Murderer or framed? True crime bloggers descend on the trial of Karen Read

Murderer or framed? True crime bloggers descend on the trial of Karen Read

Did Karen Read kill her police officer boyfriend by slamming into him with her Lexus and then leaving him to die in a brewing snowstorm after a night out drinking?

Or did John O’Keefe get out of the SUV that night, join other officers at an after-hours gathering and get beaten up in a fight — only to have his body dumped outside in a panic before they framed Read for his murder?

Those are the questions a Massachusetts jury is deciding in a case that created a carnival atmosphere outside the courtroom, where a “sidewalk jury” of true crime bloggers and pink-shirted Read supporters have gathered each day since the trial began nearly two months ago.

Read, 44, had worked as an equity analyst and was an adjunct lecturer in finance at her alma mater, Bentley University. O’Keefe, 46, was a 16-year veteran of the Boston Police Department. She often stayed at O’Keefe’s house in suburban Canton, where the couple ended up at the home of another Boston Police officer, Brian Albert, after a night of bar-hopping in January 2022. A federal agent, Brian Higgins, also was among those at the gathering inside.

Supporters of Karen Read display signs near Norfolk Superior Court, Tuesday, June 25, 2024, in Dedham, Mass

Read has been charged with second-degree murder, which in Massachusetts is punishable by life in prison with the possibility of parole. She also faces lesser charges of manslaughter while operating a vehicle under the influence, punishable by five to 20 years, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, punishable by up to 10 years.

Pieces of Read’s broken taillight were found at the scene and a single hair from O’Keefe was found on the rear bumper of Read’s SUV. Prosecutors say that Read repeatedly said “I hit him. I hit him. Oh my God, I hit him” to first responders and others. Prosecutors replayed angry voicemails Read left for O’Keefe, painting a picture of a failing relationship. They also questioned her behavior, saying she never cried after O’Keefe’s body was found.

Karen Read, center, walks toward Norfolk Superior Court, Wednesday, June 26, 2024 (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Her defense is that the entire prosecution case is based on lies by officers sticking together to protect themselves. Her lawyers say the pieces of taillight and the hair were planted during the hours before the crime scene was secured. They suggested O’Keefe might have been beaten up by Higgins, who had flirted with Read over texts, and that the men panicked before trying to cover up the crime.

Whether or not Read is found guilty, the case has shone a poor light on the techniques and actions of law enforcement officers including Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Proctor, who was lead investigator despite having personal relationships with several of the people involved. Proctor called Read a “wack job,” in texts, joked to supervisors about not finding nude photos of Read on her phone, and texted his sister that he wished Read would “kill herself.” He called that a figure of speech and said emotions had gotten the better of him.

Judge Beverly Cannone looks over the verdict slip the jurors have to fill out when they reach a verdict in Karen Read’s murder trail, Wednesday June 26, 2024, at Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham (The Patriot Ledger 2023)

The defense pointed to conflicts of interest and sloppy policing — the crime scene was left unsecured for hours, the house wasn’t searched, blood-stained snow was scooped up with red plastic drinking cups and a leaf blower was used to clear snow. Other suspicious actions included deleted search histories, destroyed phones and manipulated videos.

The case might have seemed open-and-shut, but as more evidence emerged, interest picked up among true crime fans and others with suspicions about the motives and actions of law enforcement.

Supporters of Karen Read listen to proceedings from Read’s trial from a laptop computer while gathered a block away (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Outside the courthouse, a self-proclaimed “sidewalk jury” of dozens of Read supporters dressed in pink — a color she likes — remained glued to their phones awaiting a verdict. Their mood was jubilant, with supporters chanting, waving American flags and getting encouragement from passing motorists who honked their horns.