Jurors hear about Karen Read's blood alcohol level as murder trial enters fifth week

A woman accused of leaving her Boston police officer boyfriend for dead in a snowbank after a night of drinking was still legally intoxicated or close to it roughly eight hours later, a former state police toxicologist testified Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Karen Read dropped John O’Keefe off at a house party hosted by a fellow officer in January 2022, struck him with her SUV and then drove away. Read has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, and her defense team argues that the homeowner’s relationship with local and state police tainted the investigation. They also say she was framed and that O'Keefe was beaten inside the home and left outside.

As the highly publicized trial entered its fifth week, jurors heard from Nicholas Roberts, who analyzed blood test results from the hospital where Read was evaluated after O’Keefe’s body was discovered. He calculated that her blood alcohol content at 9 a.m., the time of the blood test, was between .078% and .083%, right around the legal limit for intoxication in Massachusetts. Based on a police report that suggested her last drink was at 12:45 a.m., her peak blood alcohol level would have been between .135% and .292%, he said.

Multiple witnesses have described Read frantically asking, “Did I hit him?” before O’Keefe was found or saying afterward, “I hit him.” Others have said the couple had a stormy relationship and O’Keefe was trying to end it.

O’Keefe had been raising his niece and nephew, and they told jurors Tuesday that they heard frequent arguments between him and Read. O’Keefe’s niece described the relationship as “good at the beginning but bad at the end,” according to Fox25 News, though the nephew said they were never physically violent.

The defense, which has been allowed to present what is called third-party culprit evidence, argues that investigators focused on Read because she was a “convenient outsider” who saved them from having to consider other suspects. Those they have implicated include Brian Albert, who owned the home in Canton where O’Keefe died, and Brian Higgins, a federal agent who was there that night.

Higgins, a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified last week about exchanging flirtatious texts with Read in the weeks before O’Keefe’s death. On Tuesday he acknowledged extracting only those messages before throwing away his phone during the murder investigation.

Higgins said he replaced the phone because someone he was investigating for his job had gotten his number. He got a new phone and number on Sept. 29, 2022, a day before being served with a court order to preserve his phone, and then threw the old one away a few months later. Questioning Higgins on the stand, Read’s lawyer suggested the timing was suspicious.

“You knew when you were throwing that phone and the destroyed SIM card in the Dumpster, that from that day forward, no one would ever be able to access the content of what you and Brian Albert had discussed by text messages on your old phone,” attorney David Yannetti said.