John O’Keefe’s last night out and the initial investigation

The second week of the Karen Read murder trial took jurors from the snowy scene of a Canton front lawn where a Boston cop lay mortally wounded and freezing and into two Canton bars he enjoyed on his last night out and the house party he was invited to.

“John O’Keefe and Karen Read never entered my house,” Brian Albert, at the time a fellow Boston cop and owner of 34 Fairview Road where O’Keefe died on Jan. 29, 2022, testified on the witness stand at Norfolk Superior Court on Friday.

Read, 44, of Mansfield, faces charges of second-degree murder, motor vehicle manslaughter and leaving the scene of a collision causing the death of O’Keefe, a 16-year Boston Police officer and her boyfriend of about two years when he died at age 46. Prosecutors say that after a night out drinking the pair argued and she killed him by backing her Lexus SUV into him at high speed, leaving him to die in the cold during a major snow storm.

Friday marked nine days of testimony in the trial that is expected to last six weeks. Court resumes with Brian Albert’s cross-examination by defense attorneys on Monday.

Brian Albert was preceded on the stand by his wife, Nicole Albert. Both testified that while the whole party at Waterfall Bar and Grill in central Canton was invited to continue the get-together at the Albert residence into the early morning, neither O’Keefe nor Read showed up.

By around 6 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2022, Canton Police Officer Steven Saraf would be flagged down by three women at the scene: Jennifer McCabe, Kerry Roberts and Read. Other local officers and Canton Fire Department paramedics would come soon after. They testified in the first week.

The start of an investigation

This last week’s testimony began with the police officers who would come after the initial chaos: Canton Police Lt. Paul Gallagher and Sgt. Sean Goode and Lt. Michael Lank — who at the time of O’Keefe’s death was a sergeant — and Lt. Charles Rae.

Goode was in charge of the PD’s dispatch center on the overnight shift when he testified he received two calls, both of which were played in court.

The first was from Roberts just before 5 a.m., relaying Read’s concerns over O’Keefe: “They were out having drinks and she left and he didn’t come home.”

The second came from McCabe about an hour later. She said the three women had found O’Keefe unresponsive and cold: “I don’t know if he’s breathing … I think he’s passed away.”

Goode rushed to the scene and was joined later by Lank and then Gallagher, after O’Keefe had been taken away by ambulance. Gallagher said he used a leaf blower to take off layers of snow from the area officers told him O’Keefe was found to look for evidence: “Nothing about the scene was standard.”

He said he found patches of O’Keefe’s blood in the snow as well as a shattered cocktail glass like the one law enforcement says O’Keefe was seen walking out of the bar with. But, he said under cross-examination, he saw none of the pieces of plastic Lexus SUV tail lights police would say they would find there in later days.

Gallagher obtained a package of red Solo cups — like “you might drink beer out of at a barbecue,” defense attorney Alan Jackson said — from another police officer who lived nearby to put the blood samples in. The cups and samples would later be stored in a Stop & Shop paper grocery bag in temporary storage at the station and were seen in photos being close enough to Read’s SUV parked in the station’s garage to possibly cause cross contamination, defense attorneys stressed.

Lank said he arrived at around 6:30 a.m. O’Keefe was already in the ambulance but other officers described his condition, prompting Lank to place a call to the Massachusetts State Police dispatch, since that agency has jurisdiction over homicide investigations.

He said he told dispatch that O’Keefe had suffered head trauma and that he said, “I don’t know if he’s been in a fight or whatever.”

He was also the first to question Brian and Nicole Albert, as well as Jennifer McCabe, Nicole’s sister, inside the home that morning. Those interviews were not recorded. He also testified that he photographed pieces of the tail light that then-Canton PD Chief Kenneth Berkowitz saw while driving by days later.

The last night out

O’Keefe met up with his friends Curt Roberts — the husband of Kerry Roberts — and Michael Camerano at a central Canton bar called C.F. McCarthy’s the evening of Jan. 28, 2022. Read would arrive later. Both men testified that nothing seemed off between O’Keefe and Read.

At around 11 p.m., O’Keefe and Read walked across the street to Waterfall Bar & Grill where a party had already formed, including Jennifer McCabe and her husband Matt McCabe, Brian and Nicole Albert, Christopher and Julie Albert, and an ATF agent named Brian Higgins.

Bartender Rebecca Trayers testified that nobody seemed to be overly intoxicated in the party before they left around midnight.

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