Within the early hours of Jan. 29, 2022, as a snowstorm raged, a 46-year-old Boston police officer, John O’Keefe, was found unresponsive exterior the house of a fellow officer in Canton, Mass.

He was discovered by his girlfriend, Karen Learn, who stated she had frantically looked for him after waking up on his sofa round 4 a.m. and realizing he had not come dwelling from an evening out. Officer O’Keefe had extreme head accidents and hypothermia and was pronounced useless that morning. Ms. Learn was arrested three days later, and the case has transfixed Boston ever since.

Ms. Learn, 44, is now on trial in a Massachusetts courtroom, accused of killing Officer O’Keefe by backing into him along with her sport utility automobile after an argument after which leaving the scene. Her legal professionals, together with a vocal and devoted squad of defenders, say she is harmless, alleging a sweeping conspiracy and cover-up by legislation enforcement officers to cover the reality in regards to the homicide.

Public fascination with the case has been fueled by an uncommon confluence of things: the relative rarity of a lady accused of homicide; the mysterious circumstances of the dying; the small-town setting and the net of relationships connecting the important thing gamers; and the magnetic attraction of conspiracy theories to these inclined to distrust the police and the federal government.

“Any a kind of issues would get consideration, however if you add all of them up, there’s a fascination,” stated Daniel Medwed, a professor of legislation and legal justice at Northeastern College. “We’re all like rubberneckers, awaiting the subsequent bombshell.”

“Individuals need to know — is she a calculating killer or a damsel in misery?” he added.

The passions that swirl across the case have led to at least one startling twist after the subsequent: a blogger charged with harassing witnesses for the prosecution. A district legal professional rebuking conspiracy theorists. A decide ordering pro-Learn demonstrators to remain 200 toes from the courthouse — and banning from the courtroom any clothes with slogans associated to the case.

A couple of details are undisputed. Ms. Learn and Officer O’Keefe, who had dated years earlier and had reconnected through the pandemic, went out ingesting with mates in Canton, a city of 24,000 about 20 miles south of Boston, the night time Officer O’Keefe died. At a bar downtown, they bumped into Brian Albert, a Boston police sergeant detective who additionally lived there, and acquired an invite to hitch a bunch of mates for late-night drinks at his dwelling.

John O’Keefe.Credit score…Boston Police Division, through Related Press

Shortly after midnight, they drove to the residence, in a hilly neighborhood of well-kept houses. Officer O’Keefe received out of Ms. Learn’s black Lexus S.U.V. Prosecutors say that they’d been preventing and that Ms. Learn had then accelerated in reverse, deliberately putting her boyfriend earlier than leaving.

In courtroom filings, prosecutors have described injury to the rear finish of Ms. Learn’s S.U.V., enraged voicemails that she left on Officer O’Keefe’s cellphone that night time and statements from witnesses that he had advised her he wished to finish the connection.

Most damning, a number of the emergency staff known as to the scene that morning have testified that they heard Ms. Learn say repeatedly, “I hit him.”

Ms. Learn denies harming Officer O’Keefe; she has pleaded not responsible to expenses of manslaughter and second-degree homicide. She has urged that in her shock and grief that morning, she uttered a panicked query — “Did I hit him?” — not a confession.

Her legal professionals have superior an alternate rationalization for Officer O’Keefe’s dying: that he went inside Sergeant Detective Albert’s dwelling, the place somebody fatally beat him after which dumped his physique within the snow.

Those that imagine Ms. Learn is harmless say the proof is rife with inconsistencies, indicating a cover-up to guard the individuals who have been within the Albert dwelling that night time, most of them associated to the Alberts.

The lacerations on Officer O’Keefe’s arm seem unlikely to have been brought on by a automobile, they argue, however resemble bites which may have been inflicted by the home-owner’s German shepherd. Prosecutors say no canine DNA was discovered on the physique.

Defenders of Ms. Learn additionally query why a number of items of crimson plastic, stated to be shards of a damaged taillight on her S.U.V., weren’t present in an preliminary search of the world round Officer O’Keefe’s physique, however turned up hours later, after heavy snowfall had made the yard tougher to look.

Most suspicious, they are saying, is a Google search, together with a misspelled phrase, that was recovered from the cellphone of a lady who was contained in the Albert dwelling that night time: “hos lengthy to die in chilly.” The protection says the question was made round 2:30 a.m., earlier than the physique was discovered. Prosecutors say it occurred hours later, at Ms. Learn’s frantic request, simply after she had found her boyfriend unresponsive, however was typed right into a search tab that had been left open since 2:30, leading to a deceptive time stamp.

Not content material to maintain their outrage to themselves, some members of the “Free Karen Learn” motion have taken their protest on the highway, hoisting indicators with slogans together with “Automobiles Don’t Chunk” — a reference to the marks discovered on the sufferer’s arm — and “Justice for John O’Keefe” at malls and intersections from Boston to Cape Cod. They usually have made a gradual stream of $5, $10 and $25 donations to a web-based fund-raiser for her authorized protection.

“When you understand in your coronary heart that you simply’re proper, nothing else issues,” stated Tom Derosier, a supporter of Ms. Learn who protests exterior the Norfolk County courthouse in Dedham at any time when the trial, which started two weeks in the past, is in session.

Lots of her supporters gown in pink; a number of have bought matching sizzling pink sneakers for his or her hours standing on the sidewalk. One latest morning, a bunch sat in seashore chairs close to the courthouse, listening to stay audio of the testimony subsequent to a buffet of Dunkin’ doughnuts and low.

“He’s mendacity by way of his enamel,” one girl mumbled to nobody particularly as she listened to a witness for the prosecution whereas nibbling a Munchkin.

Jessica Finch-Reid, a mom of three from Taunton, stated she brings her home-schooled 16-year-old daughter to the protests to study real-life classes in regards to the legal justice system.

“Karen Learn might be any certainly one of us,” she stated.

Ms. Learn, who labored at an funding agency earlier than her arrest, told ABC News final summer time that she had admired Officer O’Keefe for taking in his younger niece and nephew after the deaths of his sister and her husband. As their relationship progressed, she stated within the interview, she spent extra time at his dwelling, serving to take care of the kids.

However she had accused Officer O’Keefe of dishonest on her not lengthy earlier than he died, and he had advised her that their relationship had “run its course,” witnesses advised investigators. Ms. Learn drank closely the night time that Officer Keefe died and advised mates she couldn’t keep in mind driving to the Albert dwelling, in accordance with court filings from the prosecution.

The bizarre diploma of public suspicion across the prosecution — fueled partly by a popular and controversial Boston blogger known as Turtleboy who has relentlessly proclaimed her innocence — appears to have riled prosecutors. Final summer time, Michael W. Morrissey, the district legal professional main the case, issued a video rebuttal to conspiracy theorists, saying they’d harassed witnesses.

“It ought to be an outrage to any first rate individual, and it must cease,” Mr. Morrissey stated. “Innuendo is just not proof.”

The blogger, Aidan Kearney, was charged in October with harassing and intimidating witnesses; he has pleaded not responsible. On his web site, trial-themed attire on the market features a $27 tank prime emblazoned with the Google brand and the phrases “hos lengthy to die in chilly.”

The federal authorities have additionally stepped in, conducting a highly unusual pretrial review of the local investigation, calling witnesses earlier than a federal grand jury and consulting their very own consultants. Their findings haven’t been made public.

Neglected within the uproar, some say, is the lack of Officer O’Keefe, and his household’s grief. The bigger and louder the protests, “the extra it appeared as if John’s legacy was falling into obscurity,” a longtime pal wrote recently in Boston magazine.

In Fb teams the place hundreds of Ms. Learn’s defenders analyze the proof and dissect the courtroom testimony each day, just a few have dared to share their rising doubts that she was framed.

“I used to be initially open to the conspiracy concept, however to haven’t one individual crack is main me to assume Karen seemingly hit him,” one posted on Thursday. “The straightforward story is normally the probably story.”

One other commenter expressed a blunter skepticism, echoing the misspelled Google search however leaving it unclear which aspect he favored: “Hos lengthy earlier than individuals cease with these idiotic takes?”



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