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Lynbrook man arraigned in 2016 ‘barbaric attack,’ DA says

Prosecutors say Ralph Keppler hit Theresa Kiel with a barbell in December 2016, leaving her with head and brain injuries.

Ralph Keppler, 27, a former New York City

Ralph Keppler, 27, a former New York City correction officer from Lynbrook, is charged with second-degree attempted murder in connection with a 2016 attack on Theresa Kiel of Long Beach. Photo Credit: Long Beach Police Department

The Lynbrook man who authorities say struck a woman on the head during a “barbaric attack” outside her Long Beach home in December 2016 was arraigned on attempted murder and other charges, the Nassau County district attorney’s office said.

Ralph Keppler, 27, of Spencer Avenue, a former New York City correction officer who is accused of assaulting Theresa Kiel, 54, was arraigned on an indictment Wednesday, according to Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office.

He was charged with second-degree attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was being held at the Nassau County jail on $1,000,000 bond or $500,000 cash.

Keppler is due back in court Feb. 26. The top charge, prosecutors said, carries a prison term of up to 5 years to 25 years in prison. Allegedly motivated by a business dispute, he used a metal barbell handle in the brutal 10:30 p.m. assault, prosecutors said.

Kiel suffered “catastrophic head and brain injuries,” according to police and civil court records. She lost her right eye and suffered a partially collapsed cranium, according to a criminal complaint.

“Theresa Kiel was robbed of all quality of life when this defendant allegedly shattered her skull with a metal barbell as she walked to her Long Beach apartment,” Singas said in a news release. “This barbaric attack . . . has left Ms. Kiel in a persistent vegetative state.”

Marc Gann of Mineola, who represents Keppler in the criminal case, said his client is innocent, adding that it wasn’t in Keppler’s interest to attack Kiel.

“The circumstances surrounding this case are bizarre, to say the least,” he added.

Keppler, who started working as a correction officer shortly after Kiel was attacked, has been fired, city correction officials said.

According to a lawsuit filed before the attack, Keppler, a plaintiff, gave Kiel thousands of dollars to invest in a dating app being developed by her son, but she spent the money on other purchases.

Attorney Jim Druker of Garden City, who is representing Keppler in the lawsuit, said Wednesday the criminal charges are bogus and that “It’s my belief, although we have to see how it plays out, that this prosecution is unfounded and that it was engineered by the defendants in the civil case that we have against them, under the heading of ‘the best defense sometimes is a good offense.’”

Druker has said Keppler was home wrapping holiday gifts at the time of the attack.

Thomas Liotti of Garden City, who represents the Kiel family in the civil action, called the case a tragedy.

“My client was a wonderful mother and teacher and principal for over 30 years,” he said, adding that Kiel had obtained a doctoral degree in education and raised her children after her husband died about 12 years ago. “She’s had all these problems that she’s had to deal with and now it looks like she is going to lose her life.”

With William Murphy

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