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DNA links barbell used in murder with accused killer of Long Beach woman, prosecutor says

Prosecutors alleged Monday that Ralph Keppler crushed much of Theresa Kiel's skull with a barbell after sneaking up behind the woman as she returned home from a dinner with her son.

Ralph Keppler, left, the boyfriend of the victim's

Ralph Keppler, left, the boyfriend of the victim's daughter Francesca Kiel, right, sent a text message after the 2016 attack saying victim Theresa Kiel "got what she deserved," the prosecution said. Photo Credit: NCPD

The metal barbell used in the deadly beating of a Long Beach mother had the DNA of her daughter’s boyfriend on it along with the victim’s blood, a prosecutor said Monday before a judge ordered the boyfriend to jail without bail.

The prosecution also revealed in court that Ralph Keppler, 28, of Lynbrook, who is accused of acting with his girlfriend to kill her mother, sent a text message after the 2016 attack, saying victim Theresa Kiel “got what she deserved.”

But Keppler’s attorney, Marc Gann, said Monday while asking for bail that his client maintains his innocence, adding later that the defense believes Keppler was the victim of a “set-up.”

Theresa Kiel died on Nov. 10 while hospitalized, nearly two years after the December 2016 attack in the entrance of her apartment building left her in a vegetative state.

Authorities charged Kiel’s daughter, Francesca Kiel, 21, and Keppler with murder on the day after her death. Their recent arrests came months after Keppler’s initial arrest in January for the attempted murder of the former Malverne teacher.

Both pleaded not guilty Friday to an indictment charging them with murder and conspiracy, before acting State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn ordered Francesca Kiel held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

Prosecutors have alleged the daughter is equally culpable for the slaying, saying she ordered a GPS tracking device that she put on her mother’s car and followed her.

Quinn remanded Keppler to jail Monday during a bail hearing in which prosecutor Stefanie Palma alleged that the former New York City correction officer was an “extremely dangerous and violent man” who “stalked and savagely murdered” the victim.

Authorities have said the violence 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 Kiel, thousands of dollars to develop a dating app, but she squandered it, Newsday previously reported.

Palma alleged Monday that Keppler crushed much of Theresa Kiel’s skull with a barbell after sneaking up behind the woman as she returned home from a dinner with her son – takeout from that meal still in her hands.

The prosecutor told the judge that Theresa Kiel, while alive, had sent a text to one of her friends saying that Francesca had left school and moved in “with a psychotic sociopath who wants to kill me and Vince” – her son.

Palma said that showed “the victim knew well before Mr. Keppler ever attacked her that he wanted to kill her” and her son.

The prosecutor said Keppler sent a text to Vincent Kiel in which he derided the man and called Theresa Kiel an “animal.”

Palma said Keppler also texted the son: “Your mother will be in for quite the surprise too, but I’ll let you two ponder upon what would be in store next.”

The prosecutor said that after the attack on Theresa Kiel, Keppler texted a friend, saying she was going “to end up dead,” before adding: “Whoever tried killing her or mugging her is probably gonna finish the job.”

Keppler also texted a friend saying the mother was “still in a coma” and “apparently lost an [expletive] eye” and he was laughing about it.

The defendant also used an expletive to describe Kiel in a text and said she “got what she deserved,” Palma told the judge.

But Gann countered in court that his client and Theresa Kiel had been in a “significant financial dispute,” that involved a civil lawsuit. He added that the circumstances of the suit “gave many people a motive  to attack and ultimately try to kill” the victim.

“To bring up words that would seem to imply that Mr. Keppler had no concern for Ms. Kiel as though that implies that he did this act is...a misstatement and a misinterpretation of the facts,” Gann said of the texts.

Michael Walsh, chief of the Nassau district attorney’s Major Offense Bureau, said after court that authorities found the alleged murder weapon behind a building in the vicinity of the attack and video showed the perpetrator going behind the same building.

But Gann said after court there would be “a lot of twists and turns” in the case, and it wouldn’t be “far-fetched” to think that Keppler’s DNA could have ended up on the murder weapon without Keppler actually putting it there.

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