updated 2/26/2005 11:46:58 PM ET 2005-02-27T04:46:58

Jurors deliberated less than one hour Saturday before convicting the former wife of a University of Richmond professor of murdering him in an “ambush” slaying.

Piper Rountree, 45, was convicted of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for the Oct. 30 murder of Fredric Jablin, who was shot outside his home in a Richmond suburb.

Jurors recommended she be sentenced to life in prison — the maximum sentence. Formal sentencing was scheduled for May 6.

Prosecutors said Rountree killed Jablin, 52, because she was intent on regaining custody of the couple’s three children and cashing in Jablin’s $200,000 insurance policy.

Jablin died after suffering a gunshot wound to the torso from what prosecutors believe was a .38-caliber revolver, the same type of gun they allege Rountree practiced with at ranges in Houston.

Circumstantial case
Defense attorney Murray Janus afterward repeated that the prosecution’s case was circumstantial. Janus had told jurors that none of the prosecution’s nearly 60 witnesses put Rountree at the scene of the killing.

“You’ve got a lot of circumstantial evidence ... but you don’t have any evidence at all that Piper Rountree shot and killed Fredric Jablin,” Janus had said.

He had scoffed at prosecution evidence of cell phone records that put Rountree in Richmond at the time of Jablin’s killing. Rountree had testified Friday she was at her home in Houston the day of Jablin’s killing.

“This killing was an ambush. It was an execution,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Wade Kizer told jurors during closing arguments earlier Saturday.

Kizer said the two had a “contentious” divorce in 2002.

“Wouldn’t it be devastating for any mother to lose custody of their children?” Kizer asked. “And she lost it. She didn’t get it and Fred Jablin did.”

He said she was thousands of dollars behind in child support payments and broke.

The judge rejected a defense motion to let jurors consider a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

The couple’s three children are in the custody of Jablin’s brother.

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