Top investigator in Karen Read murder case questioned over inappropriate texts

BOSTON (AP) — Defense attorneys for a woman accused of leaving her Boston police officer boyfriend for dead in a snowbank grilled the lead investigator Wednesday about a series of offensive and inappropriate texts he wrote about the suspect during the investigation.

Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Proctor also acknowledged that he was friends with several witnesses, including the brother of the man who hosted the house party where John O'Keefe's body was found outside in January 2022. The defense also criticized Proctor for sharing details of the investigation with friends and family on text exchanges and for texts in which he appeared to single out Karen Read as responsible for O'Keefe's death less than 24 hours after his body was found.

Prosecutors say Read dropped O’Keefe off at the home of a fellow officer after a night of drinking and struck him while making a three-point turn. They say she then drove away.

Her defense team argues that she has been framed and has questioned law enforcement's handling of the investigation. The text exchanges could raise doubts with the jury about Proctor’s credibility and distract from some of the evidence he and other state troopers found.

“Before you ever went into the house, only having interviewed three folks, you had this case nice and wrapped up didn't you?” Read's defense attorney Alan Jackson asked Proctor on Wednesday.

Proctor responded that his text comments were based on what investigators had found that first day, including O'Keefe's injuries, witness statements, an interview with Read, a shoe and pieces of clear and red plastic. Prosecutors argue that the pieces are from a broken taillight on Read’s SUV that they argue was damaged when she hit O’Keefe.

Proctor, who first took the stand Monday, acknowledged to the jury that he called Read names, including “wack job,” in texts to friends, family and fellow troopers and that he joked to supervisors about not finding nude photos while searching her phone. He also admitted texting his sister that he wished Read would “kill herself,” which he claimed was a figure of speech and that “emotions got the best of me." He apologized for some of the language he used but insisted they had no influence on the investigation.

Proctor's testimony came in the seventh week of trial for Read, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in O'Keefe's death. Experts said his testimony could significantly hurt the prosecution's case.

“The texts are appalling and wildly unprofessional, to put it mildly, and it’s hard to imagine they won’t hurt the prosecution’s case in the eyes of the jury,” Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University who is not involved in the case, told The Associated Press.

Read’s lawyers have alleged that O’Keefe was beaten inside the home, bitten by a family dog and then left outside. They have portrayed the investigation as shoddy and undermined by the relationship investigators had with the law enforcement agents at the house party. They also have suggested pieces of glass found on the bumper of Read’s SUV and a hair found on the vehicle’s exterior may have been planted.

Proctor acknowledged in his testimony that he is friends with the brother of Brian Albert and his wife — though he insisted it had no influence on the investigation and had never been to their house before O'Keefe's death. Brian Albert is a Boston police officer who hosted the house party in Canton where O'Keefe's body was found in the front yard.

Jackson got Proctor to acknowledge that he was drinking buddies with Albert's brother, Kevin Albert, who is a Canton police officer. He acknowledged they went out drinking several months after O'Keefe died, worked on a cold case together and communicated about coordinating aspects of the O'Keefe case even though the Canton Police Department recused itself from the investigation due to the Albert brothers' connection to the case.

"You knew that he, above everybody else, should be completely removed from any contact with the investigation or the investigators," Jackson asked Proctor. “Yet when you wanted to coordinate witnesses for interviews in this case, who did you turn to?”

Proctor acknowledged he texted Kevin Albert about coordinating those interviews, something experts also said could also hurt prosecutors.

“One of the main justifications for having state police investigators separate and apart from local detectives is just that — that they are theoretically separate and apart, and may be able to investigate high-profile crimes with a degree of objectivity,” Medwed said. “The friendship between Proctor and the Albert family does create the appearance of a problem, a problem compounded by the inappropriate text messages and the apparent rush to judgment.”

Michael Casey, The Associated Press