These guys are talking about control.

(two interestin



48 Hours Two Wigs A Gun And A Murder 05.21.05 Run Dates

05.21.05 48 Hours Two Wigs A Gun And A Murder

08.05.06 48 Hours Two Wigs A Gun And A Murder




Fred Jablin

08.06.06 CC 316 One Night - Jablonski




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Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 1 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)


"I learned pretty early on that people said 'I have no idea who would wanna do this to Fred, but have you talked to his ex-wife?'"


Detective Coby Kelly

In the fall of 2004, the sleepy suburb of Richmond, Va. was all dressed up for Halloween. But as Harold Dow reports, the spookiest day of the year arrived early for this close-knit neighborhood.

"On the morning of the 30th, I got up planning on going to the gym to work out. I was putting on my running shoes, when all of a sudden, my husband and I heard three loud sounds. Bang, bang, bang. We kind of looked at one another like, 'What could that possibly be?' I said, 'Well, maybe people are hunting, duck hunting down around Tuckahoe Creek,'" recalls neighbor Megan McCreary, who shrugged it off and went to the gym.

Just down the road, neighbor Bob McCartel saw something he couldn't ignore. "I saw someone running down the street in the front of my house. It was so dark out I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman," he remembers.

Bob's wife, Doreen, called 911 — and within minutes, police were searching the area. But officers told McCartel they hadn't been able to find any sign of a shooter or a victim.

"About 45 minutes later, Doreen and I took our dog out. Walking towards Fred's house, Doreen looked up and saw something up on the driveway," Bob recalls.

Lying in his driveway was Fred Jablin, a well-respected 52-year-old college professor and devoted father to three children.

Officer Harry Boyd, who lived three blocks from the Jablin home, remembers that his pager went off at 7:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, McCreary returned from her workout and got the grim news from her husband. "My first thought was, where are the kids?" she recalls.

Boyd was also concerned about the children — his kids were close friends with the Jablin children. Police entered the home and found Fred Jablin's children — his 12-year-old son, and his two daughters, ages 10 and 15 — asleep.

Boyd took the children back to his house. He remembers the tough task of telling the children their dad had been murdered. "It was just a nightmare to have to do that," he explains.

Boyd told the children they'd be staying with his family, until their uncle Michael Jablin, who lived two hours away, could get there.

Fred’s ex-wife, Piper Rountree, says she was stunned when she learned of his murder. "I got a phone call from a friend of mine who had heard about it and nobody knew what had happened," says Rountree, who was living in Houston, where she'd moved after the divorce.

Back in Richmond, Homicide Det. Coby Kelly was put in charge of the investigation. Kelly's theory was that Fred was on his way to pick up his morning newspaper.

"I suspect that someone or something drew his attention back this direction as he was walking down to get the paper. And that whatever confrontation took place probably happened right here in this area," says Kelly, who thinks the victim may have actually talked to his killer.

After analyzing the crime scene, Kelly went to work on suspects. His first hunch was that it might have been a student that hadn't done well in one of Jablin's classes.

Police went to the University of Richmond to check out that angle. But Kelly knew what all homicide detectives know when looking for suspects: Start close to home.

"I learned pretty early on that people said 'I have no idea who would wanna do this to Fred, but have you talked to his ex-wife?'" recalls Kelly, who then called Piper in Houston.

"And he said that all of the immediate family was under suspicion. Michael Jablin and me," she recalls.

At the time of the murder, Piper and her ex-husband had been apart for almost four years. She had started a whole new life in Houston. Not only that, but police would soon learn that she had an alibi for the day of the murder.

A family friend and attorney, Marty McVey, remembers Piper stopping by his Houston office on the very day her ex was murdered, more than 1,000 miles away.

While detectives continued to check out Piper's story, another name surfaced — and unlike Piper, this woman had nothing nice to say about Fred.

"He was a very, very egotistical person," says Piper's sister, Tina.

On the afternoon of the murder, Kelly got a major lead from airport officials in Virginia: Southwest Airlines had a passenger on their manifest with the last name Rountree. The name on the ticket: Tina Rountree.

Records showed that two days before the murder, Tina Rountree had flown from her home in Houston to Virginia, where Fred was killed. On the afternoon of the murder, records showed that Tina was booked on a return flight back home to Houston — a flight that was already in the air.

Kelly contacted the Houston Police Department and explained the situation — by the time officers arrived at the airport, the plane was about to unload.

"I knew I was looking for a 40-something white female — we had some driver license photos of both Tina, the sister, as well as Piper Rountree," remembers Det. Breck McDaniel.

Piper had brown hair while Tina was blonde. McDaniel says his officers stopped at least a dozen women. But the passenger they were looking for had disappeared in the crowd.

In fact, that mysterious passenger managed to pick up her luggage at baggage claim without being noticed, and then vanished.


Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 2 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)

At that time, around 4:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the murder, Kelly didn't know what he would later discover: The Rountree sisters have a remarkably fierce devotion to one another. Learning more about the extent of that devotion would become one of the stranger twists in this already twisted tale.

"Piper and I are soul sisters. We're incomplete without each other," says Tina, who is eight years older.

Their age difference mattered when they were younger. "My mother used to always make me sleep with her, and I didn't like her crawling in my bed and having to sleep with her," Tina remembers. "And she wanted to be snuggled — you know, she wanted to snuggle. But she was a child. She was wanting attention. But the family environment was very close."

By the time Piper was in high school, the Rountree family was living in a small town in Texas, near the Mexican border. But Piper had bigger plans: She headed off to the prestigious University of Texas at Austin, with dreams of becoming a lawyer.

While away at college, Piper caught the eye of another admirer — her communications professor, Fred Jablin. Fred was 29 and very driven; Piper was a free-spirit and eight years younger.

"He was very witty and very different. … One of the brightest men I think I've ever met. And I've always looked up to him," Piper remembers.

They married two years later, in the fall of 1983.

Fred was also proud of his wife and her plans to become a lawyer. After graduating from law school, Piper landed a big job in Austin, as an assistant district attorney.

A few years later, Fred and Piper started a family. Fred's brother, Michael, says the marriage was solid.

"They had two lovely children who were born in Texas, Jocelyn and Paxton, and they enjoyed themselves," says Michael.

But for Piper, a working mom, life was hectic. "I'd be in the courtroom, and I'd be looking at my watch thinking, 'I've got to go pick up my child at day care,'" she recalls.

But in 1994, life changed for the family: Fred accepted an offer to teach at the University of Richmond and uprooted his family to Virginia.

"Piper did not want to leave Texas; that was her home base, her family was there," Michael says.

About six months after a ruptured atopic pregnancy that she says almost killed her, Piper got pregnant again and had her third child, Callie.

Piper decided to change the focus of her life and became a full-time mom to Callie, Paxton, and Jocelyn.

But Piper missed the rest of her family back in Texas and her marriage started to suffer. She admits she and Fred started drifting apart, having separate lives once they came to Richmond.

Tina never forgave Fred for moving Piper so far away from her. "One of the main reasons that they moved to Richmond was so that Fred could get Piper away from her family because she's a very strong family person," she claims.

Eventually, Piper told Fred she was leaving him. But that's when she says the real trouble began: Fred decided to fight for sole custody of the couple's children.

While the idea of losing her children was devastating to Piper, it was inexcusable to Tina. "She, I mean — how many hours spent with her cry — I mean she was crying. It was horrible."


Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 3 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)


One day after the murder, Kelly hopped a plane to Houston.

"We were interested in talking to Piper," he explains. "We certainly were not ignoring anything that would lead us in a different direction, but at that point it was a pretty good place to begin."

Kelly met up with the Houston team working the case — and together they headed over to Piper's house.

They knocked on the door, rung the doorbell and hung out but got no answer. Next, they decided to pay a visit to Tina. But just in case, one of the officers stayed behind at Piper's.

"Did Piper ever come out of the house?" Dow asks.

"She did," says Kelly. The officer sitting outside the house saw her get into her vehicle and drive away. He followed her and relayed the route information to the rest of the team.

Soon, police cars followed Piper on the Interstate; the pursuit ended on a residential street in central Houston.

Kelly says Piper pulled into a parking spot. When he introduced himself, he says Piper said "Come on inside."

Piper had driven to the law office of trial attorney and friend Marty McVey. As it turned out, McVey wasn't alone — Tina had arrived a few minutes before her sister.

"The first time I heard that Fred had been killed. She (Tina) came in and said, 'Did you know? Have you heard Fred was killed yesterday morning?' I said, 'No I haven't,'" McVey remembers. He was in for another surprise, when Piper walked in with four detectives.

"I went and asked her, 'Who do you think would’ve done something like this?' — which was a good entrée into getting her to talk to us," says Kelly.

But Piper says she had only one thing on her mind: Who was taking care of her three children? Until that meeting, Piper hadn't been told her children were safe with Fred's brother, Michael.

"Did at any point did you sense that Piper was being accused of this murder?" Dow asked McVey. "To the opposite. They told her she was not a suspect in this," he says. "The majority of Piper's conversation with them was concerning her children."

Later, Kelly and a few other officers drove to Tina's house, hoping to talk to her alone. "She said to bring the kids here and then we’ll talk," Kelly remembers. "But we ended up pretty much getting ejected from her house."

Meanwhile, Piper was doing her own detective work. She needed to firm up her alibi — putting her in Houston, not Virginia — the night before Fred’s murder.

Piper returned to a bar where she claimed she’d been on Friday, to see if anyone remembered seeing her there.

"Bartender called to me and said 'Do you remember seeing her?' And I said 'Yeah I remember seeing her the previous weekend," a bar employee recalls. "And she wanted our phone numbers so that she could give them to the police so that she could substantiate that she was here," he adds.

It was the alibi Piper was looking for, and she passed it on to Kelly. So now Piper had witnesses who saw her in Houston the night before the murder to go along with her lawyer friend who saw her on the afternoon of the murder at the same time the airplane from Virginia was landing.

But Tina says she couldn't have been on the plane either because she was seeing patients all day at her women's health clinic.

Kelly didn't know what to think. But he was sure of one thing about the Rountree sisters: "I think that neither one of them acted in the manner which we would expect family members would normally act when they've learned that a former loved one has been murdered. Both of them acted oddly as far as I'm concerned."

It wasn't long before the investigation would zero in on just one of them. Asked if she killed Fred, Tina Rountree says, "The answer is no."


Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 4 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)

As Kelly learned more about the Jablins' nasty divorce, he started to see the scars it left with Piper and Tina.

The almost 19-year marriage hadn't been working for quite some time. A year and a half before the divorce, Piper got a warrant charging Fred with domestic violence and filed for a protective order against him.

Tina says she never witnessed physical abuse but says she believes what her sister told her. According to Tina, Fred's abuse was also directed at their children. "I saw him frequently lose his temper with the kids, because he was — you know, you get into a mode when you're a professor, and they all say, 'Yes, sir,'" she recalls.

In February 2001, Piper finally moved out of the house and later filed for divorce; in July 2002, the divorce went through.

Fred decided to fight for full custody of their children. And according to Tina, Fred was a trained expert at winning arguments.

At the custody trial, Fred pulled out all the stops: He painted Piper as an unstable mother and told the judge Piper had racked up about $50,000 in debt, without his knowing.

He also accused Piper of being unfaithful. Tina says her sister didn't have an affair during the marriage.

Michael Jablin wouldn't go into details with 48 Hours, but he believes his brother's accusations. And he isn't alone.

"I think the judge reviewed the case and thought Fred would make the better parent," Michael says.

In July 2002, Fred won full custody of their three children.

"Piper could have visitation. It was a hard decision because normally mothers get custody. In this case, it was very unique. The judge saw that Piper had some problems, and Fred provided more stability in the home life," says Michael.

Remarkably, Piper not only lost her children but was ordered to pay Fred almost $900 a month in child support, in part to pay back some of the thousands of dollars in debt she owed her ex-husband.

Piper had failed the bar exam in Virginia, so after the divorce she struggled to find a job.

Piper then moved back to Texas to find work, with her three children staying behind in Richmond with their father.

"She was not very happy when she was having to pay alimony when she was struggling, and not having much money," says Jerry Walters, who became close to Piper shortly after she moved to Texas. But he, too, says Piper never voiced any hostility towards Fred.

"She was not enamored with Fred, by no means, any longer. But she did not walk around the house, muttering under her breath, 'I hate Fred. I hate Fred,'" says Walters.

If Piper was bitter towards her ex-husband, she hid it well.

Tina, on the other hand, had different feelings. "It seems a blatant — some blatant misjustices," she says.

At the time of Fred's murder, Piper says she'd come to terms with her situation, making money, living comfortably and earning enough to pay child support. But she did want to see her children.

But someone else, according to Piper, was angry enough to kill Fred. Piper says there was someone who had a grudge against her husband.


Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 5 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)

A couple days after Fred's murder, Kelly learned more about the round-trip airline ticket booked under Tina Rountree's name. The person who'd paid for that ticket was Jerry Walters.

It didn’t take them long to learn that Walters knew Piper. "Piper Rountree and I, at one time, were girlfriend and boyfriend," says Walters. Piper started dating Walters in 2003, shortly after moving to Houston.

Even though Walters was living in Baton Rouge, La., they made it work. Their long-distance relationship lasted for about a year.

"Then that evolved into a continuing close relationship, close friendship," says Walters. So close, that Walters was one of the first people Piper called the night of the murder. Walters wasn’t able to go to Houston, but he did his best to comfort Piper by phone.

Four days after the murder, Kelly tracked down Walters to find out why his card seemed to be connected to a murder.

Walters told Kelly he had no idea who could have used his bank card during the weekend of the murder because — as far as he knew — his card had been stolen before then.

Walters says it wasn't until the day after the murder — when he tried to withdraw cash from the account — that he even found out something was wrong with his card.

"And that's when they said, 'Well, Mr. Walters, the account's overdrawn,'" he recalls. Walters says the bank told him he had pending ATM charges in Richmond.

Walters immediately called Piper, because if anyone was going to know about his card it was her. Why's that? Because the card wasn’t really his — it was Piper's. Almost three months earlier, Piper had asked Walters to open up a bank account for her — under his name — so she could hide assets from Fred. Piper said she only needed the account for a couple of months, and she promised to pay all of the bills.

Piper told Walters someone might have stolen the card.

What didn't make sense to both Walters and Kelly were some of the other charges found on the card.

"We were also able to determine that wigs were purchased during this time, with that card, from," says Kelly. Before the murder, someone had purchased two wigs — one blonde, one auburn.

"We knew that they were sent to a location in Kingwood, Texas. There was a box, rented in the name of Piper Rountree, which also had Jerry's Walters' name on that box. And that’s where the wigs had been delivered to," says Kelly.

It was all starting to add up for Kelly. He theorized Piper had flown to Richmond — using her sister's name — to kill her husband. "As things came to light, it was apparent she did have a plan, and attempted to disguise who she was — and thought she could get away with it," says Kelly.

With Fred dead, Piper wanted to win back her kids, who were staying with Fred's brother Michael and his family. She asked for a custody hearing in Virginia family court.

Kelly was all for Piper attending the hearing, scheduled for nine days after the murder. But not for the reasons Piper thought — with her back in Richmond, it would make it easier to make an arrest.

At the hearing, a judge made decided to grant permanent custody to Michael Jablin.

Piper left the custody hearing shaken. Little did she know that just minutes later, she would be arrested for murder.

"They could have taken this from a scene from a gangster movie," Piper says. "The police just jumped out with what seemed like machine guns and dragged me off to tell me that they were arresting me for the murder of my ex-husband."

Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 6 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)

After her arrest four months ago, Piper is having a tough time adjusting to life behind bars but she's anxious for her day in court and ready to stand trial.

"I don't think I would be intelligent if I weren't worried or concerned. But I have an incredible amount of faith," she says.

In opening arguments, Prosecutor Wade Kizer launches right in with, what he says, is Piper's chilling motive: it all came down to money. He says Piper was tired of struggling to pay child support to her ex. So, he says she killed him.

When the defense attorney Murray Janus has his turn, he tells jurors the state's explanation of a motive doesn't add up. And more importantly, Janus says there isn't anyone who can put Piper at the crime scene.

Janus didn't dispute the state's claim that there was a lot of evidence showing someone planned this murder, but he suggested that the wrong Rountree sister is on trial.

"There's one name you're gonna hear over and over and over again, and that's the name of Tina Rountree," Janus says.

And he says all the evidence will point to her. "I think you'll hear evidence that Tina had certainly at one time a gun herself, a .38 caliber. You won't hear any evidence that Piper Rountree owned a gun," he says.

While Piper is obviously aware of her attorney's defense strategy, she wouldn't flat out accuse her sister of murder when she spoke with Dow before the trial.

Asked by Dow if Tina killed Fred, Piper says "I don't know." She admitted that Tina would have a motive.

With the trial underway, prosecutors call Walters to the stand to help show that Piper hatched an elaborate plan to get away with murder. Using the bank account Walters had opened for her, prosecutors say Piper purchased that blonde wig – and they say Piper wore it the weekend of the murder – so it would look like her sister, Tina, committed the crime.

And prosecutors say Piper used Walters' card to buy that ticket, booked in her sister's name, to fly to and from the murder.

Kathy Molly – the agent – remembers selling a ticket to a woman using the name Rountree and for the first time in court a witness is able to identify Piper. And, in fact, Molly says the brunette checked in – as a blonde.

That's not all. Molly's biggest surprise? She says Piper was carrying the murder weapon. Asked if she remembered something unusual, Molly says, "Nothing, she was going to check a firearm."

But that gun wasn't the prosecution's smoking gun. After doing their best to show it was Piper – not her sister Tina – who flew to Richmond two days before the murder, prosecutors present more evidence that they say shows Piper stayed there until right after the murder.

That evidence? Piper's cell phone records, showing calls were made from Richmond all weekend. But now they have to prove it was Piper – not someone else – who was actually using that phone.

Looking at cell phone records, detectives saw that a call was made to a pizza chain store. Records from the pizza store indicated that a delivery was made to a person named Rountree at a hotel.

That led Det. Chuck Hannah to the hotel manager, who remembers the guest in Room 171.

The manager said the woman had a reservation under the name Tina Rountree, but identified Piper as the hotel guest in court.

And then a second eyewitness takes the stand. Raymond Seward says he saw Piper on Saturday morning, just a few hours after Fred's murder.

He remembers Piper returning a car to his rental agency near the airport - the same airport where that flight carrying a passenger named Tina Rountree would later take off.

And if eyewitness testimony wasn’t enough to put Piper in Richmond, prosecutors say they have Piper caught on tape. They say the woman seen walking into a Richmond gas station is Piper, in disguise.

It's a mountain of evidence that they hope will knock down any suggestion that it was Tina in Richmond the weekend of the murder.

Now prosecutors take their case one step further. They set out to show how Piper made sure that when she shot Fred she wouldn’t miss.

Prosecutors called a witness — Mac McClenahan, who, they say, will show Piper had planned the murder in advance.

Mac worked with Piper and in Oct. 2004 was Tina's boyfriend.

On one of their rides home together, the week of the murder, Mac told Piper he was going to stop at a shooting range after he dropped her off.

On the stand, Mac says Piper told him she wanted to come along to the gun range.

After shooting a few rounds with Mac, Piper returned to the front desk and exchanged the gun she was shooting for a different-caliber weapon — the same type of weapon used to gun down Fred: a .38 revolver.

A couple days after the murder, Mac ran into Piper in Houston.

"I told her I was sorry. To hear what had happened. And she hugged me and said, 'I love you.' And then she said 'Please don't say anything about the gun range, it'll just complicate things,'" Mac testified.

With one of their last witnesses, prosecutors deal a final blow to Piper. It turns out the alibi Piper thought she had for the night before the murder had fallen through.

Kevin O'Keefe — who'd originally thought he'd seen Piper at a bar on Friday night —told jurors he was mistaken. In fact, it was Saturday night, the night after the murder.

"Were you in the Volcano at all on Friday," he was asked. "No," O'Keefe replied.

After being battered by the dozens of witnesses against her, Piper – a former prosecutor - knows she's in real trouble. And now she has to make one of the most important decisions of her life: should she take the stand?

Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 7 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)

After listening to the 49 witnesses testifying against her, with the state's case finished, Piper was looking like a goner.

Piper realized she had only one option: She took the stand.

Piper, who says she realizes the risk of testifying, took the stand on the fourth day of the trial, only four months after Fred was shot dead.

Piper tried to answer to a jury. Her defense lawyer, Murray Janus cut straight to the chase. Asked by her attorney whether she killed Fred, she replied on the stand, "I did not."

"When did you first learn that Fred Jablin had been shot and killed?" Janus asked.

"That evening," she answered.

In a small, shaky voice, Piper would testify it was impossible for her to shoot Fred in Virginia, because at the time of the murder she was in Texas.

But it wasn’t just Piper's whereabouts she and her defense team would use as an alibi. Their strategy was based on showing the jury what kind of person Piper really is.

Piper told jurors the last thing she'd do is hurt her kids. "Yes, it was not an easy divorce. But I had no right to take away the children's father," she testifies. "The children need both parents."

When it came to her alibi about being at the Volcano Bar, she insisted she was there that Friday before the murder — even though Kevin O'Keefe had told prosecutors he wasn't even there that Friday night.

Piper still insisted she was at the bar and said she even ended flirting and drinking with a stranger. But when it came time for the prosecution's cross-examination, Piper came up short on answers, starting with the bitter reality of her divorce from Fred.

The prosecution would take the jury down a trail, starting at the airport, where no one denies Piper's car was parked the weekend of Jablin’s murder.

"Can you explain why the records from the Houston Hobby Airport show that your vehicle was in their parking lot on Thursday and Friday and Saturday?" she was asked.

"No. I have no explanation," Piper replied.

Then there were the guns — guns that authorities say Piper practiced with when she and her friend Mac went to a Houston target range just days before Fred was shot with a .38.

There were also were the wigs. "You wanted the blonde wig so bad that when you got the box with the paprika wig in it and with a note saying they didn’t have it in stock and you’d have to pay an additional charge, you said, 'Send it anyway. I want it.' Correct?'" she was asked.

"Tina had wanted it," she testified, admitting paying the extra money for the wig.

Asked if she wants the jury to think that Tina committed the murder, Piper says, "I have no idea what happened."

But then there was the evidence that seemed to physically pinpoint Piper near the scene of the murder: hotel records and the receipts from her bank card — a card Piper now claimed had been stolen.

Then there was the trail where time was tracked to the second — cell phone records showing Piper's phone being used in Virginia at the time of the murder.

She claimed to have lost it on Tuesday but to have found it Saturday at Tina's house. Confronted with the theory she is trying to convince jurors Tina committed the murder, Piper says, "No."

Still, Piper had that other alibi for the afternoon of the murder: Marty McVey.

McVey testified he saw Piper in his Houston office, around 4:30 p.m. Marty was Piper's best witness, because it was physically impossible for her to have been in his office at the exact same time police say she was still on a jet returning from murdering Fred.

Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Paige Aiken, who covered the story, wound up being part of the story itself. She'd testify about what Marty McVey told her.

Aiken would swear that McVey told her that Piper had visited him Sunday, Oct. 31, not Saturday, Oct. 30.

But put back on the witness stand, McVey stuck to his story and his dates.

The prosecution had made its case. The defense had tried to rebut.
Piper seemed dazed and exhausted.

She admitted to Dow that she was afraid.


Two Wigs, A Gun And A Murder
When A Professor Is Gunned Down, The Clues Are Stranger Than The Crime

(Page 8 of 8)Aug. 5, 2006
Fred Jablin, a beloved University of Richmond professor and devoted father, was gunned down in his driveway on Oct. 30, 2004. (CBS)

Throughout Piper's murder trial, the brother of the victim has watched closely, in disbelief. In his mind, there was no doubt Piper is guilty. "And I was very sad about the whole thing, hearing it, about how somebody with such a high level of education could have plotted such an event," he says.

Piper's mother, Betty Rountree, sat in the courtroom every day. She couldn't believe her youngest daughter is a killer. "Do I think she’s guilty? Is this what you’re saying? No I do not."

Jurors deliberated for less than an hour before reaching a guilty verdict. No one seemed surprised, not even Piper.

Within an hour, the jury heard more testimony and then would recommend her sentence – anywhere from 20 years to life.

Piper's mom pleads leniency for her daughter — so the children who have already lost their father won't lose their mother, too.

In less than an hour, the jury decides to recommend the harshest penalty — life imprisonment for first-degree murder.

Within minutes of the verdict, Dow talked to Piper in a holding cell. "I think I'm still in shock," she says.

Has reality hit yet? "Not so much," she says. "Somewhat. I don’t know."

In spite of all the evidence and the jury’s swift verdict, Piper still insists she's innocent.

Piper seems to be in denial about the verdict and about the future with her children. "I just love them and miss them," she says. "And want to talk to them."

What kind of mother would do this?

"I don't know what kind of mother would leave them without a father and without a mother," says Michael Jablin. "It's very hard to understand that. It's very sad when you have to think about that."

The verdict may be in. But what was the jury thinking as they watched the halting testimony of Piper?

"That was the most serious moment in the trial for me. It was the nail in the coffin," says juror Bruce Ladd.

"The four or five words we got out of her weren't a lot and they weren’t convincing," says fellow juror Joel Howell.

"It was kind of odd when she took the stand she could turn her tears on and off during her testimony," recalls juror Timothy James.

Of all the evidence against her, what was it that sealed Piper’s fate?

Ladd and James say the cell phone evidence was key.

And what of Tina, the sister Piper pretended to be, the sister many people say was Piper's best friend?

"It’s impossible to know if Tina knew that Piper was going on a trip to murder her ex-husband. But based on how close they were, it's hard to imagine that Tina was not knowledgeable in some sense that something very serious was going to take place," says Ladd.

Why did jurors give her life in prison?

Says Ladd, "We didn’t want ever want her to come back into her children's lives."

Still the mystery remains: why did she do it?


Michael Jablin now has legal custody of Fred and Piper's three children. Piper will be eligible for release in 2020. She will be 60 years old.