Boston officer John O'Keefe was called a ‘patron saint' by the girlfriend accused of killing him

O'Keefe's girlfriend Karen Read is accused of second-degree murder in his January 2022 death

Boston Police

John O’Keefe’s title was Boston police officer, but to those who loved him, he was Johnny, J-J or affectionately, the Godfather. His girlfriend once called him “the patron saint of Canton.”

That girlfriend, Karen Read, is now on trial, accused of killing O’Keefe in a case that has attracted national attention and called into question the integrity of a wide swath of Massachusetts' law enforcement community and even some of O'Keefe's friends.



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Born and raised in suburban Braintree, O’Keefe graduated from Northeastern University and earned a master’s in criminal justice from the University of Massachusetts. He was 46 at the time of his death, and had been a Boston police officer for 16 years.

Another twist came Friday in the Karen Read murder trial after Judge Beverly Cannone told deadlocked jurors to continue deliberating.

For much of that time, O’Keefe also had been raising his niece and nephew in Canton after his sister and her husband died just months apart. He also lost his best friend, fellow Boston Officer Pat Rogers, to suicide. Rogers’ girlfriend was pregnant at the time, and O’Keefe quickly stepped up to support her as well, acting as godfather to her son.

“He was the first person in my delivery room after I gave birth,” Laura Sullivan testified during the trial, describing O’Keefe as a “constant” presence in her son’s life.

"Every birthday, Christmas, he was always in contact. He was the first person in my delivery room after i gave birth. he was a constant," she added.

Other witnesses described O’Keefe’s devotion to his niece and nephew, who called him J-J and were just 6 and 3 when he became their guardian.

O'Keefe's sister-in-law, Erin, testified that she and her husband had been prepared to take in the children as well, but O'Keefe stepped up.

”We had kind of assumed because Johnny was out, you know, on the streets doing his job, that Paul and I would take the kids," she said. “Johnny said he was going to do it.”

O'Keefe was known as a father figure to his family, and was also involved with his friends' families.

"Him and my husband would always do the games. The kids use to call them my two dads. It was, they had a lot of fun together," added Katherine Camerano.

O’Keefe’s younger brother, Paul, was the first witness called by the prosecution. Asked to name his siblings, he struggled to stay composed when naming his late sister and “my brother John.” Everyone called him Johnny, he said, “especially if you were family.”

Paul O'Keefe said he had planned to see his brother the day before he died, but they canceled because of a coming snowstorm. Their last communication was in a group text with family members. John O’Keefe was excited, he said, because their niece had been accepted to a private high school.

Associated Press and NBC10 Boston
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