It was in October 2000, and the Richmond County investigator was sitting across the table from Reinaldo Rivera, who was wanted in the rape and attempted murder of Chrisilee Barton.
Roundtree, now the sheriff, was working the case with veteran Investigator Wayne Bunton. He said he had a question burning in the back of his head. Witnesses had reported seeing Rivera leave the crime scene, only to return moments later. Rivera waited for about five minutes before leaving for the final time.
“His response was, ‘Because Marni lived so long,’” he said. “Me and Bunton almost hit the floor because we didn’t expect that at all.”
A month earlier, another victim of Rivera – Army Sgt. Marni Glista – was found clinging to life inside her home and died days later. Through further interrogation of Rivera, Roundtree and Bunton learned about the slayings of three other women: Tabitha Bosdell, Tiffany Wilson and Melissa Dingess.
Tonight, Rivera’s story will be the feature of an episode of Southern Fried Homicide, which runs on Investigation Discovery, a subsidiary of the Discovery Channel. The episode, Directions to Hell, will feature interviews with Roundtree and Georgia Regents University professor Kim Davies. It will air at 10 p.m.
A majority of the filming took place in February, with Roundtree and Davies narrating the story as they knew it. Crews filmed at Georgia Regents University, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and at a local bed-and-breakfast.
Roundtree, who had been a violent-crimes investigator for only a year, said the case sticks out in his mind because of how normal Rivera appeared. He wasn’t physically imposing and was often described as effeminate.
He was also very smart, which is why Roundtree said he thinks Rivera was successful at luring his victims.
During his interrogation sessions, Roundtree said, he was floored by how remorseless Rivera sounded as he recounted his crimes.
“You’re listening to this person talk about rape and murder like we would order a Whopper with cheese,” he said. “That’s how easy it flowed from him. He wanted to talk about it.”
Davies, the chairwoman of the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Social Work, was called on to share her expertise in the field of murder and violence against women. She said the Rivera case is of particular interest because serial killers aren’t as prevalent in society as many might think.
Having been in Augusta during the time of the Rivera’s murder trial, she said, she took full advantage of seeing the anomaly firsthand.
“I thought, ‘Wow, there’s not many times, thankfully, that one has the opportunity to see the trial of a serial killer,’ ” Davies said. “I decided that I would go and watch as much as I could. So when I wasn’t in the class teaching, I was in the courtroom.”
Serial killers are rare enough that nearly 95 percent of all law enforcement officers will work their entire career without handling a single case involving one, Roundtree said.
He said the episode will try to send the message that heinous crimes aren’t restricted to large municipalities.
“What people have to see is that things happen here,” he said. “We get so complacent and think that crime can only happen in big cities.”
Echoing Roundtree’s sentiment, Davies said she is interested in exploring the long-lasting sociological impact of the case in the Augusta area.
“It’s atypical from a lot of other cases because most of the time we see women who are murdered, they are murdered by people they know,” she said. “This was something different. As a sociologist, (I was) curious about a case like this. What were the repercussions? What was going on in our community? How were people responding?”