Piper Rountree gets life
will be eligible for release after she turns 60
May 7, 2005
a last-ditch effort to save herself from a lifetime in prison,
Piper Rountree spoke directly to the judge.
someone out there would have asked me several months ago, I would
have said my children needed a father, regardless of the things
between us," she said, sobbing. "I still maintain that. They also
need a mother."
Despite Rountree's pleas for "compassion and mercy," Henrico
County Circuit Judge L.A. Harris Jr. decided that her crime was so
deliberate that she should spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Shortly after noon yesterday, Harris sentenced Rountree, 45, to
life in prison for the shooting death of her ex-husband, Fredric
Jablin, plus three years for using a firearm in the crime. That's
the sentence recommended by the jury that took less than an hour
to convict her of first-degree murder in February.
this particular case, the evidence certainly shows that it was
willful, deliberate and premeditated," Harris said, speaking to
Rountree. "You had a detailed plan to carry out the end result."
also admonished Rountree for showing "absolutely no remorse" about
killing Jablin, a popular University of Richmond professor and the
father of her three children.
"There's no way that these children will ever totally recover from
that," Harris said. "I think when you look at everything, the jury
did the right thing."
When Harris sentenced Rountree, Michael Jablin let out an audible
sigh of relief. In an interview immediately following, he said,
"Having this over us was like a storm cloud. But we know where
Piper will be, hopefully for the rest of her life. I thought
possibly she might show some remorse, but obviously, she has no
remorse for this, and that's sad."
Rountree will be held in Henrico's Jail East for the next three
months, until space is available at a Department of Corrections
After she was sentenced, defense attorney Murray Janus said that
Rountree plans to appeal her conviction but that he will not
represent her. Janus asked that a public defender be assigned to
Rountree will be technically eligible for release when she's 60.
In Virginia, most felons may petition for parole if they have
served at least 10 years of their sentence by the time they turn
60, or at least five years by the time they're 65. But the board
does not have to grant parole, and Rountree's attorney said he
doesn't think she will be granted release.
Jablin was ambushed in his driveway on a chilly October morning.
Prosecutors proved in February that Rountree, Jablin's ex-wife and
a Texas lawyer, shot Jablin twice, in the arm and in the back,
when he went out to retrieve the Saturday morning newspaper Oct.
30. Their three children were asleep upstairs when Jablin was
Prosecutors proved that Rountree traveled from Houston to the
Richmond area Oct. 28 wearing a disguise and pretending to be her
sister. She stayed in an Innsbrook-area hotel that night and the
following night, and then awoke early the morning of Oct. 30 and
drove to the house she once shared with Jablin. She shot him
twice, then ran away, prosecutors said. His body was found about
an hour later by a neighbor.
Rountree killed Jablin, prosecutors argued, because she wanted
custody of their three children and because she was more than
$7,000 behind in her child-support payments. Jablin and Rountree
had been married for 19 years before they divorced in 2002, and
Jablin was awarded full custody.
After Fred Jablin's death, Henrico courts awarded custody of the
three children to Jablin's only sibling, Michael Jablin. They live
with Michael, his wife and their children in Northern Virginia.
most of the 1½-hour court appearance, Rountree sat with her hands
clenched tightly in a fist covering her mouth. Her shaggy brown
bangs hung in her face, covering her eyes. Occasionally, she wiped
tears away with a tissue. She smiled briefly to her family and
friends when she entered the courtroom.
mother, a nephew and two friends testified about what a wonderful
mother and artist Rountree has always been.
"Piper is a beautiful, gentle spirit," said longtime friend Lavon
Guerrero, who traveled from Austin, Texas, for the sentencing. She
also described Rountree as a "tremendous homemaker" who was "100
percent there for her kids at all times."
"She connects to plants and animals," Guerrero added.
Rountree's mother, Betty Rountree, said her youngest child was "a
delight to raise" and a great mother.
"She had the ability to go down to their level, as opposed to
being an adult and staying up there," Betty Rountree said.
added that after Piper Rountree lost custody of her children
during her divorce, she never recovered.
"You cannot take your children away from a mother and come out
with the same person," Betty Rountree said. "It's almost like God
gave children to a mother, and the father comes second."
the end, though, even a great mother could be a calculating
killer, Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Wade Kizer argued.
any point in time, she could have turned back and we wouldn't be
here right now," he said. "She has shown absolutely no remorse
whatsoever for this murder. She makes herself out to be the victim
-- that she was a loving mother, and [that] this is everybody
else's fault but hers."
added that the children will never recover from losing their
parents, "if they live to be 80 years old."
May 17, 2005
former wife of a University of Richmond professor convicted of
gunning him down in his driveway after a bitter divorce says she
is the victim of a conspiracy.
In a two-hour jailhouse interview with The
Associated Press, Piper Rountree called herself a battered woman
who was the target of a "mob mentality" by corrupt police officers
and overzealous prosecutors who were blinded by a compulsion to
"I'm a victim, and luckily I see myself as a victim with a voice,"
said Rountree, 45, who was sentenced this month to life in prison.
"I believe that there's something much bigger than just me going
on... I'm just an indication of what's happened, of where an
abused and victimized wo- man ends up further victimized by a
Jurors in February deliberated less than one hour before
convicting Rountree of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in
the commission of a felony for the Oct. 30 slaying of Fredric
Jablin, who was 52. Jablin was gunned down as he walked outside
his Henrico County house to retrieve the morning's newspaper. The
couple's three children were asleep inside and were not harmed.
Prosecutors said a vengeful Rountree killed Jablin because she was
intent on regaining custody of the children and cashing in on
Jablin's $200,000 insurance policy. The couple divorced in 2002.
Rountree, who worked in Houston as an attorney, has maintained
that she was asleep at her sister's home in Houston at the time of
the divorce, I was angry," Rountree said, seated at a table in a
blue-and-white cement-block interview room at Henrico's Jail East
in New Kent County. "Did I have thoughts of hurting him? You know,
I would say, 'You know, I wish he'd get run over by a truck or
something.' Those are the natural things you feel in a divorce. Do
you act on those things? No."
voice soft and steady, Rountree dissolved into tears several times
during the interview when discussing her children.
When asked outright if she murdered Jablin, Rountree brown eyes
unblinking, the tips of her French-manicured nails pressed
together -- answered immediately: "No, I didn't. The question is,
is who did. And obviously I'm gonna have to find out sometime."
Though she refused to say who she believes killed her ex-husband,
Rountree said she was told one of the initial prime suspects in
the case was Jablin's brother, Michael Jablin, who now has custody
of the children.
"Fred did not like Michael... I know that he [Michael Jablin]
certainly hated me, he hated my sister, and he still hates my
family," Rountree said. "If you look at money, if you look at
position, if you look at opportunity, you know, the normal type of
motives, Michael Jablin inherited ... $2 million or so ... from
Fred's death. He was the one who stood to gain the most."
Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Wade Kizer, who prosecuted the
case, called those allegations "absolutely false." Michael Jablin
was never a suspect, and, although he is the trustee of Jablin's
estate for the three children, has not personally inherited any
money, Kizer said.
Rountree described her 19-year marriage to Fredric Jablin as
stormy and troubled, and said her ex-husband mentally and
physically abused her and the children.
had a very escalated temper from the very beginning," Rountree
said. "When somebody in a position of strength is able to make you
feel, after verbal abuse, that you are no longer worth the breath
that you breathe, that is abuse."
Despite their troubles, Rountree said she is upset that Jablin is
"Granted, we didn't get along," she said. "But he had a whole lot
to offer. And he was making a lot of steps towards at least trying
to do some of the things he needed to do for the children."
Prosecutors presented the jury with a mountain of evidence during
the five-day trial. Police said Jablin appeared to have been
killed with a .38-caliber revolver -- the same type of gun
prosecutors allege Rountree practiced with at shooting ranges in
Houston. The prosecution also said Rountree purchased wigs to
disguise herself while traveling from Texas to Virginia. And
cell-phone records placed Rountree's phone in Richmond the weekend
of the murder.
During the interview, Rountree admitted she did go to a firing
range, but said she was simply there to practice shooting for her
own protection. She did buy the wigs, she said, but they were
meant for a costume she planned to wear to a Halloween party. And
her cell phone was a communal business phone that could have been
used by anyone -- or the cell-phone records could have been
tampered with, she said.
what about witnesses who placed Rountree on the weekend of the
murder at a Houston airport heading to Virginia, at a car-rental
agency in Norfolk and at a hotel close to Jablin's home?
Those witnesses were coerced by prosecutors who were intent on
getting a conviction, said Rountree, who also accused the police
of fabricating evidence against her.
Kizer dismissed Rountree's arguments.
"She's just got to come up with some explanation other than to
admit ... what she has done," he said.
Rountree has appealed her conviction. In the meantime, she says
she is spending her time reading the Bible, playing chess, walking
10 miles a day around the jail track and offering legal advice to
her fellow inmates.
misses certain comforts, such as a good cup of coffee. But mostly,
she said, she misses her children: Callyn, 10, Paxton, 13, and
Jocelyn, 15. She's had no contact with Paxton or Callyn since she
was incarcerated. Jocelyn visited her once in January.
miss being able to hold my kids," she said tearfully. "I miss
reading to them, I miss playing with them."
for now, the woman who calls herself a spiritual leader, and whom
prosecutors call a cold, remorseless murderer, says she has
nothing left to do but pray that God will set her free.
"God works in different ways and I know God is on my side he just
has different plans than I had ever envisioned for me," Rountree
said. "I've always asked to be put in a place where I can be of
most use to him.
I didn't ever imagine it to be here."
Va. v. Rountree: Ex-wife on trial for professor's
March 22, 2005
McArdle was lying awake in bed when he heard three gunshots
outside his suburban Virginia home. He rushed to the window and
saw a lone figure running down the street. It was 6:39 a.m. on
Oct. 30, 2004, the day before Halloween. McArdle called 911.
When two Henrico County police officers arrived minutes later,
McArdle talked to them about the gunshots and the person he'd seen
running. It could've been a jogger, he said. It could've been a
man or a woman. He didn't know.
officers searched the area, but left when they didn't find
anything suspicious. It was dark, after all, and McArdle might
have been mistaken about the gunshots.
when the sun rose about half an hour later, it revealed the body
of McArdle's neighbor Fredric Jablin facedown in his own driveway,
still dressed in pajamas and slippers. He was shot twice, in the
arm and in the back.
Within two weeks, police discovered cellphone and bank records
indicating the professor's 44-year-old ex-wife, Piper Rountree,
had flown to Virginia from her home in Texas at the time of the
murder. Alleging that Jablin's shooting death was the culmination
of a bitter custody battle, Henrico County prosecutors charged
Rountree with first-degree murder and the felonious use of a
Rountree claimed she was in Texas at the time of the murder, and
pointed to inconsistencies in the records used to track her
movements. Airport authorities had checked in Piper Rountree's
sister, Tina, at the airport, and Tina Rountree was known to share
her sister's cellphone.
Piper Rountree a jealous ex-wife who resented her alimony payments
and would kill for custody of her three children? Or was it a case
of mistaken identity?
Rountree and Jablin met in 1981 when Rountree was a student and
Jablin a professor at the University of Texas in Austin. They
married in 1983 and had three children during almost two decades
in late 2000 or early 2001 their relationship began to sour.
According to court records, Piper Rountree had an affair with a
Jablin petitioned the court for a divorce, which was granted in
July 2002 on grounds of infidelity. Eight months later, the same
Virginia court gave custody of the children to Jablin and ordered
Rountree, a lawyer, to make monthly alimony payments of $890.
Rountree, who was living with her sister, Tina Rountree, declared
bankruptcy in 2003. By late September 2004, Piper Rountree owed
almost $10,000 in back alimony, according to prosecutors.
the time of his death, Fredric M. Jablin had a $200,000
life-insurance policy. His ex-wife Piper Rountree was the sole
Friends of Jablin and Rountree told the Richmond Times-Dispatch
that in October 2004, the professor was in his first serious
relationship after the divorce, and Piper Rountree didn't want
another woman near her children.
According to police, Piper Rountree enacted a cross-country murder
scheme in which, donning a blonde wig and using false documents,
she used her sister's identity to fly from Texas to Virginia and
kill her ex-husband.
Murray Janus, Rountree's defense attorney, conceded that "somebody
flew on Southwest Airlines" at the time of the murder, but that
there were "too many discrepancies" to prove it was Jablin's
Prosecutors traced Rountree's cellphone signal to local
transmission towers across the country from Texas to Virginia on
Thursday, Oct. 28. Sprint cellphone records showed the signal from
Rountree's primary cellphone went from Houston, Texas to the
Richmond, Virginia area during the two days before Jablin's
murder, and the signal returned to Houston on Saturday, Oct. 30.
defense claimed Piper Rountree maintained several cellphones and
shared some of them with her sister Tina.
Detectives also traced a debit card under the name of Jerry
Walters that Piper Rountree was known to use. The card's activity
followed a path similar to Rountree's cellphone signal.
Walters, who was dating Rountree at the time of the murder, told
police he got the card for Rountree. Weeks before the murder, she
told him the debit card had been stolen.
same debit card was used on Oct. 21 to buy two wigs from an online
store. Piper Rountree admits buying the wigs, but says they were
for her sister Tina. Rountree told police that her sister would
often give wigs to cancer patients at the clinic where she worked
Kathy Molley, a Southwest Airlines customer service employee at
Houston Hobby Airport, remembered a woman buying a ticket on Oct.
28, 2004. The woman, a pretty blonde, was anxious to get her
Molley remembered telling the woman she had a "cute name" Tina
Rountree.The woman bought a round-trip ticket to Norfolk and said
she had a gun to check.
Federal law requires a cable lock for any weapon that's checked
through security and inspection by a Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) officer. The woman passed both requirements.
Prosecutors said the woman checking in as Tina Rountree was
actually Piper. They pointed to her debit-card records showing a
purchase of a cable lock the morning of Thursday, Oct. 28.
McClennahan, Tina Rountree's boyfriend, testified that he gave
Piper Rountree a .38 revolver in 2002. Rountree denied owning a
TSA officer had to double-check the woman's identity, and would
have given special scrutiny to someone checking a gun onto a
flight, defense attorney Murray Janus argued. Tina Rountree's
identification indicated that she had brown eyes. Wouldn't the
officer be suspicious if he saw Piper's blue eyes that day?
Saturday night, Virginia police were trying to find the ex-wife of
murder victim Fredric Jablin. They called Houston police, who
posted officers at the airport with pictures of Tina and Piper
Rountree, hoping to catch one of the sisters returning to Texas.
The police didn't see either.
prosecution built a circumstantial case against Rountree using
maps, charts and records of the cellphone and debit card Rountree
was known to use. No DNA, fingerprints or other physical evidence
were found at the scene of Jablin's murder.
his closing argument, Henrico County prosecutor Wade Kizer
summarized the evidence against Rountree, telling jurors that
Rountree wanted to have custody of her children and erase her
Rountree's defense, several people testified that Piper and Tina
Rountree have similar voices and appearances, are often mistaken
for each other, and share cellphones.
Piper Rountree claimed she was in Galveston on Thursday, Oct. 28,
and in Houston the following two days. Martin McVey, a business
associate of Rountree, claims to have seen her in Texas on the
afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 30.
trial of Piper Rountree began on Feb. 22, 2005, in Henrico County,
Feb. 25, after deliberating for less than two hours, the jury
found Piper Rountree guilty of the first-degree murder of her
ex-husband Fredric Jablin. The jury recommended a sentence of life
in prison without parole. Judge L. A. Harris scheduled sentencing
for May 6.
After the verdict, Michael Jablin, the victim's brother, told
reporters, "Nobody wins in this.
children are all losers in this."
By Rachael Bell
Shots in the Dark
In the early
dawn hours of October 30, 2004, Professor Fredric M. Jablin, 52,
sleepily made his way out of bed. Dressed in his pajamas and
slippers he ventured out into the darkness to fetch the morning
paper that had recently been tossed on his driveway at 1515
Most of his
neighbors in Tuckahoe Village, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia,
were still fast asleep, as were Jablin's two daughters aged 8 and
15 and his son aged 12. They would
soon awaken to a nightmare.
am, neighbors were jolted awake by a frightening sound. According
to Mark Bowes' Richmond Times-Dispatch article, they
reported hearing a "bang, bang, bang," which one woman hoped "was
a [malfunctioning] transformer." Yet, her husband who was also
awakened by the noise knew it wasn't "because of the three precise
shots," it was reported. There was little doubt it was a gun being
Swartz-Turfle of Court TV stated that yet another neighbor, Bob
McArdle, was startled by the shots and dashed to his window to see
what was going on. McArdle saw a person running down the street,
although he could not make out the description because it was too
dark. He and other neighbors were prompted to call 911.
It took only
a few minutes for the police to respond. Several officers searched
the surrounding neighborhood but could find no indication of foul
play. However, "when the sun rose about a half hour later"
Jablin's body was discovered lying dead in his driveway next to
his Ford Explorer, Harry Swartz-Turfle reported. He had been shot
in the arm and back while retrieving his newspaper.
profound sadness spread across the community with the news of
Jablin's death. The rumors quickly made their way around the
campus where he worked as an organizational-communications scholar
at the University of Richmond's Jepson School. Neighbors,
colleagues and student simply couldn't fathom why anyone would
want to harm such a beloved man who was devoted to his children,
students and job.
those who knew Jablin intimately had their suspicions. The
professor was just beginning to get his life back together after a
nasty divorce and custody battle with his ex-wife Piper Rountree,
Rountree, "a former Texas prosecutor, school board association
attorney and amateur artist" wasn't at all happy about losing
custody of her children, as well as "the bulk of the couple's
assets," Bowes reported. Jablin's family and friends began to
wonder if Rountree might have killed Jablin out of revenge.
Investigators came to a similar conclusion and promptly arrested
Piper and Fred
Rountree was born and raised in a small farming community in
Harlingen, Texas. According to Paige Akin writing for the
Richmond Times-Dispatch, she was the youngest of five
siblings, including two brothers and two sisters. Rountree's
father was a military surgeon and her mother was a homemaker.
reported to have had a happy childhood and family life. She had
close friendships and was liked by her fellow students although
she wasn't the most popular girl in school, fellow classmate Lavon
Guerrero suggested. Rountree excelled academically and was
eventually accepted by the University of Texas at Austin in 1978.
As an undergraduate, she studied speech communication.
year, Dr. Fredric (Fred) Jablin left a teaching position at the
University of Wisconsin and took a new position teaching
communications at the University of Texas at Austin. He was
recently divorced and looking for a new beginning.
In 1981, he
taught a course in organizational communications, for which
Rountree registered. Jablin was immediately captivated by
Rountree's artistic and energetic nature. Their student/teacher
relationship ended in the fall of 1981 and six months later they
began a romantic relationship.
The two were
smitten with one another and became increasingly inseparable. In
1983, the couple moved to San Antonio, Texas when Rountree was
accepted as a law student at St. Mary's University. Jablin did not
give up his position at the University of Texas because his career
was just beginning to take off, despite the 180-mile commute from
his new home.
Later that year, the couple married while Rountree was still
enrolled in law school. The marriage initially got off to a good
start but it wasn't long before cracks began to appear. According
to Bowes, Jablin reported in later court documents that he "became
aware early in their marriage that Rountree suffered "emotional
problems," after learning that she had been bulimic and was
receiving psychological counseling 'because of family issues.'"
emotional instability became increasingly apparent in her social
life soon after she graduated in 1986 and moved back to Austin
with Jablin. Even though she obtained employment as an assistant
district attorney for Hays County, Texas soon after graduation,
she quickly tired of the position and quit after one year, Bowes
From then on
she tried her hand at several different positions, which included
that of school board association attorney, working for a private
law firm and a position with the Texas Classroom Teachers
Association. None of the positions lasted longer than two years
because she was either fired or quit out of dissatisfaction. She
then set up her own practice in 1993 but after a year she gave it
up because Jablin was offered a new position with a significant
salary increase in Virginia at the University of Richmond's Jepson
School of Leadership.
In the meantime, Rountree and Jablin were in the
process of raising their two children, a pre-school-aged daughter,
Jocelyn, and a toddler son, Paxton, whom they both adored. The new
job in Richmond offered a release from the financial burdens the
family endured in Texas, mostly caused by Rountree's habit of
overspending. In order to enhance their standard of living, the
family moved to the Richmond area and Jablin began his new career
as a professor of organizational communications.
move, Rountree decided to put her career on hold and devote
herself to her children, full time. Rountree and Jablin's third
child, Callyn, followed a couple years later. Akin said that,
"even though Rountree got to spend more time making a home for her
children, she wasn't content."
Bowes stated that the couple's marriage became "exceedingly
strained in 2000," around the time Rountree "suffered a major
depression" after undergoing an ectopic pregnancy and
hysterectomy. It was also at this time when Rountree started
having an affair with a married ophthalmologist.
Bowes reported that the "fatal attraction type relationship" with
the doctor eventually led to the destruction of his marriage,
exacerbated by Rountree's repeated death threats against his wife.
When Jablin learned of the affair he was devastated and decided
that the marriage was beyond salvage.
A Bitter Breakup
Jablin separated in March 2001 and immediately began divorce
proceedings. On request of the court, Edwin A. Bischoff, a
Richmond-area attorney was "appointed commissioner in chancery in
the Jablin-Rountree divorce" and asked to compile a review of the
couple's marriage, Bowes said.
of the Houston Chronicle quoted Bischoff who told the court that
prior to the divorce proceedings Rountree experienced "significant
episodes of mental health problems, drinking and abuse of
prescription drugs." It was further reported that she also
"circulated false reports of spousal abuse," which eventually "had
little bearing on the case."
court learned that Rountree had run the family into considerable
debt, which caused significant problems within the relationship.
Within four years, Rountree, who was briefly in charge of the
family's finances, amassed a credit card debt of more than $50,
0000, some of which was allegedly used to fund outings with her
also heard that the ophthalmologist who was having an affair with
Rountree often accompanied her and the children during summer
activities in 2001. This news greatly shocked and saddened Jablin
who wanted to protect the children from the couple's mounting
In July 2002,
after an emotionally and financially draining battle, the judge
overseeing the case granted the couple a divorce on the grounds of
adultery. Soon after, proceedings began concerning custody of the
children. Jablin petitioned the court for sole custody of the
children because of Rountree's mental instability.
attorney stated in a petition to the court that Rountree had a
"history of depression, which is manifested by periods of agitated
and distressful conduct [and] impulsive acts, including fleeing
from the area or threatening to take the children from Richmond,
periods of infidelity, pleas of hopelessness and aberrational
conduct including speaking to angels," Bowes reported.
eight month-long bitter battle, a Virginia court granted Jablin
sole custody of the children and ordered Rountree to pay $890 a
month for child support. Akin reported that according to Jablin's
friends, "Rountree never came to terms with losing custody" of her
children. She was also angered that Jablin "was awarded the bulk
of the couple's assets," Bowes said.
2002, Rountree moved to Houston, Texas where she had a license to
practice law. Akin reported that she also moved to the area to be
closer to her sister Tina Rountree, 52, a nurse practitioner
specializing in menopause treatment and weight management who
owned and operated the Village Women's Clinic near Rice
further reported that Tina helped her sister by finding her a
one-room office space in which to rent for her legal practice.
When her practice proved unsuccessful, Rountree began work at a
land title company in August 2003.
That same year, Rountree filed for bankruptcy in Texas and moved
in with her sister. Half a year later, Rountree was found in
contempt of court in Virginia for not paying child support.
According to Swartz-Turfle, "by late September 2004, Piper
Rountree owed almost $10,000 in back alimony." Rountree's
financial and alleged mental problems, exacerbated by the fact
that she didn't see her children except for a few times a year,
eventually caused her to resort to measures that would have deadly
Jablin's body was discovered, investigators turned their attention
to Rountree, who clearly seemed to have a motive to murder him.
However when questioned, Rountree claimed that there was no way
she could have killed her ex-husband because she was halfway
across the country at the time, in Texas. Suspicious of her story,
investigators began to piece together Rountree's movements at
around the time of the murder. It didn't take them long to find
holes in her alibi.
team seized several objects from Jablin's house, which they hoped
would provide clues to aid in the investigation. Some of the
articles included, "two cell phones, information from a Caller ID,
photos, a pair of glasses and a 1999 Ford Explorer, Bowes
reported. Other items were confiscated from Rountree back in
Houston, which included a wig, a computer and her cell phone
records, among other things.
also interviewed numerous witnesses, including a Southwest
Airlines employee, employees at the Houston Hobby Airport, a
rental car service employee near Norfolk International Airport, a
hotel manager in Henrico, Virginia and a patron of a Houston bar,
as well as family members, friends and colleagues of Jablin and
piece of evidence that initially tied Rountree to the murder
involved calls made from her cell phone. After reviewing the call
records, investigators discovered that she was in the Richmond
area the day before the murder up until the time around Jablin's
death. From that moment on, the evidence began to pile up against
learned that at 4:30 pm on the day of Jablin's murder, a woman
checked in on a Southwest Airlines flight to Houston under the
name of Tina Rountree. They interviewed airport employees at the
Virginia and Houston airports to see if anyone could identify a
picture of Piper Rountree as the woman traveling under the name
Tina Rountree. Several people claimed to recognize the picture,
although the woman they saw had blonde hair unlike the woman in
the picture that was a brunette.
Based on the
information they pieced together, investigators eventually
determined that Piper Rountree did indeed travel to Richmond for a
couple days before leaving on the afternoon of Jablin's murder.
They also determined that she traveled in disguise, wearing a
blonde wig and using her sister's identification.
investigation, it was discovered that Rountree bought two wigs on
October 21st on the internet ordered from an e-mail
account in her name. The wigs were mailed to a Houston post office
box that bore the name of a former boyfriend of hers and were
delivered prior to her flight to Virginia, days before Jablin's
death, Bowes stated in an article.
After traveling to Houston, Henrico County investigators
interviewed a Southwest Airlines clerk who remembered Rountree
traveling to Virginia on October 28th. Kathy Mollie
said that Rountree declared an unloaded gun at the time of check
in. Akin quoted Mollie who said that Rountree appeared nervous and
that "it seemed that there was something on her mind, that she was
very much in a hurry," almost as if she was "trying to distract"
was further reported that soon thereafter Mollie involved a
baggage screener named Allan Fenestrate who worked for the
Transportation Safety Authority in Houston who also recalled
Rountree and the fact that she was "a bit nervous and fidgety"
about the gun that she claimed belonged to her father. Bowes
suggested that the gun she carried was a ".32- or.38-caliber
revolver," which had the ability to shoot the bullets that killed
The gun that Rountree allegedly carried was never
In the week
after the murder, Rountree gave police the number of a bar patron
whom she claimed would provide them with an alibi as to her
whereabouts on the night of October 29th, twelve hours
prior to the murder. Rountree said that Kevin O'Keefe, a
51-year-old electrical engineer, saw her that evening at the Under
the Volcano bar in Houston, which if substantiated would make it
difficult to prove she was at the murder scene in Virginia.
interviewed O'Keefe on November 5th, he said that he
recalled seeing Rountree, although he wasn't entirely sure it was
on the night in question. O'Keefe claimed to have been extremely
busy that week and that he "didn't know which way was up," Bowes
quoted him as saying.
investigators that on November 3rd, Rountree came to
the bar looking for him in a distraught state, claiming that "her
boyfriend, who she lived with four years ago had been stabbed" and
the police needed to confirm she was at the bar the evening of
October 29th, Akin reported.
suggested it was possible that he'd seen her that evening,
Rountree disappeared only to return a short while later with two
men, one of whom was a notary, asking for him to sign a statement
to substantiate her alibi, Bowes reported. O'Keefe refused and
instead gave her his number to give to police in case they needed
realized that he hadn't seen Rountree on the evening in question
but actually on a different day during that same week. A bartender
substantiated his story. It was evidence that proved to be
damaging to Rountree's already shaky alibi.
Virginia, investigators interviewed rental car service employee
Tarra Waterford near Norfolk International Airport who claimed
that someone resembling Rountree rented a minivan from her on
October 28th. That same day, a Henrico, Virginia hotel
manager also said she remembered a woman fitting Rountree's
description registering for a room on October 28th for
The hotel was
approximately 5 miles from Jablin's home. The manager said that
the woman produced identification under the name Tina Rountree but
specifically asked to sign in using a different name, which struck
the manager as unusual. Rountree checked out of the hotel on
October 30th, hours after Jablin's murder.
Moreover, investigators tied Rountree to a bank
debit card that a former boyfriend named Jerry Walters, acquired
for her after she declared bankruptcy. He opened the line of
credit for her so that she could pay her bills, although he never
contributed any money. The card was used to purchase items
including the wigs she allegedly worn while on route to Virginia
from Houston and the Southwest Airline plane tickets registered in
the name Tina Rountree.
She also used the card to secure reservations at
the Henrico, Virginia hotel where she signed in under an assumed
name, to withdraw cash at several locations in the same area and
to make a purchase at a CVS pharmacy, also in Henrico, which
included a pair of latex gloves.
overwhelming evidence against Piper Rountree eventually led to her
arrest on November 8, 2004 for the murder of her ex-husband and
the felony use of a firearm. Piper Rountree's arrest came soon
after a custody hearing, where she lost guardianship of her three
children to Jablin's brother of northern Virginia. Rountree was
held in the Henrico County jail to await trial scheduled for
January 2005. She faced 20 years behind bars, if found guilty.
Also on November 8th, Tina Rountree was arrested "on
suspicion of tampering with evidence in the case," Melanie Mayhew
reported in The Collegian. According to Akin, authorities
said that she likely "helped Piper Rountree destroy evidence
related to Jablin's murder, including a wig, makeup and
computers." Her court hearing for the third-degree felony took
place in July 2005 in Harris County, Texas where the offense
28, 2005, Rountree underwent a pretrial hearing at the Henrico
County Circuit Court. Murray Janus represented her case before
Judge L.A. Harris, Jr. The lead prosecutors in the case included
Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Duncan P. Reid and Assistant
Commonwealth's Attorney Owen I. Ashman.
hearing, the prosecution presented a steady stream of witnesses
who provided evidence against Rountree, mostly placing her in
Virginia at the time of the murder. Some of the witnesses included
Mollie, Benestante, O'Keefe, Waterford and the Henrico hotel
manager where Rountree checked in on October 28th. The
judge found the evidence sufficient enough for the case to go to
trial, which began several weeks later.
marked the opening of Rountree's trial beginning with jury
selection. Eventually, a seven-man, seven-woman jury was selected
followed by opening statements from the prosecution then the
defense teams. Witness testimony began the next day and lasted
until February 26th.
One of the
many witnesses to take the stand was Jerry Walters, Rountree's
ex-boyfriend who she dated for ten months up until February 2004
and who had previously opened a line a credit for her. He claimed
that while Rountree was in jail she sent him a letter suggesting
that they marry in order to "spare" him testifying against her,
since "by law a husband could not testify against a wife and vice
the court that Rountree called him the evening of Jablin's murder
and informed him of his death. She then asked him to fly from
Louisiana where he lived to Houston, although he declined the
offer, Akin said.
that the next day he learned that the line of credit he set up for
Rountree was in default because, according to Rountree, the debit
card had been stolen the week before, it was further reported. He
only later learned from investigators that many of the items
linking Rountree to the murder were purchased from the bank
account he set up for her. Walters closed the account soon
witness who testified was Crystalee Danko, a Sprint telephone
employee who produced cell phone records placing Rountree in the
area of Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia between October 28th
and 30th. She also provided records that proved
Rountree was also in Virginia earlier that same month. The
evidence directly contradicted Rountree's account that she was in
Houston at the time of Jablin's murder.
into the trial, other testimony was heard including that of the
Henrico hotel manager and the manager of the boutique where
Rountree bought the wigs she allegedly wore on route to and from
Virginia during the last week of October 2004. Investigators were
able to provide video surveillance tapes showing Rountree at
Henrico County ATM money machines around the time of the murder
wearing one of the blonde wigs she purchased from the boutique
over the internet.
Perhaps one of the most damaging pieces of evidence was that
presented by Mac McClennahan, who dated Tina Rountree at the time
of the murder. He claimed that on the evening of October 26,
2004, he and Piper Rountree went to a Houston shooting range and
practiced firing rented guns.
also testified that he gave her a .38-caliber revolver in 2002,
which he "found inside Tina Rountree's house," Akin stated.
Following Jablin's death, McClennahan said that Rountree tried to
convince him not to tell investigators about the practice shooting
at the fire range because, "it'll just complicate things."
A Losing Battle
On the fourth
day of the trial, several other witnesses presented testimony to
the court, which included a parking lot official from Hobby
Airport in Houston who said that he saw Rountree's black jeep
parked at the airport from October 28th to October 30th,
the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
witnesses testified that they saw Rountree days before the murder
at a shooting range in Houston, using her sister's identification.
Rountree allegedly bought a box of ammunition for a .38-caliber
gun, similar to that believed to have killed Jablin.
day, O'Keefe took the stand and recounted his conversations with
Rountree at the Houston-area bar, where she tried to get him to
sign a notarized statement that he had seen her October 29th.
His testimony was followed by Piper Rountree's testimony in her
own defense. Her account of events was the most revealing, which
inevitably changed the climate of the entire proceedings.
While on the
stand, Rountree tearfully professed her innocence, claiming that
she was in Houston when Jablin was gunned down in front of his
home. She said that she never owned a gun and never had her sister
Tina's driver's license. She claimed that she was often mistaken
for her sister "both in voice and in physical appearance,"
suggesting that it was her sister in Houston at the time of
Jablin's murder instead of her.
confronted her with the evidence they had against her, she refuted
it all or simply claimed ignorance. Throughout her testimony she
became increasingly less convincing, which proved to have
disastrous results for her defense.
On the fifth
day, closing arguments were heard before the jury deliberated on
the case. By mid-afternoon, a verdict was returned finding Piper
Rountree guilty of murdering her ex-husband and the felonious use
of a firearm. As the verdict was read, Rountree could only sob. It
was recommended that she be sentenced to life in prison, plus a
mandatory three years on firearm charges.
sentencing trial in May of that year, Henrico County Circuit Judge
L.A. Harris, Jr. sentenced Rountree to life in prison plus three
years. The judge said to Rountree during the hearing that "the
evidence certainly shows that it (her intent) was willful,
deliberate and premeditated" and he admonished her for having
"absolutely no remorse," the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Rountree was led away from the courtroom to Henrico's Jail East
where she was temporarily imprisoned. In July 2005, she was
transferred to Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy,
Virginia, where she will be imprisoned for the remainder of her
sentence. She is expected to be up for parole in 2020, when she's
60-years-old, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Rachael Bell – CrimeLibrary.com