A Lynbrook couple are facing second-degree murder charges in connection with the brutal 2016 beating of a Long Beach woman who died of her injuries on Saturday, nearly two years after the attack, according to Nassau County police.
Ralph Keppler, 27, and Francesca Kiel, 21, the victim’s daughter, were arrested on Sunday. Keppler had been charged with attempted murder and assault in January. According to authorities, he beat Francesca’s mother, Theresa Kiel, with a metal barbell outside her New York Avenue apartment on Dec. 4, 2016. He was out on bail when he was arrested again this past weekend.
It was unclear why Francesca Kiel was also charged with murder. Authorities have not ex-plained the charge, and she had not previously been charged. According to Theresa’s attorney, Thomas Liotti, Francesca “aided and abetted” her boyfriend in the killing, but he did not offer further details.
“Throughout the course of any investigation, circumstances, evidence and records have various timeframes in which they are analyzed or returned, and therefore different standards of proof can come to light at later points in an investigation,” said Detective Lt. Stefan Chernaski of the Long Beach Police Department.
Keppler and Kiel pleaded not guilty in First District Court in Hempstead on Monday and were held without bail. Keppler was due back in court on Thursday.
Mineola-based attorney Marc Gann has represented Keppler since the initial charges were filed. Keppler, Gann said, has denied any involvement in Theresa Kiel’s assault and subsequent death. “It is certainly our belief that there are others who had motives to go after her and attack her,” Gann said, “and it is my belief that one of those people are responsible for her assault and ultimate death.”
Francesca’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
Theresa Kiel lost her right eye and was left in a vegetative state for nearly two years after the attack caused catastrophic head and brain injuries. She was pronounced dead at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset at 6:27 p.m. on Saturday, according to a news release. She was 56.
Liotti accused Keppler of dealing and abusing drugs, and said he had threatened Theresa before the attack and was the only one with a motive. “He’s basically a narcissist, and he used a barbell to attack Theresa,” Liotti said. “There are telltale signs everywhere and direct evidence everywhere.”
Gann called Liotti’s claims “outlandish.”
“I don’t know where that comes from,” he said. “My client has never been arrested in his life, does not use drugs and has never sold drugs.”
In January, Liotti said that Keppler had invested $350,000 with Theresa to develop an app for college students. Keppler was attempting to get his money back, which Liotti claimed was a motive for the attack. He had sent threatening emails and texts to Theresa before the attack, Liotti added.
Keppler, who worked as a New York City corrections officer, was arrested at Rikers Island by members of the Long Beach Police Department on Jan. 24. He was fired by the Department of Correction soon afterward.
Theresa was a teacher and principal in the Malverne School District for 30 years.
“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,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a release earlier this year. “This barbaric attack, allegedly motivated by a business dispute and perpetrated by a man employed as a corrections officer, has left Ms. Kiel in a persistent vegetative state, and prosecutors in my office are committed to holding this defendant accountable.”
Liotti said that the Kiel family tried to persuade Francesca to stop dating Keppler, with whom she lived on Spencer Avenue in Lynbrook, but she wouldn’t listen. “And now she’s charged with murder,” Liotti said. “It’s just a shame; it’s just terrible.”
Bridget Downes contributed to this story.