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Witness describes flirtatious text exchanges with Karen Read during testimony

Catch up on the Karen Read trial, in 60 seconds
Here’s what you need to know about the Karen Read murder case and trial so far, in 60 seconds. (Olivia Yarvis/Globe Staff)

An ATF officer who socialized in the same circles as Karen Read and her boyfriend, Boston police Officer John O’Keefe, told Norfolk Superior Court jurors on Friday that he and Read exchanged flirty text messages and kissed once in the weeks before O’Keefe was found fatally injured and covered in snow in the front yard of a friend’s Canton home on Jan. 29, 2022.

“I’m not proud of these text messages,” Brian Higgins testified.

Higgins was at a Canton bar with Read, O’Keefe, and others on the night of O’Keefe’s death. Higgins went to an after party at his friend Brian Albert Sr.’s home on Fairview Avenue. He said O’Keefe and Read did not show up at the party.


Prosecutors allege that the relationship between Read and O’Keefe was strained and that at the time of his death, O’Keefe was trying to end it.

Prosecutors claim that Read drunkenly and intentionally backed her SUV into O’Keefe after dropping him off at the late-night party and then left him to die in the snow.

Read, 44, of Mansfield, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, and leaving the scene of a crash involving injury.

Witnesses have testified that when Read returned to the scene early the next morning and found O’Keefe, she frantically repeated, “I hit him, I hit him.”

Read’s lawyers contend that Read is being framed and that O’Keefe was fatally beaten in the Fairview Road home, which was owned at the time by a fellow Boston police officer whose son was celebrating his 23rd birthday. The defense claims that O’Keefe’s injured body was put outside on the front lawn and left in freezing temperatures.

Higgins testified that he was friends with both O’Keefe and Read. Higgins said he had never texted with Read before she messaged him on Jan. 12, 2022.


“Hey Brian, it’s the weedwhacker,” Read texted him on that day. Weedwhacker, he said, was “kind of a nickname that she adopted,” after he saw Read using one and beeped at her, prompting her to give him “the finger.”

They exchanged more texts the next day, Jan. 13, 2022.

“How did you get my digits?” Higgins wrote. ”The Melissa and Lito show,” Read replied, referencing other regulars at the Hillside bar.

Read texted him later that he was “kind of a loner” and Higgins replied that he had “a ton of buddies” but only a few friends he was “tight with.”

On Jan. 15, Read told Higgins via text: “You’re hot.”

He responded: “Are you serious or messing with me?”

Read said: “No, I’m serious.”

Higgins said: “Feeling is mutual.”

Higgins said he was “taken aback” on another occasion in January when he was leaving O’Keefe’s home after watching a Patriots game there and “the defendant planted a kiss on me.”

Higgins said Read told him to leave through the garage.

“The defendant kissed me,” he said. “Not like a friend.”

Higgins said he did not expect the kiss, and that he left “almost immediately.”

Higgins said he texted Read another time and told her he thought she was “messing” with him because “this is so out of left field.”

Higgins said he puzzled over the messages. “Was she trying to weaponize me against John and put me in the middle?” Higgins said. “I was having a hard time [determining] ... what was happening.”


In another text, Read wanted to know “do you like me?”

“Yes, from the jump,” Higgins said, according to the text records.

Read wrote to Higgins on another occasion, saying that she was “basically begging you” to come over, records show.

Higgins told her, “ball’s in your court.”

Read asked Higgins what he wanted. He replied, “loaded question.”

“We’re single and we don’t have kids,” Read texted him, records show. “We can do whatever we want.”

Higgins plied Read more, asking why she was reaching out to him.

“I just think you’re like me and I’m attracted to you,” Read wrote, adding that “things have deteriorated” between her and O’Keefe.

“He seems very into you,” Higgins wrote. He also asked if she was breaking up with O’Keefe, and Read said she didn’t know, and that O’Keefe “hooked up” with someone else on a trip to Aruba weeks earlier.

Higgins testified that during their text thread he was constantly wondering if her interest in him was “legitimate.”

Higgins later wrote that he was seeking “the real deal” in a relationship. Read replied, “it doesn’t exist.”

Witness Brian Higgins answered a question from defense attorney Alan Jackson regarding text messages between Higgins and defendant Karen Read, during Read's trial in Norfolk Superior Court on Friday.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Higgins at another point invited Read over for a drink.

“I’m 42,” Read responded. “I know what happens when you invite someone over for a drink.”

Read wrote at another point that “things are far from perfect” with O’Keefe and that she’s “not married and neither are you. Neither is John.”


Read also wrote that she and O’Keefe had no intention of “EVER getting married.”

Higgins said Read came over to his residence one evening earlier in January 2022, and it “was just a weird experience.”

He said Read left after a brief period. Higgins said he was “very uncomfortable” while she was there and that “it was just a weird vibe.”

Higgins testified that the texting between him and Read dwindled off around Jan. 23, 2022.

The last text he received from Read came at 11:54 a.m. on Jan. 29. It said simply, “John died.”

Higgins said he never heard from Read again.

His testimony came on a day that ended with aggressive cross examination by defense attorney Alan Jackson. The trial resumes Tuesday.

Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com. Follow her @talanez.