to take care of the kids, and that he criticized some of the decisions she made with them.

Read claims the couple had an argument on New Year's Eve when they were away on vacation. O’Keefe became “incoherently drunk” and didn’t come back to their room until after 3 a.m., according to Read, leaving her to ring in the new year with O’Keefe’s niece and nephew.

“I felt very much taken advantage of. He apologized profusely for what happened on New Year's Eve. And he said, ‘If you can't get over it, then you need to spend some time at your house. I can't keep apologizing. I don't wanna keep rehashing this,’” Read said.

A few weeks later, the couple was invited to meet up with some friends at the Waterfall Bar in Canton, where they ran into Brian Albert, a fellow Boston police officer who Read says O’Keefe looked up to.

PHOTO: Karen Read and John O'Keefe are shown in an undated photo.
Karen Read and John O'Keefe are shown in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Karen Read

At the bar, according to Read, O’Keefe told her they were invited to continue hanging out at Albert’s home.

“I said, ‘Can we make sure we're welcome here? Nobody extended the invite to me. I didn't hear the invite extended to you,’” Read said.

The couple then drove to Albert’s home. What happened next is disputed.

“So I pull at the foot of the driveway. It's snowing. John has no coat on. It's windy. So I drop him off. He goes up the driveway and approaches the side door. And as I see him approach the door, I look down at my phone,” Read said.

Read says after about 10 minutes of waiting in her car, she became irritated that O’Keefe still hadn’t gotten in touch with her. She says she then drove back to O’Keefe’s home, where she continued calling him before falling asleep at around 1:30 a.m.

Read says that when she woke up before 5 a.m., O’Keefe still wasn’t home, so she started canvassing the neighborhood. She enlisted help from O’Keefe’s friend Kerry Roberts and Jennifer McCabe, the sister-in-law of Brian Albert, who was also at Albert’s house the night before.

The three women headed to Albert’s home. After pulling in, Read says she saw O’Keefe’s body “immediately.” O’Keefe was pronounced dead at the hospital. He died from blunt force trauma and hypothermia, according to the chief medical examiner.

It wasn’t long before Read became the prime suspect in O’Keefe’s death. Authorities say they noticed a cracked taillight after seizing Read’s SUV.

“I had told both Jen and Kerry that I cracked my taillight. And I said, ‘I just hit my car on top of everything,’ but I didn't look at the damage. And both women said, ‘It's cracked. It's cracked. Calm down, you cracked your taillight. You're OK, let's go look for John,’” Read said.

But according to police statements, McCabe told authorities that as they searched for O’Keefe, Read stated, “Could I have hit him…Did I hit him?”

When O’Keefe’s body was discovered, first responders who arrived on scene claim to have overheard Read saying “I hit him. I hit him.”

Read disputes that, telling ABC News, “I said, ‘I hit him?’ It was preceded by a, ‘Did,’ and proceeded by a question mark. What I thought could have happened was that, did I incapacitate him unwittingly, somehow, and then in his drunkenness [he] passed out?” Read said.

Asked how many drinks she had at the bar that night, Read told ABC News, “probably about four.” But prosecutors allege Read was intoxicated after having nine drinks that night.

Still, Read claims to ABC News it’s “not possible” that she may have hit O’Keefe unwittingly with her SUV.

Read has been indicted on second-degree murder charges.

Investigators reported finding “fragments of broken glass on the rear bumper” on Read’s vehicle and that a broken cocktail glass was found by what appeared to be patches of blood near O’Keefe’s body.

“The victim Mr. O'Keefe is last observed on surveillance video with a cocktail glass in his right hand. Same arm that is injured, the same type of glass that is recovered from the defendant's car,” prosecutors said.

In court documents, the prosecution claims that Read’s blood alcohol level could have been between .13% and .29%,” which is above the legal limit of .08.

Prosecutors say that pieces of Read’s broken taillight were found on the scene the day O’Keefe’s body was found. More fragments of the taillight were found the following week, according to Canton police reports, after the snow melted to reveal more at the scene.

But Read’s attorney Alan Jackson does not believe that claim, telling ABC News the taillight pieces, “were planted after the fact.”

Asked what Read’s defense believes actually happened to O’Keefe after Read dropped him off, Jackson said, “I think he walked into the house. I think he was confronted, was likely brought down to the basement. I think that confrontation got physical, and he was beaten. He was beaten to a point of unconsciousness,” Jackson said.

Jackson argues that the autopsy photos of O’Keefe support his own theory, and not the prosecution’s claim.

“It looks like he's been in a fistfight and he's been beaten...He's got some defensive wound bruises on the backs of his hand...He's got this massive laceration on the back of his head, a big, giant gash about two and a half inches exactly lateral -- going from left to right, two black eyes, a cut over his right eye, a cut over his nose,” Jackson said.

Jackson told ABC News, “This was a cover up...John was murdered inside that house. His body was placed outside."

The prosecution said in its statement to ABC News that, according to O’Keefe’s cellphone GPS records and 11 witness statements, O’Keefe never entered Albert’s home. The medical examiner found “no signs of Mr. O’Keefe being involved in any type of physical altercation or fight.”

Attorneys for Brian Albert and Jennifer McCabe did not respond to requests for comment. In a previous statement to the Boston Herald, McCabe’s attorney said, “The whole scenario is baseless.”

Read’s next court appearance is set for September.