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What was Karen Read's blood alcohol level on the night John O'Keefe died? Experts testify at trial

Doctors, forensic experts testify in Karen Read murder trial
Doctors, forensic experts testify in Karen Read murder trial 02:09

DEDHAM – Children connected to the Karen Read murder trial took the stand Tuesday, following the end of testimony from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Brian Higgins. The prosecutor in the case also focused on Read's blood alcohol level the night O'Keefe died.

Prosecutors say Read hit and killed John O'Keefe, her Boston police officer boyfriend, with her SUV and left him to die in the snow outside Brian Albert's Canton home in 2022. Read's defense attorneys say she is the victim of a coverup by law enforcement, and they claim that Higgins could be one of the men actually involved in O'Keefe's death.

Karen Read's blood alcohol level 

Justin Rice, who was an emergency room doctor at Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton when O'Keefe died, took the stand on Tuesday.  

Rice treated Read the morning of January 29, 2022.

She was brought to the hospital just before 8 a.m. under a "Section 12" order. Rice described it as an "involuntarily detention," usually over a mental health concern.

Rice said bloodwork was performed on Read. She had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 93 milligrams per deciliter, or 0.093%. The legal BAC limit in Massachusetts for driving is 0.08%.

Later, Nicholas Roberts, who at the time was a member of the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing working with the Massachusetts State Police crime lab unit, took the stand.

He spoke about a type of "retrograde" testing that allows the lab to estimate what a person's blood alcohol level would have been hours before an official blood test was taken. 

Read's blood was taken at 9:08 a.m. Using 12:45 a.m. as the estimated last drink Read consumed, Roberts estimated that her BAC would have previously been a minimum of 0.135% or a maximum of 0.292%.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Little spent cross-examination of Roberts attempting to show that the estimation could have been inaccurate. She said the testing method is "acting with a lot of unknowns."

"If Miss Read drank alcohol after 12:45 a.m. and before her blood was drawn at 9:08 a.m., your entire calculation would be invalid," Little said. Roberts responded, "Yeah."

John O'Keefe's injuries

In addition to seeing Read, Rice treated O'Keefe when he was rushed to the hospital after being found in the snow. 

He described O'Keefe's injuries, saying he was unresponsive and intubated as he arrived at the emergency room.

O'Keefe was in cardiac arrest and had a body temperature of 80.1 degrees when he arrived. He had no pulse, and also had a cut, and other scratches on his forearm.

Children called to testify

Earlier in the day, around 10 a.m. all cameras in the courtrooms were ordered to shut off as children who were in John O'Keefe's care took the stand. O'Keefe took custody of his sister's children after she died of cancer and the children's father died of a heart attack several months later.

A court order prevented the media from broadcasting any information until the children finished their testimony.

The children's testimony lasted just under two hours.

Read and O'Keefe's "sometimes rough" relationship

O'Keefe's nephew, a young teenager, described Read and O'Keefe's relationship as "sometimes rough."

"There was a lot of disagreements and arguments," the boy said. He added that the couple yelled frequently, and the disagreements became more frequent closer to O'Keefe's death.

During cross-examination, Read's attorney David Yannetti was soft-spoken, asking if the boy knew the phrase "raise a hand in anger." He then asked if O'Keefe or Read every raised a hand in anger at the other, and the teenager said no.

"I'm so sorry that you were made to come here today. Nothing further," Yannetti said as he concluded his cross-examination, prompting Judge Beverly Cannone to strike the comment from the record.

"A lot of arguing and fighting"

The boy's older sister, a teenager, said there were good days and bad days with the couple. She said on the bad days, Read would ignore the children. She also described problems in O'Keefe and Read's relationship.

"It was good in the beginning but it was bad at the end," the girl said. "There was a lot of arguing and fighting."

Like her brother, the girl testified that fights between the couple were more frequent closer to O'Keefe's death.

She told jurors about a fight between the couple sometime in January 2022. O'Keefe was asking her to leave my house, she said. He said the relationship had run its course, that it used to be fun and now it's not. But the niece said Karen Read would not leave.

The morning John O'Keefe's body was found

O'Keefe's niece described the morning of January 29, 2022 when the Boston police officer's body was found at 34 Fairview Road in Canton.

The girl said she called Jennifer McCabe, a previous witness in the case, and put Read on speakerphone. McCabe later would go out with Read and Kerry Roberts to search for O'Keefe.

O'Keefe's niece said she heard Read on the phone saying "Maybe I did something, maybe a snow plow hit him."

"She said they were in an argument," the girl testified.

According to the niece, Read's story later changed as she called more people. First she mentioned that there was a fight and she wondered if she had hit O'Keefe, then in another phone call no fight was mentioned but she said maybe a plow had hit him.

"I had never seen her like that. Frantic. Pacing around," the girl said.

Yannetti's cross-examination was again brief, asking similar questions that he asked the girl's brother.

"Desperate and inappropriate"

Outside court Tuesday afternoon, the defense criticized the prosecution's decision to call O'Keefe's niece and nephew to testify.

"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," Yannetti said.  

Cross-examination of Brian Higgins

Before the children testified, Higgins was back on the stand for the rest of his cross-examination. Last Friday he read several "flirty" text messages that he exchanged with Read just days before O'Keefe died.

Defense attorney Alan Jackson handled the cross-examination on Friday, but he was unable to be in Norfolk Superior Court on Tuesday. Yannetti continued the cross-examination in Jackson's absence. 

On Friday, Jackson accused Higgins of destroying his phone despite receiving a preservation order for his data. Higgins said he threw it away.  

When court resumed on Tuesday, Yannetti once again focused on Higgins disposing of his phone.

"It went in a trash bag, yes," Higgins said.

"You used a passive voice. It went into a trash bag, did it fly out of your hand unexpectedly into a trash bag, sir?" Yannetti said. "Are you reluctant to say that you put it in a trash bag, sir?"

Yannetti asked Higgins if it was important that no one saw his text with members of the Albert family. "No sir, that's not true," Higgins responded. 

"From that day forward, no one would ever be able to discover the content that you discussed on your phone?" Yannetti asked, before concluding cross-examination after about 10 minutes.

Prosecutor Adam Lally later followed up by asking Higgins why he threw his phone away.

"Because it was beaten. It was broken up. I already had a new phone. The only explanation is I threw it away. That's it," Higgins said. 

Higgins said a reason he was getting rid of his phone was that a person he was investigating in another case had posted his number online. 

He also said the phone didn't mean much to him. "I'm divorced. I don't have kids. I didn't have the typical memories that somebody would have had on their phone," Higgins said. 

Brian Higgins "embarrassed" by text messages with Karen Read

With cross-examination completed, Lally once again questioned Higgins again.

Lally asked Higgins if he had spoken to anyone else about the text messages with Read. He said he had not.

"On a personal level, I keep things to myself. I was a little embarrassed. Not really proud of them. Didn't show me in a good light with respects that I was John's friend," Higgins said.

Higgins completed his testimony and stepped down after less than an hour on the stand Tuesday.

Who is Brian Higgins?

Higgins was one of the people at an after-party at Brian Albert's 34 Fairview Road home on January 29, 2022. Read's defense is mounting a third-party culprit defense, and says Higgins is one of three men who could have killed O'Keefe in a fight. They say the group then dragged O'Keefe's body outside.

During his testimony on Friday, Higgins said he considered O'Keefe a friend. Both men were drinking at the Waterfall Bar and Grille in Canton before leaving for Brian Albert's home. But Higgins said he never saw O'Keefe again after leaving the bar.

Prosecutors introduced dozens of text messages between Read and Higgins, including one when Read tells Higgins "you're hot."

Higgins testified that weeks before O'Keefe's death, Read "planted a kiss" on him. Read told Higgins in one text message that her relationship with O'Keefe had "deteriorated."

On Friday, Jackson pressed Higgins about a 22-second phone call he had with Brian Albert at 2:22 a.m. the morning O'Keefe died. Higgins said he did not have a conservation with Albert, and it may have been a "butt dial."

Karen Read, right, chats with her attorney David Yannetti, center, and Elizabeth Little, left, during her murder trial at Norfolk Superior Court on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Dedham, Mass.  Stuart Cahill/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool

Who is Karen Read?

Read, 45, of Mansfield, Massachusetts, was dating O'Keefe at the time of his death.

She is charged second-degree murder, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Schedule for Karen Read trial

Tuesday is the only day court will be in session in the trial this week. There was no testimony on Monday due to Memorial Day, and Judge Beverly Cannone said there will not be any court for the remainder of the week. 

Next week, there will be full days of testimony on Monday, June 3 and Wednesday, June 5 with a half day on Thursday, June 6. There will be no court on Tuesday, June 4, or Friday, June 7.

Experts told WBZ-TV earlier this month that both sides risk losing the jury as the trial is taking longer than expected.

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