Questions raised by the legal team defending Karen Read, the woman accused of killing her boyfriend last year, are reverberating in Canton, Massachusetts, ahead of her next court date.
Read has been charged with killing her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O'Keefe, by backing her SUV into him and leaving him to die in the snow outside of a Canton home on the night of Jan. 28, 2022.
The Mansfield woman has pleaded not guilty, and her attorneys have previously argued there was a large-scale coverup between local and state police investigating the case. Last week, they claimed they uncovered new evidence suggesting she is innocent and that others were involved in the death.
The allegations — which prosecutors say they plan to respond to at the next court hearing in the case, scheduled for Tuesday — were "the elephant in the room" that a resident addressed at a meeting of the Canton Select Board this week.
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"People in this town are scared of people who are supposed to protect and serve," said Angela Chan O'Donnell during the meeting's public comment period.
After she spoke, a town official read a statement that had been prepared and which was released the next day:
Over the past several days, we have received inquiries concerning news reports and social media posts related to the ongoing criminal case dealing with the death of John O’Keefe. The investigation into the matter was referred to the Massachusetts State Police and Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office immediately after the incident. The Town and its employees have cooperated fully in the investigation. It is our understanding that the next court proceeding will take place on May 3rd, at which time more information may be forthcoming. We reserve all judgment while the judicial process moves forward. At this time, it is inappropriate for the Town to make any further comment on this on-going investigation.
Among the allegations that Read's lawyers brought in court motions April 12 are that newly uncovered records from someone else's cellphone suggest they had searched the phrase, "Ho[w] long to die in cold," on Google hours before 911 was called to report O'Keefe was found in the snow.
Prosecutors have previously said hypothermia is believed to have been a contributing factor in O'Keefe's death — an autopsy also uncovered multiple skull fractures, a two-inch laceration to the back of his head, two black eyes and cuts on his arm and nose.
"This evidence unequivocally exonerates Karen," lawyers Alan Jackson and David R. Yannetti said in a statement, because it establishes that other people "were aware that John was dying in the snow before Karen even knew he was missing."
The Norfolk District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case against Read, is also waiting to respond, having noted in statements to the media that it's "ethically constrained in the statements that can be made outside the courtroom," though a spokesman has said prosecutors plan to have a "detailed response" to the court on May 3 "that refutes the assertions in that motion."
Meanwhile, the defense team's allegations are sparking discussion in Canton.
"I give that woman a lot of credit," said one woman, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, of Chan O'Donnell. "I think, personally, it's a matter of the comfort of the trust around if something was to happen. Are they really there to help?"
But to John Kennedy, who said he's lived in Canton for 50 years, "the police have always done a great job." He characterized what happened to O'Keefe as a "terrible accident," and added, "I don't think there's any kind of conspiracy here or anything like that."
This week, Read's attorneys asked the court to require prosecutors to hand over more evidence, including clothes O'Keefe were wearing when he died and information from Read's SUV.