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"Flirty" texts between Karen Read, Brian Higgins revealed in murder trial testimony

Brian Higgins reads text messages with Karen Read in murder trial
Brian Higgins reads text messages with Karen Read in murder trial 02:09

DEDHAM - Testimony in the Karen Read case continued Friday with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Brian Higgins taking the stand in the Massachusetts murder trial and reading several "flirty" text messages exchanged with the defendant.

Read is accused of hitting and killing her Boston police officer boyfriend John O'Keefe with her SUV and leaving him to die in the snow outside a Canton home in 2022. The defense says she is being framed and alleges a coverup involving law enforcement. 

Who is Brian Higgins?

Higgins was at the after-party that night at the 34 Fairview Road home that was owned by Brian Albert. Higgins is one of three men the defense has suggested as an alternate suspect in O'Keefe's death.

Brian Higgins testifies in the Karen Read murder trial. CBS Boston

The defense has previously shown surveillance video from the Waterfall Bar and Grille in Canton that seemingly shows Higgins and Albert play-fighting in the bar before the after-party. 

Karen Read surveillance
Surveillance video from Waterfall Bar & Grille in Canton shows Brian Albert and Brian Higgins seemingly play-fighting CBS Boston

"It speaks for itself," Read's attorney Alan Jackson said about the video. "Two guys grappling, sparring, looking like they're fighting. Practicing fighting techniques."

Albert testified that the two were just "fooling around."

In a new discovery notice filed this week, the prosecution said five pages of Higgins's medical records have been provided to the defense.

When asked outside Norfolk Superior Court on Wednesday what to expect during Higgins' cross-examination, Jackson answered with just one word: "Fireworks."

What was Brian Higgins' relationship with John O'Keefe and Karen Read?

Higgins testified that he knew O'Keefe for about a year and would see him at the Hillside Pub in Canton. He says he also went to O'Keefe's house to catch the end of a New England Patriots game. Higgins said that more often than not, O'Keefe was with Read.

"I considered him a friend," Higgins said. "I considered her a friend as well."

Higgins said at the Waterfall that night, he texted Read something like "ummm, well" and told the jury, "to be honest with you, it was a flirty text."

Higgins said after leaving the Waterfall, he never saw Read or O'Keefe again that night. He also said he believed he was the first to leave the after-party at 34 Fairview. He said he stopped at the Canton Police Department to move police vehicles out of the way of plows and ended up at home in West Roxbury at about 2 a.m. 

Higgins testified Brian Albert called him at about 6:30 a.m. to say that O'Keefe had been found on the front lawn. 

"It didn't make sense to me," Higgins said. "I couldn't do the math in my head, because I knew John O'Keefe and the defendant, they never - they never showed up. It didn't make sense."

Texts between Brian Higgins and Karen Read

The prosecution had Higgins read dozens texts between himself and Karen Read in January 2022, before O'Keefe's death. Higgins said she got his number and initiated the conversation.

In one of the texts, Read tells Higgins "you're hot."

"Are you serious or messing with me?" Higgins replies.

"No I'm serious," Read says.

Higgins then said that after watching a Patriots game at O'Keefe's house on a Saturday night in January, Read "planted a kiss" on him. 

"Not like a friend," Higgins testified. "Lip to lip."

In another series of messages, Read texts Higgins "Come over to my house."

Read told Higgins she never wanted kids and texted about how O'Keefe taking care of his niece and nephew were complicating their relationship. 

In one message, Higgins told Read he assumed she was happy with her situation.

"I was. But things have deteriorated," she replied. 

Read also texted Higgins that O'Keefe had shown her video of her interacting with Higgins.

"He's like 'Christ, are you guys hooking up??'" Read's message says.

The weeks of texts show Higgins constantly asked what Read wanted from him. He was single and told Read he wanted "the real deal," but says he was confused.

"I'm not proud of these text messages, it is what it is, I take responsibility for them. But John was a friend at the same time ... If they were at the end of their relationship, they were at the end of their relationship. But I wasn't going to have somebody utilize me and weaponize me against someone that I liked. It was just a weird experience."

The last message shown in court between the two was Read texting Higgins, "John died."

Witness Brian Higgins reads "flirty" texts with Karen Read at murder trial 52:20

Cross-examination of Brian Higgins

Read's defense began cross-examination by asking Higgins if Read had started "ghosting" him by the time they were both at the Waterfall on Jan. 28. Jackson asked Higgins if he was upset that Read appeared to be ignoring him at the bar.

"I did not feel ignored and it didn't upset me at all," he said.

The defense then asked Higgins how he didn't see O'Keefe's body on the lawn of 34 Fairview after leaving the party.

"If I did, I would've done something to help him," Higgins responded.

The defense also pointed to a 22-second phone call with Brian Albert at 2:22 a.m. Higgins denied having a conversation with Albert at the time and may have been a "butt dial." 

Defense attorneys accused him of destroying his phone. "You've destroyed that phone haven't you," Jackson asked Higgins. 

"No, I threw the phone away," Higgins responded. 

"Well, that's destroying the phone, isn't it?" Jackson said. Higgins shook his head.  

Before testimony ended on Friday, the defense accused Higgins of using federal resources to download "highly selected" information from his phone to turn over to law enforcement. 

Higgins will be back on the stand Tuesday morning. 

Who is Karen Read?

Read is a 45-year-old Massachusetts woman. She was dating O'Keefe at the time of his death.

Read has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death.  

What happened in the Karen Read murder trial this week?

Will Jennifer McCabe's testimony sway the jury? Analyzing week 4 of the Karen Read trial 19:46

The week began with contentious cross-examination between Jennifer McCabe and Read's defense. McCabe was with Read and Kerry Roberts when they found O'Keefe's body in the snow. 

McCabe, who is Brian Albert's sister-in-law, searched "hos (sic) long to die in cold" on Google the morning of O'Keefe's death. McCabe testified that Read urged her to search hypothermia and how long it takes to die in the cold after 6 a.m. when they found O'Keefe's body. The defense says cellphone data show the first search actually happened at 2:27 a.m. and McCabe later deleted it.

Internet search results are presented by the defense as defense attorney Alan Jackson questions witness Jen McCabe as she testifies during Karen Read's murder trail, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, at Dedham Superior Court in Dedham, Mass. Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger via AP, Pool

"Did you delete that search because you knew you would be implicated in John O'Keefe's death if that search was found on your phone?" Jackson asked her.

"I did not delete that search," McCabe answered. "I never made that search at 2:23."

Kerry Roberts testified after McCabe about finding her friend O'Keefe in a mound of snow. She cried as the prosecution played police dashboard camera video showing first responders arriving to the scene. Read wondered if O'Keefe may have been hit by a plow, Roberts recalled.

"She said 'Do you think I hit him? Do you think I hit him? And I said 'No I think you probably hit something, but we should go look for him," Roberts said.

Also testifying on Wednesday were two sisters, Laura and Marietta Sullivan, who both said there was tension and jealousy between the couple on a New Year's Eve trip to Aruba just weeks before O'Keefe's death. 

Schedule for Karen Read trial

Court was not in session on Thursday. And next week after the Memorial Day holiday, the jury will only be in to hear testimony on Tuesday.

Experts tell WBZ-TV that both sides risk losing the jury as the trial is taking longer than expected.

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