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Expert in Karen Read murder trial testifies that John O'Keefe's DNA was on taillight

In Karen Read trial, experts testify O'Keefe's DNA was on taillight
In Karen Read trial, experts testify O'Keefe's DNA was on taillight 01:58

DEDHAM – The high-profile Karen Read murder trial returned Thursday with testimony from law enforcement and a DNA expert who placed John O'Keefe's DNA on her taillight. 

Massachusetts State Police Lt. Brian Tully was the first to take the stand. He worked with Trooper Michael Proctor, the lead investigator in the case whose derogatory messages were at the center of testimony this week.

Read is accused of hitting and killing O'Keefe, her Boston police officer boyfriend, with her SUV and leaving him to die in the snow outside a Canton home during a snowstorm.

Her defense argues that O'Keefe was actually killed during a fight inside former Boston police officer Brian Albert's home at 34 Fairview Road.

The defense says it has gotten information that the state will wrap up its case on Tuesday. Judge Beverly Cannone previously told jurors she plans for them to be able to deliberate by the end of June.  

DNA analysts testify

The defense has accused investigators of planting evidence in the case. But on Thursday afternoon the prosecution made the argument that O'Keefe's DNA was recovered from the taillight of Read's SUV - and law enforcement DNA was not.

Prosecutor Adam Lally first called Needham police Sgt. Brian Gallerani to the stand. He testified that he swabbed the mouths of Proctor and his supervisor, State Police Sgt. Yuriy Bukhenik for DNA. 

Karen Read
Karen Read listens during her trial at Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham, Mass., Thursday, June 13, 2024.  David McGlynn/The Patriot Ledger via AP

Gallerani's brief testimony was followed by Nicholas Bradford, who is a technology data analyst for the Virginia-based Bode Technology lab. Bradford said he got a piece of apparent hair, an extract of a taillight and the samples from Bukhenik and Proctor. Testing revealed DNA from three people on the taillight he said.

Based on testing, Bradford testified that there is a very strong likelihood that O'Keefe's DNA matched with DNA on the taillight extraction. He also said there is strong evidence that Proctor and Bukhenik's DNA was not on the taillight. 

"It is at least 740 nonillion times more likely to be observed if it originated from John O'Keefe and two unknown unrelated individuals than from three unknown unrelated individuals," he said, noting that nonillion is a number with 30 zeroes.  

There were no questions for Bradford from the defense. 

Tess Chart, a technology forensic DNA analyst at Bode, testified that per mitochondrial DNA testing, she can say with 95% confidence that the hair found on the rear of Read's SUV is a match for O'Keefe.

Another forensic expert, Andre Porto from the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, testified that he tested DNA on the taillight, compared it with O'Keefe's and found it's a likely match. 

Defense on DNA testimony

The defense did not cross-examine Chart or Porto, either. They say it doesn't matter if John O'Keefe's DNA was found on Read's car.

"It was planted on the vehicle. I mean, it was," Read's attorney David Yannetti said outside court. "You know the question is how did that magic hair survive a 30-mile drive through a blizzard?" 

After court, WBZ-TV's Kristina Rex asked Read if she has thought about testifying. "Whatever the lawyers say I need to do, I'll do, and I'm willing to go either way," Read said.

Why didn't police search 34 Fairview Road?

Lally began questioning Thursday by asking Tully why he never searched Brian Albert's home after O'Keefe's body was found on the lawn.

"We had no reason to believe the evidence pointed to the home at 34 Fairview," Tully said.

Tully said he did not believe O'Keefe ever entered the home, so he had no reason to search the home.

"I have evidence he was outside. But I don't have anything inside the residence," Tully said.

Karen Read's phone calls to John O'Keefe's phone

Tully testified on direct examination about phone activity after the time that investigators believe O'Keefe was killed.

According to Tully, from 12:30 a.m. to 6:03 a.m. on January 29, 2022, Read's phone called O'Keefe 53 times. 

Tully explained a map that he made showing cellphone towers Read's phone pinged on while she was driving home from Fairview Road just after midnight.

Using surveillance video, the prosecution suggested Read's solo morning drive to search for O'Keefe may have a had a detour to 34 Fairview Rd, where his body was. 

Cross-examination of Lt. Brian Tully

On cross-examination, defense attorney Alan Jackson questioned Tully about evidence in the case.

Jackson noted that O'Keefe was not wearing a coat when his body was found, despite cold and snowy conditions. He asked if it was a "reasonable assumption that he might have left a jacket inside the home."

Tully said he did not believe that was a reasonable assumption.

"Do you believe it's reasonable if a man is found 30 feet outside a home and he's got no winter gear on whatsoever?" Jackson responded, prompting a sustained objection.

Tully also noted previous testimony that O'Keefe was only wearing one shoe when he was found. Investigators said the second shoe was later found underneath the snow during a subsequent search.

"You're also aware that a body, when being dragged by its shoulders, can lose a shoe?" Jackson asked.

Jackson questioned the validity of the cell tower data and asked Tully about a Ford Edge that was reportedly seen in front of 34 Fairview overnight. Tully said the person who reported seeing the vehicle there changed their story multiple times. 

What has happened this week in the Karen Read trial?

Tully began his testimony on Wednesday after Proctor concluded tense cross-examination.

Proctor was grilled about what he described as "unprofessional and regrettable" text messages. In one message to his sister that he read in court, Proctor said about Read, "Hopefully she kills herself."

"I had a long discussion with him about the content and nature of them," Tully said about Proctor's text messages Wednesday when he began his testimony. "I expressed my displeasure at his unprofessionalism and the content of them, and then I reported it up my chain of command."

Who is Karen Read?

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

The 45-year-old woman from Mansfield, Massachusetts pleaded not guilty to hitting and killing O'Keefe. Read claims she is the victim of a coverup by people including law enforcement. 

What's the schedule for the Karen Read murder trial this week?

A full day of testimony is planned on Friday to end the week. There was no court on Tuesday. 

A portion of one day this week is likely to be spent with attorneys questioning potential defense witnesses without the jury present.

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