6 Forensic Evidence Takes Center Stage as Testimony Resumes in Karen Read Murder Trial

Jurors return to hear detailed forensic evidence in Karen Read’s trial, with both sides presenting conflicting narratives about the events leading to John O'Keefe’s death.

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Karen Read Murder Trial: Jurors in Karen Read‘s murder trial returned to the courtroom Monday for a full day of testimony, including extended hours, as the prosecution focused on physical forensic evidence in the case.

The jury had been on recess since last week when they heard from medical specialists concerning Read’s degree of drunkenness on the morning John O’Keefe was discovered dead, as well as O’Keefe’s niece and nephew, who testified that the two often argued.

Read is suspected of striking O’Keefe with her SUV and left him for dead on the lawn of 34 Fairview Road in Canton, Massachusetts. Her defense claims she is being framed, and that some of the forensic evidence presented Monday was twisted to incriminate their client.

Police discovered a hair on the right quarter panel and glass on the bumper of Read’s SUV, which seemed to be from a shattered drinking glass recovered near O’Keefe’s corpse in the snow.

State Police Lt. Kevin O’Hara said seven troopers checked the roadway in front of the residence where O’Keefe was discovered. He said that there were around 18 inches of snow on the ground. Using headlights, shovels, and rakes, they discovered six or seven pieces of taillight and a sneaker.

The defense claimed the crime scene was not adequately secured.

The jury was shown images of O’Keefe’s clothing, including a gray sweatshirt and an orange T-shirt, which he was wearing when he died.

Many of the artifacts were tested for blood and DNA, including one for animal DNA. The findings of the blood and DNA testing have yet to be revealed with the jury.

Monday was a full day of testimony, with a brief lunch break. There is no court on Tuesday. Wednesday will be a full day, Thursday a half-day, and no court on Friday.

Testimony Resumes In Karen Read Murder Trial
Testimony Resumes in Karen Read Murder Trial

Mass. State Police search team commander testifies.

Monday started with testimony from Massachusetts State Police Lt. Kevin O’Hara. He is the commander of the state police Special Emergency Response Team, or SERT.

On January 29, 2022, the day of O’Keefe’s death, he said that he was approached at 2:30 p.m. by Lt. Brian Tully, supervisor of the Norfolk County District Attorney’s state police detective unit.

He said Tully informed him that he was conducting a death investigation in Canton and was searching for help with an evidence search. O’Hara informed Tully that members of the SERT team will be able to react, but it may take some time owing to the blizzard-like weather conditions at the moment.

O’Hara claimed it was at 3:45 p.m. when he informed Tully that his team had been approved to react to Canton. The team members were instructed to bring shovels, brooms, and rakes. O’Hara said that he arrived to 34 Fairview Road at 4:56 p.m. Six other SERT team members reacted with him.

Once everyone arrived, the crew conducted a grid search of the area where Karen Read’s car was thought to have been parked in front of the Albert house the night before.

He said Tully informed them that O’Keefe had been hit by a car and that they should check for bits of shattered taillights and potentially O’Keefe’s footwear. O’Hara said that it was already dark outside when they started their search.

After seeing many pieces of taillight, O’Hara said he requested a picture of the car to determine how big a chunk of taillight had shattered. But Tully said that the car was being hauled back to the Canton Police Department.

The taillight bits were discovered on the roadway between the flagpole and the fire hydrant in front of the house, he said. Approximately six or seven pieces were discovered that day. He said they also discovered a shoe in the same approximate area.

According to O’Hara, the whole search ended at 6:15 p.m. He said that he informed Tully that the crew may return during daytime hours to continue their search.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally then showed the jury images of the snowy yard at 34 Fairview Road, showing where the parts of taillight and sneaker were discovered, as well as members of the SERT team performing their search.

Soon after 10 a.m., defense counsel David Yannetti started cross-examining O’Hara. Yannetti began by pointing out that the scene had not been secured and had been left accessible to the public in the hours before the SERT team’s arrival.

Yannetti also got O’Hara to corroborate that it was dark when they started their search, and Tully instructed them on where to go and what to look for.

He also questioned O’Hara about a piece of his report where he said that O’Keefe was struck and dragged by a car about 12:30 a.m. That was also information obtained from Tully, O’Hara said.

Testimony resumes in Karen Read Trial: Forensic scientist testifies.

The second witness of the day was Maureen Hartnett, a forensic scientist with the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory. She spoke about a mistake she made when identifying a hair, which resulted in an examination of her earlier work and more training.

She estimated that she had been engaged in over 1,000 criminal investigations throughout her career at the crime lab.

Hartnett testified that on February 1, 2022, she went to the Canton Police Department and was requested to check Read’s SUV. She testified that she saw damage to the back passenger side of the car.

Karen Read Trial Hair Evidence
Karen Read trial Hair Evidence

She reported that there was a ding in the trunk door, marks on the back bumper, and a broken taillight. She also reported seeing a “apparent hair” on the SUV’s rear quarter panel and some “apparent glass” on the back bumper.

“At that time, I noted it was an apparent hair beause I had not done any microscopic examination of the hair,” Hartnett said.

Later, back at the lab, she said that she performed a microscopic study of the hair.

Hartnett also screened the vehicle’s underbelly, bumper, and rear tires for blood, but found nothing. She said that she had gathered the apparent glass, various paint standards, the taillight housing, and the alleged hair.

She was also shown a shattered drinking glass that had been recovered at the site, as well as four red Solo cups with frozen red-brown streaks inside.

Hartnett testified about the tests she performed on the hair found on the back of the SUV and what she discovered.

“I determined the hair was consistent with a human hair with a root,” she said.

Hartnett said that she is unsure of where the hair originated on her body.

Karen Read Trial Sweatshirt Evidence
Karen Read trial Sweatshirt Evidence

She also testified about the tests she conducted on the sweater O’Keefe was wearing on the day he died. The jury was shown many close-ups of the sweater from various angles.

She said that the sweatshirt contained multiple red-brown stains in different spots, and she performed blood tests on them.

Hartnett was still on the stand at 1 p.m., when the courtroom paused for lunch. The testimony continued about 1:30 p.m.

Alan Jackson, the defense attorney, started cross-examining Hartnett just before 2 p.m. He questioned who sent her to the Canton Police Department on February 1, 2022, and she responded it was Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Proctor.

Proctor, the primary investigator, is being investigated by state police for a possible breach of department policy in connection with the Read case.

Jackson also showed Hartnett a photograph of O’Keefe’s right arm, which was covered with scratches of some kind. He questioned whether she saw anything below Read’s SUV that may have caused the injuries. She said that she did not reach any such conclusions at the time, citing her lack of expertise in the field.

She stated that the SUV’s underbelly, including the tire flaps, tested negative for blood.

Jackson also questioned Hartnett about the red Solo cups containing blood evidence, and whether or not they were tagged.

She said that she did not observe any labeling.

Hartnett said she took two samples from just one of the Solo cups, presuming they were all linked. The remainder of the blood evidence was left with Canton police.

“It was my understanding they were all taken from the same stain,” she said.

According to Hartnett, no DNA testing was done on the blood sample.

She also testified about the “apparent hair” she discovered on the back of the SUV. She said it was not attached to the car in any manner. It was just on the car.

Jackson pointed out that the truck would have had to go 60 miles with the hair attached in the midst of a snowstorm.

The second forensic scientist testifies.

Ashley Vallier, a forensic scientist with the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, was the third witness of the day.

Lally showed Vallier a series of photos showing glass, plastic, and an apparent black straw that she had taken during the inquiry. She said that it took a long time to sort through the various parts.

Images Of Apparently Broken Glass Introduced As An Exhibit In The Karen Read Trial On Monday, June 3, 2024.
Images of apparently broken glass were introduced as an exhibit in the Karen Read trial on Monday, June 3, 2024.

The procedure consumed the majority of the last hour of testimony.

Vallier was supposed to return to court on Wednesday, but the jury had the day off Tuesday.

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