A Nassau judge has found that evidence before the grand jury that indicted a Long Beach woman’s daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend in her slaying was “legally sufficient” to support the murder charges against them.
Prosecutors have alleged that Francesca Kiel, 22, “served her mother up on a silver platter” for a deadly beating by her boyfriend, Ralph Keppler, 29.
Law enforcement officials arrested the Lynbrook couple in November in the death of Theresa Kiel, 56. Both defendants previously pleaded not guilty and remain at Nassau’s jail.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn made his Monday ruling after reviewing a transcript of the grand jury proceeding — a decision that Keppler's lawyer said wasn't a surprise.
"Neither of our clients testified before the grand jury so they don't have our side of the story at this point," attorney Marc Gann said of the defendants.
Theresa Kiel was hospitalized for nearly two years after the December 2016 attack in the entrance of her apartment building left her in a vegetative state, according to authorities. The former Malverne teacher died Nov. 10.
The Nassau district attorney’s office has alleged that Keppler hit the victim in the head with a metal dumbbell pipe in a “barbaric” attack motivated by a business dispute.
Keppler had filed a lawsuit before the attack, claiming he and his family gave Theresa Kiel and her son Vincent money to develop a dating app, but she had squandered it.
Prosecutors say the deadly encounter happened after Francesca Kiel — a college student and waitress — put a GPS device on her mother’s car to track the woman’s whereabouts.
After the slaying, they said, she called a cab company to pick up Keppler.
Quinn said that a hearing would be held to review how authorities obtained statements from Kiel on Dec. 5, 2016, and on the day of her arrest.
A prosecutor has alleged Kiel laughed in detectives’ faces when she heard she would face a murder charge.
But Kiel's attorney, Geoffrey Prime, said Tuesday, "It was just a chuckle of shock and disbelief."
Prime added that he was glad Quinn reviewed grand jury minutes, saying: "We're confident Francesca is getting as fair amount of justice as she can get at this point."
Quinn also said that a hearing would be held to determine if Keppler was speaking voluntarily when he talked to police on the day of his arrest after the victim's death.
Court records show that Keppler, who had worked as a New York City correction officer, allegedly said he "knew this day was coming" and his attorney had prepared him for it.
Keppler allegedly added that what happened was "all on Vincent," an apparent reference to Theresa Kiel's son, claiming the man had taken "all of the money" from Keppler, his family and other investors.
Before Kiel's death, Keppler faced charges including attempted murder — charges his attorney said the defense knew would be upgraded after the victim died.
Prosecutors declined to comment Tuesday.