John O’Keefe’s niece and nephew testify


O’Keefe’s niece and nephew recalled signs of friction in their uncle’s two-year relationship with Read.

Karen Read looks at her attorney during her murder trial at Norfolk Superior Court on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Dedham. Stuart Cahill/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool

Taking the stand Tuesday, John O’Keefe’s niece and nephew recalled frequent verbal fights between their uncle and his girlfriend of two years, Karen Read.

The children lived with O’Keefe in Canton for several years after their mother died of brain cancer and their father had a fatal heart attack just months later. A court order barred media outlets from naming O’Keefe’s niece or nephew or livestreaming their testimony, as they are minors.

Read, 44, of Mansfield, is accused of drunkenly — and intentionally — backing her SUV into O’Keefe and leaving him for dead the morning of Jan. 29, 2022. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, motor vehicle manslaughter while driving under the influence, and leaving the scene of a collision causing injury and death.

Prosecutors have pointed to the increasingly strained relationship between Read and O’Keefe as a possible motive. They’ve specifically highlighted flirty texts Read exchanged with another man, as well as a screaming match Read and O’Keefe had during a family vacation to Aruba over New Year’s Eve in 2021.

O’Keefe’s niece and nephew — who were 14 and 10, respectively, at the time he died — testified Tuesday that they overheard the couple’s argument during the Aruba vacation, according to WHDH. Jurors previously heard testimony about an incident where Read accused O’Keefe of kissing another woman on the trip, though the woman in question said she and O’Keefe only hugged. 

WBZ reported that O’Keefe’s nephew testified that neither Read nor O’Keefe ever raised a hand at each other in anger. However, “there was a lot of disagreements and arguments,” the boy reportedly said.

According to WCVB, both children also described an incident where O’Keefe asked Read to leave his house and she refused.

“She said no. She was swearing. She got very loud,” O’Keefe’s niece said, per WCVB.

The couple’s relationship “was good at the beginning, but it was bad at the end,” the niece testified, according to WHDH.

She recalled the moment Read woke her up at 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2022, and informed her O’Keefe hadn’t come home. According to WHDH, the niece testified that she heard Read on the phone calling people, and she said she remembered Read mentioning an argument with O’Keefe the night before. 

O’Keefe’s niece also said Read asked, “What if I hit him?” though she testified that Read’s phrasing changed in later conversations, WHDH reported. 

A photo of Karen Read and John O’Keefe shown during Read’s arraignment at Norfolk Superior Court in June 2022. – John Tlumacki/Boston Globe Staff, File

“She was just pacing down the hallway, asking what could’ve happened,” the niece testified, according to WCVB. “She said, ‘Maybe I did something.’ Later, she said, ‘Maybe a snowplow hit him.’”

As they left the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, Read’s lawyers criticized the prosecution’s decision to call O’Keefe’s niece and nephew to the stand, WBZ reported.

“It was desperate and inappropriate for the DA’s office to call children to try to prove a nonexistent motive that they failed to prove through their adult witnesses,” defense attorney David Yannetti reportedly said. 

Read’s trial is not in session the rest of this week. Testimony will resume on Monday, June 3.

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