STOUGHTON — The girlfriend of a Boston police officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges she struck him with her SUV and left him lying in a snowbank in Canton, where she discovered him unconscious and covered in snow early Saturday amid whiteout conditions and freezing temperatures.
Karen A. Read, 41, was arraigned in Stoughton District Court on two felony charges, manslaughter and leaving the scene after causing personal injury or death, and one misdemeanor, motor vehicle homicide. Judge Daniel W. O’Malley set bail at $50,000 for Read, who is an adjunct professor of finance at Bentley University in Waltham, as well as an equity analyst at a financial firm.
A police affidavit outlined a night of bar-hopping Friday that shifted to an after-party at a Canton house where Read dropped off Officer John J. O’Keefe, a 16-year veteran of the Boston force.
According to the affidavit, Read told a girlfriend she remembered little of the previous night’s alcohol-fueled events the next morning when she frantically began texting and calling O’Keefe to find out why he hadn’t returned to his Canton home.
When Read and two girlfriends found O’Keefe, he was face up and unconscious, according to the affidavit. Read lay on top of him in an attempt to warm his body and administered CPR, the affidavit said.
O’Keefe was pronounced dead hours later at Good Samaritan Hospital.
In court Wednesday, O’Keefe’s parents grimaced and bowed their heads as Norfolk Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally described the conditions in which their 46-year-old son was found.
Some three dozen men and women, many of whom appeared to be police officers in civilian clothes, turned out on behalf of O’Keefe, who most recently was assigned to the Sex Offender Registry Unit.
Read, flanked by officers in a plexiglass holding cell, stood throughout the hearing, her gaze seemingly focused far away. Her parents, brother, and sister-in-law sat nearby.
Read’s defense attorney, David Yannetti, said his client was in shock and mourning.
“Manslaughter is a tremendous reach in this case,” Yannetti said in court. “I don’t see any criminal intent … this was my client’s boyfriend, somebody with whom she was in love.”
Outside the courthouse, Yannetti criticized Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office for acting too hastily to charge his client. Prosecutors, he said, had bowed to political pressure because O’Keefe was a police officer.
“I am disappointed in the rush to judgment against my client,” Yannetti said. “My client has no criminal intent. She loved this man. She is devastated. She is innocent, and that will come out at trial.”
O’Keefe’s death was publicly mourned by Police Superintendent-In-Chief Gregory Long, who attended Wednesday’s court hearing in uniform. Long is also the department’s acting commissioner.
“John was a kind person, dedicated to his family, and will be greatly missed by his co-workers and anyone who had the privilege of meeting him,” Long said in a statement posted to bpdnews.com Tuesday night. “We are stunned and saddened and offer whatever support we can to John’s family.”
O’Keefe’s partner in the police department was also in court. He declined to provide his name but said that O’Keefe and Read had dated for the past couple of years.
The death of O’Keefe, and the circumstances of how he died, raises more questions than answers, the officer told the Globe.
“He was the best person on the planet,” he said of O’Keefe.
O’Keefe was part of a close-knit family from Braintree who joined together to provide a home and emotional support for a niece and nephew who lost both parents within a year of each other, according to Boston police and past news reports.
During the arraignment hearing, Lally, the prosecutor, summarized the investigation and Read’s alleged movements late Friday and early Saturday.
According to Lally, O’Keefe was at C.F. McCarthy’s bar in Canton drinking with friends when Read joined the party. The couple and the friends went to another bar, Waterfall, until shortly after midnight, State Police wrote in the affidavit.
Read, O’Keefe, and friends were all invited to the after-party, at 34 Fairview Road. The affidavit did not indicate who lived at that address. Read drove O’Keefe but decided not to attend the party because she was having stomach issues, Lally said.
Prosecutors allege that Read dropped off O’Keefe, made a three-point turn to reverse direction, rammed into O’Keefe, and drove away.
Around 4:53 a.m., Read, who spent most nights with O’Keefe in his Canton home, called and texted him, Lally said. When he failed to respond, Read became worried. She noticed a broken rear taillight on her black Lexus SUV.
Increasingly frantic, Read enlisted two friends to drive with her to Fairview Road to search for O’Keefe, Lally said.
One of the friends, Kerry Roberts, told police “she believed Karen was still intoxicated in the morning” and said Read had told her “she did not remember last night,” the affidavit said.
Read allegedly told Roberts: “I wonder if he is dead. It’s snowing. He got hit by a plow.”
The three women drove to Fairview Road in whiteout conditions as the powerful snowstorm was beginning, and Read spotted O’Keefe in the snowbank, the affidavit said.
O’Keefe had cuts on his face and arms. His blackened eyes were swollen shut. Blood-stained snow and a broken cocktail glass were discovered by police near O’Keefe’s body.
When a firefighter asked Read whether she knew how O’Keefe suffered so much trauma, Read allegedly looked at one of her friends and said: “I hit him, I hit him, I hit him, I hit him.”
The cause of death was skull fractures, with hypothermia a contributing factor, prosecutors said.
Read was released on $50,000 cash bail. She is due back in court March 1.
The Boston Police Department issued a statement Wednesday on behalf of O’Keefe’s family.
“John was not only a dedicated police officer, he was an exemplary guardian, son, brother, uncle and friend and we were so fortunate to have him as a part of our lives,” the statement read. “When John’s sister passed away, and then her husband did as well a short time later, John welcomed the opportunity to raise his beloved niece and nephew and build a home and a life around their needs.”
“People talk about someone who would give you the shirt off their back, but that was truly who John was, and it is heartbreaking for us to suddenly be talking about him in the past tense,” the statement read. “We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received but we ask for privacy at this time, and will have nothing further to say, as we mourn this unbearable loss.”