Watch CBS News

Christopher Albert testifies in Karen Read murder trial about family's ties to case

Christopher and Julie Albert testify in Karen Read murder trial
Christopher and Julie Albert testify in Karen Read murder trial 02:19

DEDHAM – For the first time since testimony began, jurors in Karen Read's Massachusetts murder trial heard from a witness with close connections to Brian Albert's Canton home, the place where Boston police officer John O'Keefe died in the snow. 

Christopher Albert, a current member of the Canton Board of Selectmen, took the stand first on Thursday. He is the brother of retired Boston police officer Brian Albert, who owned the home where O'Keefe's body was found in 2022.

Prosecutors say Read hit Boston police officer O'Keefe with her SUV after a night of drinking and left him to die in the snow. Read and O'Keefe were dating at the time of his death.  

The trial is being held inside Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Chris Albert testifies on May 9, 2024 in the Karen Read murder trial. CBS Boston

Christopher Albert on the stand

Christopher and Brian Albert were at Waterfall Bar & Grille in Canton with a group of people that included Read and O'Keefe on January 28, 2022. Hours later, O'Keefe's body was found in the yard of Brian Albert's 34 Fairview Road home. Prosecutors say Read hit him with her SUV and left him to die.

Defense attorneys argue that Read did not hit O'Keefe. Instead, they say he was killed during a fight inside Brian Albert's home and dragged outside.

During his testimony, Christopher Albert said he remembered Read coming into the bar with a glass under her jacket, which he said he thought was funny.

According to his testimony, everyone in the group was having a good time that night. 

Christopher Albert said he left around the same time as O'Keefe and Read and walked home. He said he never went inside Brian Albert's home the night O'Keefe died.

Read's lawyers shifted the focus to the Julie and Christopher Albert's son Colin, who they say came home that night after his parents, placing him at 34 Fairview Rd. with his cousins when John O'Keefe arrived.

The defense has said in past hearings that Colin Albert, who was a teenager at the time of O'Keefe's death, is one of their three suspects, along with Brian Higgins and Brian Albert.  

"Mr. Nebbercracker"

Defense attorney David Yannetti cross-examined Chris Albert.   

Christopher Albert confirmed after a question from Yannetti that he and his wife referred to O'Keefe as "Mr. Nebbercracker," a reference to the animated movie "Monster House."

There was a line of questioning about O'Keefe wanting people to stay off his lawn. Text messages were shown from the night the group was at Waterfall. Christopher Albert texted O'Keefe "Get over here or I'll f--- up your lawn."

Yannetti also showed photos Christopher and his wife Julie Albert once sent O'Keefe while they were house-sitting for him. The photos showed them stepping onto O'Keefe's property.

Christopher Albert said on re-direct that the photos were intended to be a joke. He added that the "Mr. Nebbercracker" nickname was also a joke stemming from a time Christopher Albert's youngest son cut through O'Keefe's lawn and he yelled for the boy to get off the grass.

"From that point on we called him Mr. Nebbercracker. It was a joke, John thought it was funny," he testified.

Cross-examination interrupted by objections

Yannetti first focused on the Albert family's status in the Town of Canton, asking Chris Albert if his family is "powerful."

Yannetti also attempted to establish that Christopher Albert has a relationship with key people in the investigation. That included retired Canton Police Chief Ken Berkowitz and Michael Proctor, the lead investigator in the case for Massachusetts State Police.

In March, Massachusetts State Police said they have opened an internal investigation into "a potential violation of department policy" by Proctor. He remains on full duty during the investigation and through his attorney has denied any wrongdoing. Read's attorneys previously said in court that a federal investigation showed Proctor hid personal ties to people involved in the case.

Cross-examination was interrupted on numerous occasions by prosecution objections, and several sidebars with the judge.

Previous testimony about Christopher Albert

Read's defense attorneys say the Albert family is at the center of an alleged effort to frame Read.

On Wednesday, Read's defense showed video from inside Waterfall. Brian Albert and ATF agent Brian Higgins could be seen seemingly play-fighting before the after party.

"It speaks for itself," Read's attorney Alan Jackson said outside on Wednesday. "Two guys grappling, sparring, looking like they're fighting. Practicing fighting techniques. You tell me."

Earlier in the week Canton Police Sgt. Michael Lank, who investigated O'Keefe's death, was questioned about an off-duty 2002 incident.

Lank intervened in a fight on behalf of Christopher Albert. No one was arrested that night, but a day later one of the men involved sought a complaint against Lank at the Canton Police Department. That's when charges were filed against two brothers for their role in the fight.

Christopher Albert was never charged. He was elected to the Canton Board of Selectment in 2023. 

Lank was asked during his testimony what "relevance or factor" the 2002 incident had on how he handled his response to O'Keefe's death.

"Absolutely nothing," Lank said.

Julie Albert's connection to lead investigator

Christopher Albert's wife, Julie Albert, was the next witness on the stand.

She went to Waterfall with the group on January 28, 2022, but left to go home earlier than others after she said she developed a migraine.

Around 8:30 a.m. on January 29, 2022, Julie Albert said she drove to 34 Fairview to bring a birthday gift for her nephew, Brian Albert's son. That is when she said Brian Albert asked her to come inside and she learned what happened to O'Keefe.

"Everyone was visibly upset, and I asked what's going on," Julie Albert said. "And another maybe 30 seconds went by, and Jen said something's happened to John."

She said no one in the home, including Brian Albert, Higgins, or Christopher and Julie's son Colin, had any injuries.

On cross-examination, Yannetti focused on Julie Albert's relationship with Trooper Michael Proctor's sister Courtney. Julie Albert said she is friends with Courtney Proctor and provided childcare for her children.

The defense says Julie Albert called her 67 times over the course of a few months after O'Keefe's death, including on the day of Karen's arrest.

"Were you using Courtney Proctor as an intermediary to communicate with Michael Proctor about this case?" Yannetti asked.

"No I was not," Julie Albert replied.

Judge Beverly Cannone ended testimony for the day in the middle of Julie Albert's testimony. She is expected back on the stand Friday. 

Who is Karen Read?

Read, 45, is a Massachusetts woman who is facing charges that include second-degree murder, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death

Read pleaded not guilty to the charges and argues she is being framed as part of a coverup by several people, including law enforcement.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.