DEDHAM, MASS. (WHDH) - Key witness Brian Higgins faced cross examination in the Karen Read murder trial Friday afternoon after a morning that included discussions of intimate text messages with Read about family, their attraction to each other, and Read’s dissatisfaction about her relationship with John O’Keefe.

An agent for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Higgins was at a bar with Read, O’Keefe and others hours before O’Keefe death. He later attended a party at the home of Brian and Nicole Albert, where O’Keefe was found unresponsive in a snowbank the next morning. 

A friend of Brian Albert, Higgins is on the list of people Read’s defense team believes could have beaten O’Keefe to death on Jan. 29, 2022.

O’Keefe was a Boston police officer and was dating Read when he died. 

While the defense has made its case, prosecutors maintain Read ran O’Keefe over with her SUV and left him for dead after dropping him off at the Albert home. 

Read has pleaded not guilty and her defense has said she is being framed.

Brian Higgins begins testimony

Karren Read arrived in court in Dedham near 8:30 a.m. Friday. Higgins began his testimony near 9:15 a.m.

Currently serving as a special agent with the ATF, Higgins was previously a lieutenant with the Cambridge Fire Department.

After coming back from a funeral in New York City on Jan. 28, Higgins said, he met up with the Alberts at the Hillside Pub in Canton. Higgins said the group later moved to the Waterfall Bar and Grille, where they were joined by Read, O’Keefe and other friends.

Though he said he considered O’Keefe and Read friends, Higgins on Friday referred to Read only as “the defendant.”

Once the party moved to the Alberts’ house, Higgins said, he did not plan to stay long.

“I was probably the first person to leave,” he said.

Higgins continued, saying he does not know what Colin Albert looks like. Colin, who was a teenager at the time, is another person the defense is trying to implicate in O’Keefe’s death.

Higgins said he never saw O’Keefe or Read inside or outside the Albert home the night O’Keefe died.

Jurors previously heard testimony that Higgins visited Canton police headquarters, where he had an office, early on the morning of Jan. 29.

On Friday, Higgins said it is not unusual for a federal agent to have such an office at a local police department.

After leaving the Albert house, Higgins said, he drove to the police station to move his government surveillance vehicle. Higgins said Canton Police Chief Kenneth Berkowitz had asked him to move the vehicle so that the police station lot could be plowed amid an ongoing snowstorm.

Higgins said he next went to his residence in West Roxbury, where he had something to eat, had a couple of drinks and fell asleep. Hours later, he said, he woke to the sound of his work and personal phones “blowing up.”

Higgins said he received calls from Berkowitz and Brian Albert. He did not answer Berkowitz but said he got concerned when Brian called.

Higgins said Brian told him O’Keefe was on the lawn outside his home.

“It didn’t make sense,” Higgins said.

Higgins said he met with state police investigator Michael Proctor and his partner on Feb. 3, days after O’Keefe died. He said he gave the pair screenshots of text messages he exchanged with both Read and O’Keefe, saying he “wanted to be transparent.”

There were 56 pages of text messages between Higgins and Read and 12 pages of texts between Higgins and O’Keefe. Though the jury saw some of the text Friday, Higgins said the texts with Read were not the entirety of their communication.

Higgins said older text chains with O’Keefe may have also been deleted but said he voluntarily turned everything over to authorities.

Among interactions, jurors saw one exchange from Jan. 15, 2022, before O’Keefe died.

“You’re hot,” Read texted.

“Are you serious or messing with me?” Higgins responded.

“No I’m serious,” Read said.

“Feeling is mutual. Is that bad? How long have you thought that???” Higgins said.

After watching a Patriots game on Jan. 15 at O’Keefe’s house, Higgins said, “the defendant planted a kiss on me.” He said it was “not like a friend.”

In texts to Higgins, Read said her relationship was “deteriorating.” She also claimed she saw O’Keefe “all over one of our friends” during a recent trip to Aruba, potentially referencing an incident that came up in court on Wednesday in which witnesses said Read accused O’Keefe of kissing another woman.

Read, in more text messages, indicated she was not happy after O’Keefe took in his niece and nephew following their parents’ death.

“I went from being solo to trying to give attention to kids,” Read said. “Who aren’t mine.”

“And I never wanted kids,” Read added.

Read and Higgins had several text messages about whether they should connect for a drink at Read’s residence.

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

Higgins said Read eventually came to his residence in West Roxbury but claimed there was no kiss and no sex. He said there was a short conversation, basically continuing his questions about Read’s intentions.

Continuing his testimony, Higgins said he is not proud of the texts involving the girlfriend of his friend, O’Keefe.

Defense begins cross examining Higgins

Jackson began cross examining Higgins near 12:30 p.m.

As cross examination continued, Higgins admitted he was physically attracted to Read. But he stopped short of saying he had a romantic interest in her.

“I’m not proud of these text messages. It is what it is. I take responsibility for them,” Higgins said.

“If they were at the end of their relationship, they were at the end of their relationship. But I wasn’t going to have somebody utilize me and weaponize me against somebody that I liked,” Higgins separately said.

Proceedings were delayed near 2:30 p.m. after a juror complained she was overheating. The judge dismissed the jury and a fan was brought into the courtroom.

When proceedings resumed, Jackson suggested at times that Higgins was lying.

“No, I’m not,” Higgins said.

Jackson grilled Higgins about a phone log from 2:22 a.m. on Jan. 29, showing a one second answered call from Brian Albert and a 22 second returned call. Higgins said the situation was a butt dial, saying he had no recollection of answering the phone or calling anyone back.

Jackson insisted Higgins was lying, prompting an objection from Lally.

Higgins said he spoke to multiple people at multiple times later in the day on Jan. 29 after O’Keefe died, saying “It was an upsetting day.”

Among calls, phone records indicate Higgins spoke with Kevin Albert, a police detective, before speaking with Brian Albert. Higgins denied passing information about the crime to Brian Albert.

Higgins said he does not have any recollection of being in the Canton Police Department sally port when Read’s Lexus was delivered for storage and investigation. Jackson then continued to grill Higgins about calls with Berkowitz, the now-retired Canton police chief.

Court proceedings ended for the day near 4:15 p.m.

With no court on Monday, Higgins will be back on the stand on Tuesday.

This is a developing story; stay with 7NEWS on-air and online for the latest updates.

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