Karen Read trial: Focus turns to demeanor of girlfriend charged in Boston officer’s death

DEDHAM, Mass. — The demeanor of a Massachusetts woman charged in the death of her Boston police officer boyfriend and the words she uttered at the crime scene were the focus Tuesday on the second day of her trial.

Karen Read has been charged with second-degree murder and other charges in the 2022 death of Officer John O’Keefe. The 16-year veteran of the Boston police was found unresponsive outside a Canton home. He was taken to the hospital and, hours later, pronounced dead. An autopsy found O’Keefe died of hyperthermia and blunt force trauma. Read has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Testimony from two police officers and two firefighters who arrived on the scene early Jan. 29, 2022, described a chaotic scene in which O’Keefe was laying face up and Read was attempting to give him CPR. She had blood on her mouth, possibly from giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They described Read as distraught and screaming and that O’Keefe had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.

They also described interactions with Read, in which she made statements that appear to implicate her in O’Keefe’s death.

Timothy Nuttall, a Canton firefighter who treated O’Keefe at the scene, recalled Read repeatedly saying, “I hit him,” when she was asked about what happened.

That built on testimony late Monday from Canton Police Officer Steven Saraf, who was among the first to arrive on the scene. He recalled Read being upset and saying: “This is my fault. This is my fault. I did this.” He also said Read repeatedly asked, “Is he dead?”

Defense attorneys on Tuesday attempted to discredit Saraf and raise doubts about the integrity of the investigation by pointing out mistakes made in the police dispatch log, including the wrong address where O’Keefe’s body was found. They also pointed out that Saraf never wrote in his police report that Read said, “This is my fault,” only that she screamed, “Is he dead?”

“In the two times you were asked to reflect back on exactly what happened on that morning Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, both times you attributed only three words to my client having been repeated continually in her distraught state, ‘Is he dead,’ right?” Read’s attorney Alan Jackson asked Saraf. In response, Saraf said yes.

But when Jackson tried to suggest Saraf’s memory of that morning was evolving, Saraf said that the discrepancy between what he initially wrote and what he later testified at the trial was “an oversight.”

The defense team also tried to raise doubts about what Nuttal heard, suggesting he was too focused on saving O’Keefe’s life to hear conversations around him. They also were able to get Saraf and another police officer to acknowledged they never heard Read say that she hit O’Keefe.

The defense also used the testimony from the police and firefighters to raise doubts more broadly about the investigation.

They were able to get Saraf and Canton Police Officer Stephen Mullaney to acknowledge they never saw pieces of broken taillight at the scene, which prosecutors say was found near O’Keefe’s body and are proof that Read backed her SUV into O’Keefe.

Initially, Nuttal said he couldn’t say whether the injuries — including a hematoma or egg over his right eye — came from a fight. But when pressed by Jackson, Nuttal acknowledged the injuries were consistent with getting beaten up.

The couple had been to two bars on a night in January 2022, prosecutors alleged, and were then headed to a party in nearby Canton. Read said she did not feel well and decided not to attend. Once at the home, O’Keefe got out of Read’s vehicle, and while she made a three-point turn, she allegedly struck him and then drove away, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors haven’t said where they think she went after that. However, they allege she later became frantic after she said she couldn’t reach O’Keefe. She returned to the site of the party, where she and two friends found O’Keefe covered in snow.

The defense has spent months arguing in court that the case was marred by conflicts of interest and accused prosecutors of presenting false and deceptive evidence to the grand jury. They plan to argue someone other than Read caused O’Keefe’s death.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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