Friday, April 15, 2005 Print This | Email This     

Convicted murderer's sister out on bond for tampering with evidence in case

By Emanuella Grinberg, Court TV

(Court TV) — A Virginia jury took less than an hour to find Piper Rountree guilty of gunning down her ex-husband as he fetched the morning paper, but the woman who Rountree allegedly impersonated to commit the murder is awaiting her day in court.

Authorities believe Piper Rountree's fair-haired sister, Tina Rountree, helped destroy the blond wig and makeup that her dark-haired sister used to disguise herself when she traveled more than 1100 miles to murder her ex-husband, University of Richmond professor Fred Jablin.

They also say Tina Rountree helped her younger sister destroy papers and electronic evidence after she shot her ex-husband, to whom she owed almost $10,000 in back child support, on Oct. 30, 2004.

Piper Rountree, who testified in her defense at trial, claimed she was in Houston when the shooting occurred, where she had been living with sister Tina since her bitter divorce from Jablin in 2002.

When Piper Rountree, a former lawyer, returned to Virginia on Nov. 9, 2004, for a child custody hearing, police arrested her for first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement. Meanwhile, back in Houston, Tina was charged with tampering with evidence.

Virginia law does not allow for someone to be charged with evidence tampering in a relative's murder case, one reason Tina Rountree was charged in Texas, Houston Police Department Det. Breck McDaniel said.

In Houston, Tina Rountree was taken into custody and later posted bond.

When she did not show up for a hearing four months later on March 22, a Harris County District Court judge issued a warrant for her arrest. She turned herself in one week later and was held in Harris County Jail until April 1, when she made bond.

She is free while she awaits an arraignment scheduled for April 21.

"She gave some excuse about her son being in jail," McDaniel said. He declined to provide further information about the evidence against her while charges are pending.

Henrico County prosecutors presented evidence at trial that Piper Rountree used her debit card to buy a Southwest Airlines ticket in Tina Rountree's name from Texas to Virginia, where Jablin lived with their children.

"Even though her sister used Tina's name, after we heard witnesses' descriptions, we knew Tina hadn't flown," Capt. Jan Stem of the Henrico County Police Department said.

Numerous customer service representatives also testified that a woman they later identified as Piper Rountree presented Tina Rountree's identification to check in for her flight from Texas, to rent a car at Norfolk airport and to check in to a hotel.

Prosecutors also produced records that Piper Rountree purchased a blond and a "paprika" wig online. The jury saw the "paprika" — or dark red — wig, but the blond wig was never recovered.

Piper Rountree's sentencing is scheduled for May 6. She faces life in prison.

Tina Rountree, a nurse practitioner, did not attend her sister's trial, nor was she called as a witness, but the jury heard her name often.

"The evidence only points to her helping after the fact," Stem said. "We could not prove she was involved in the planning stage."