MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A former New York City correction officer is now being held without bail for his role in an explosive murder case of a Long Island school teacher.
The officer allegedly carried out a deadly scheme that was planned by the victim’s own daughter.
Ralph Keppler was arrested while on the job as a correction officer on Riker’s Island.
His girlfriend and the victim’s daughter, Francesca Kiel, was also charged in the brutal premeditated attack that left Theresa Kiel in a vegetative state for two years.
The teacher was inside her Long Beach apartment on Dec. 4, 2016 when the duo allegedly attacked Kiel, striking her in the head and face with a metal barbell.
The 56-year-old suffered catastrophic injuries that ultimately took her life last month.
“It’s so sad that she’s gone. Justice has to be served. There is so much hurt,” Gail O’Connor, the victim’s former colleague said.
Loved ones and supporters were in court Monday, describing Mrs. Kiel as a devoted educator, assistant principal, and teacher for decades.
“Terry had a dynamic personality and was a very humble person. She would give everything to her students her colleagues her family,” Nina Ellison-Greene added.
Prosecutors say the Long Island mother was ambushed in a vicious attack that shattered her teeth, her skull, caused brain damage, and forced Kiel to lose her right eye.
“There’s video showing the perpetrator going behind a building. A barbell was found behind that building with the victim’s blood on it,” Nassau assistant district attorney Michael Walsh said.
A DNA profile was matched to Keppler.
Authorities say the motive was a business deal gone wrong. There was a reported dispute over an investment in a dating app and police say the jail guard sued Kiel and threatened her.
Court documents show the victim didn’t approve of Keppler as a future son-in-law, calling him a “psychotic sociopath.”
The arrested correction officer allegedly later texted, “she is an animal. Deserves to end up dead.”
According to prosecutors, the victim’s daughter bought a GPS device and put it in her mom’s car to track their target’s movements.
Officials allege Francesca Kiel called a taxi to pick up Keppler near the murder scene that night. The couple’s attorneys called it a set up.
“There were a lot of people who had a motive to attack and ultimately kill Theresa Kiel,” attorney Marc Gann claims.
Keppler has been fired from the Department of Correction. The victim’s daughter says she is “broken up” and “in mourning” for her mother.
The disgraced correction officer and the victim’s daughter each face up to 25 years to life in prison.