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Lynbrook woman sentenced to 13 years in prison for mother's killing

Francesca Kiel walks outside Nassau County Police headquarters

Francesca Kiel walks outside Nassau County Police headquarters in Mineola in November 2019. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

A judge Thursday meted out a 13-year prison sentence for a Lynbrook woman who teamed up with her correction officer boyfriend to plot her mother's deadly Long Beach beating.

"I have allowed myself to be a participant in actions that are horrible and unfathomable," Francesca Kiel, 23, said from Nassau’s jail during her Skype sentencing. "Nothing can compare to the self-loathing I have for the role I played in this."

The daughter’s words of contrition broke years of silence after police in November 2018 arrested her and her boyfriend, Ralph Keppler, on murder and conspiracy charges in the slaying of her mother, Malverne schoolteacher Theresa Kiel, 56.

The daughter pleaded guilty to manslaughter in July in a deal that included the sentence that State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn announced Thursday.

The victim lived in a vegetative state for nearly two years before dying of injuries from the Dec. 4, 2016, dumbbell pipe attack that Keppler carried out at her New York Avenue apartment complex.

Authorities said the ambush was linked to a business deal that went wrong. Keppler filed a lawsuit before the attack claiming Theresa Kiel squandered thousands of dollars he and his family gave her and her son for development of a dating app.

The beating crushed Theresa Kiel’s skull and dislodged one of her eyes from its socket. But her time in the hospital passed without a single visit from Francesca Kiel, Nassau prosecutor Stefanie Palma said Thursday.

"I don’t think we will ever know or understand how a daughter who loved her mother so much could take that love and turn it into absolute hatred," she added.

The daughter — wearing a jail uniform, eyeglasses, and her hair in two braids — looked transformed Thursday from the coiffed young woman who smiled smugly as detectives led her out of police headquarters in handcuffs after her mother's death. Police arrested her and rearrested Keppler — who already faced an attempted murder charge — on the day after Theresa Kiel died.

"I am ashamed and embarrassed, but my feelings pale in comparison to the feelings of betrayal I have caused all of the families involved," Francesca Kiel also said Thursday. "Although I have endured emotional, physical and psychological pain and suffering, there is no excuse for my actions."

She offered no reason for them, but added: "I will forever ask for forgiveness with humbleness in my heart."

Keppler, 30, is serving 22 years to life in a maximum-security prison in Dannemora after pleading guilty to murder, conspiracy and a weapon charge.

Francesca Kiel admitted while pleading guilty to manslaughter that she was just as responsible as the former Rikers Island officer for the assault on her mother because she aided and abetted him.

She also admitted the couple plotted the beating, she put a GPS on her mother’s car to track her, and she arranged for a taxi pickup for Keppler after the attack.

Her July plea followed her initial murder plea in December that was part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors that was to include her testimony against Keppler. But then Keppler pleaded guilty instead of going to trial.

Quinn unsealed Kiel’s first plea in July before the prosecution asked the judge to let her plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter as part of a deal for the 13-year prison sentence.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Thursday that Francesca Kiel and her boyfriend "meticulously planned the attack and murder of her own mother" but "extraordinary detective work" by Long Beach and Nassau police cracked the case.

Authorities found Google searches for "easiest way to kill someone" and "single skull death blow" linked to the daughter's Gmail account. They recovered the murder weapon and both the victim’s blood and Keppler’s DNA were on it.

Francesca Kiel's attorney, Geoffrey Prime, said after her sentencing that she "recognizes that she can't undo what she's done" but "is truly, truly sorry."

The 2015 Long Beach High School graduate had no previous criminal record, and was working as a waitress, attending Nassau Community College, and had taken the test to become a New York City correction officer before her arrest, he said previously.

Theresa Kiel was working on creating a homeless shelter tutoring program on the day of her attack, her son said during Keppler’s sentencing.

None of the victim’s relatives chose to speak for her Thursday, but Quinn told the defendant her uncle was listening through a Skype link.

"You have a family member … who has been there for you despite the actions that you and Mr. Keppler took," he added.

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