A judge set $1.5 million bail for a Lynbrook woman who pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy charges Friday, as authorities claimed she “served her mother up on a silver platter” to her boyfriend for a deadly beating.
The murder indictment of Francesca Kiel, 21, along with her boyfriend, ex-New York City correction officer Ralph Keppler, 28, also of Lynbrook, follows the November death of Kiel’s mother nearly two years after what prosecutors called a “barbaric” attack in Long Beach.
The Nassau district attorney’s office has alleged Keppler wielded a metal dumbbell pipe on Dec. 4, 2016, striking victim Theresa Kiel repeatedly in the head in the entrance of her New York Avenue apartment building and leaving her in a vegetative state. Kiel, 56, died while hospitalized Nov. 10.
Authorities have claimed the violence, which partially collapsed the victim’s cranium and left her without an eye, was 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 thousands of dollars to develop a dating app, but she allegedly spent the money on lavish cars and cosmetic surgery, Newsday has reported.
Both the accused maintained their innocence at consecutive arraignments Friday.
Francesca Kiel’s lawyer said in an interview after court the defense believes “the real killer is at large and probably laughing at all of us right now.”
Defense attorney Geoffrey Prime added that his client was “obviously distraught about not only the loss of her mother but the fact that she’s accused of it.”
The Nassau district attorney’s office on Friday called the victim’s daughter “equally culpable” for her mother’s slaying while asking acting state Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn to deny bail.
Prosecutor Stefanie Palma alleged that Francesca Kiel ordered a GPS tracking device and put it on her mother’s car to alert her to the woman’s whereabouts, and that cellphone site evidence also showed the daughter had followed her mother.
“She served her mother up on a silver platter to her boyfriend, who killed her mom,” Palma said, adding that the daughter was facing a minimum of 15 years to life in prison if convicted and was a “massive” flight risk.
The daughter also called a Long Beach cab company to pick up Keppler after the slaying, Palma told the judge.
The prosecutor also said the daughter never visited her mother in the hospital before the woman’s death and laughed in detectives' faces when she heard she would face a murder charge. Theresa Kiel had been a teacher and administrator in the Malverne school district, Newsday has reported.
Francesca Kiel’s lawyer told the judge Friday that his client has no criminal record. He said she is a 2015 Long Beach High School graduate who has taken the test to become a New York City correction officer and had been waitressing in Carle Place and attending Nassau Community College before her arrest on the day after her mother's death.
Prime also said in court that his client “has strong community ties” and had been living before her arrest with Keppler’s family — who continue to support her.
“She certainly does not want to flee,” Prime added, saying while asking for $250,000 bail for his client that she “adamantly denies” the charges.
Keppler’s attorney, Marc Gann, argued Friday for his client’s original $500,000 cash bail to be restored after the man also pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy charges in a separate proceeding in the same courtroom.
Authorities first arrested Keppler in January on charges including attempted murder. He had then been free on bail before his rearrest after the victim's death — when a different judge jailed him without bail.
Gann also said in court Friday that his client had shown “the responsibility required to come to court when directed to do so” and that prosecutors had treated the case “as a homicide” since the beginning.
The judge is expected to rule on Keppler’s bail application Monday, according to Gann. The defense attorney previously has said Keppler’s lawsuit against the victim showed he had motive for her to live because it was the only way Keppler was going to recover his investment money.
Gann also has described the co-defendants’ relationship as a healthy one, while saying after court Friday that Francesca Kiel had been estranged from her mother “well before” the woman’s attack.
But an attorney for Theresa Kiel’s family previously has alleged Keppler exerted psychological control over Francesca Kiel and was a “dangerous man” who had threatened Kiel family members.
Members of both the Keppler and Kiel families sat on opposite sides of the courtroom Friday before leaving without commenting.