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Long IslandCrime

Nassau judge won't throw out statements in Long Beach killing case

Ralph Keppler and Francesca Kiel.

Ralph Keppler and Francesca Kiel. Credit: NCPD

A Nassau judge won't throw out statements that a Long Beach woman’s daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend allegedly made to police after the woman’s deadly beating as their murder case goes to trial.

Police arrested Ralph Keppler and Francesca Kiel on murder charges after the November death of Kiel’s mother, Theresa Kiel, following a beating that authorities said she suffered in the entrance of her apartment complex in December 2016.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn found in a June 13 decision following a recent hearing that certain statements each defendant allegedly made to police were voluntary, denying defense bids to suppress the evidence.

For nearly two years, the former Malverne teacher was in a vegetative state after prosecutors say Keppler, 29, of Lynbrook, carried out that attack on the 56-year-old with a metal pipe following a business dispute.

Authorities also charged Kiel, 22, in her mother’s slaying, alleging the Lynbrook woman put a GPS device on the victim’s car to track her and called a cab for Keppler after the assault.

Both defendants, who are in custody at Nassau’s jail, maintain their innocence.

A Long Beach detective lieutenant testified at the hearing that Francesca Kiel told him hours after her mother’s beating that she had been home nearly all day with Keppler, wrapping holiday gifts and watching football on TV.

The police official noted in his testimony that the woman, who said she didn’t feel as if as she was in danger at the time, didn’t ask for details about her mother’s serious injury when he told her about it.

He said police went to the Lynbrook home that the daughter and Keppler shared to check on the daughter after the victim’s family raised concern about her safety following the attack, saying the daughter was in an “oppressive” relationship.

The daughter’s attorney, Geoffrey Prime, argued at the hearing that his client’s statements were “clearly involuntary” as police, some in tactical gear and bearing rifles, spoke to her while Keppler was in handcuffs nearby.

But the judge found otherwise.

“The Court does not find that the police actions that morning created the functional equivalent of police custody,” Quinn said in the ruling.

Prime reacted to the decision Tuesday by saying he respected Quinn’s ruling.

“It’s rare that the accused would be vindicated after hearings, but we fully expect that Francesca’s day for vindication will come. We have been vigorously preparing for that day, and cannot wait for all the facts to be revealed at the trial,” the defense attorney added.

A Nassau homicide detective testified at the hearing that Keppler made an unsolicited statement while in the back of a police vehicle after his Nov. 11 arrest on a murder charge — a statement that defense attorney Marc Gann had argued should be tossed.

Before the victim’s death, Keppler already was facing attempted murder and other charges in the case.

Keppler allegedly told police at the time of his murder arrest that his attorney had prepared him and he “knew this day was coming.”

The defendant, a former New York City correction officer, also allegedly said the victim’s son, Vincent Kiel, “caused all of this” by taking money from Keppler and other investors.

Before the victim’s death, Keppler had filed a lawsuit alleging he gave Theresa Kiel and her son money to develop a dating app, but she squandered it.

Gann argued in part at the hearing that prosecutors didn’t properly describe the timing and the location of where Keppler made his alleged statement that day.

But Quinn ruled that the time difference was “insignificant” and the “spirit of the statute” had been satisfied in terms of the prosecution advising the defense of the evidence.

Gann reacted to the decision Tuesday by saying he didn’t believe his client’s alleged statement “makes any difference in the case either way.”

The Nassau district attorney's office declined to comment on the ruling.

Quinn is expected to set a trial date at a court conference next month.

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