Nassau couple charged in the barbell beating murder of woman’s mom

NASSAU COUNTY — A Lynbrook woman and her boyfriend walked out of Nassau County District Court in handcuffs Monday, charged with murdering the woman’s mother over what detectives say was a dispute involving a dating app.

“She co-conspired with her boyfriend to kill her mother,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick of the Nassau County Homicide Squad. “This was over a money issue.”

Both 21-year-old Francesca Kiel and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Ralph Keppler, are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Kiel’s mother, 56-year-old Theresa Kiel.

Investigators claim Keppler crushed Kiel’s skull with a barbell outside her Long Beach home on Dec. 4, 2016, putting her in a vegetative state from which she never recovered. Kiel eventually passed away at North Shore Manhasset Hospital on Saturday evening.

Keppler had been previously arrested in connection with the crime. His original charges of attempted murder and assault were upgraded to murder. Kiel was arrested for the first time and charged with murder.

“Francesca unfortunately has to bury her mother while also fighting these allegations, which she obviously vehemently denies,” said her attorney, Geoff Prime.

Keppler’s attorney said the 27-year-old man was developing a dating app with the victim, but said the deal devolved into a lawsuit when Keppler claimed his girlfriend’s mother diverted his investments.

“If anything, I think that Ralph has a motive for her to live,” said Keppler’s attorney, Marc Gann. “Because the only way he was going to recover money that he and his family had invested was if she was alive, not if she had died.”

But the attorney for Theresa Kiel’s family paints a picture of a young man so dangerous, he now carries a security button.

“I have security all over my home because this guy [Keppler] has basically threatened me and the family,” said attorney Thomas Liotti.

Both defendant’s attorneys said their clients will be proven innocent and are still dating.

No one answered the door when PIX11 went to the Lynwood home of Keppler and Kiel.

According to Liotti, Theresa Kiel was a longtime employee of the Malverne School District. PIX11 reached out to the district for comment but has not yet heard back.

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