Posts of praise linked to officer

Since Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Richard Roundtree came under scrutiny over mislaid files, "GratefulMother" has stuck up for him, posting messages on The Augusta Chronicle's Web site about how he solved the murder of her son and how the disciplinary action was much ado about nothing.

But a check of The Chronicle's records shows the "GratefulMother" account was established in 2003 by someone using Investigator Roundtree's work e-mail address. The investigator's name, a birth date and the address of the sheriff's office -- 401 Walton Way -- are linked to the account.

When shown the entries, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said they would not appear to violate the law or sheriff's office policy if Investigator Roundtree is responsible.

"I don't think it would be anything that internal affairs would be opening a case on in terms of a policy violation, but we would definitely be disappointed," he said.

He requested that the county's information technology department attempt to determine whether the entries came from a county-issued laptop that was given to Investigator Roundtree before he left for FBI training in Quantico, Va., earlier this year. However, officials said they did not have the ability to track the postings to the laptop, according to Sheriff Strength.

The entries appear under several stories detailing the investigation into the former sergeant and his subsequent demotion. Investigator Roundtree was disciplined after leaving boxes of "cold case" murder files, SWAT gear and a personal firearm and ammunition in an apartment he moved out of this year. The investigation concluded with him being demoted and placed on five days of unpaid suspension and 12-months' probation.

The Chronicle Web site allows registered users to sign in with a username and password that gives them access to stories online and the ability to add comments to the bottom of news stories.

In post after post, "GratefulMother" says she is a supporter of Investigator Roundtree because when her son was murdered he "worked day and night to catch his killer."

The writer calls the investigation into the missing files "ridiculus" (sic). In one posting dated Aug. 12, 2008, the writer chastises Sheriff Strength for the investigation.

"Shame on you Sheriff Strength for allowing one of your best employees to be treated this way," the post stated.

So far, Investigator Roundtree has refused to comment on the entries. An e-mail from his account sent to The Chronicle on Wednesday night requested his account be removed because he believes someone is illegally accessing it.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, the display name on the account was changed to (?). The newspaper has frozen the account to prevent further changes.

According to Jonathan Dozier, The Chronicle's online director, there are two ways someone could access another's account, aside from hacking into the company's system. One is by guessing the username and password to gain access to the Web site. The other could occur if someone did not log out of the site and someone else accessed it through the same computer.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

See the comments that were posted online


TIMELINE

"Gratefulmother" began posting on The AugustaChronicle Web site on June 3 under a story about Investigator Richard Roundtree's involvement with Dad's in Action, a group that provides male mentoring for area middle-school students. "Gratefulmother" has posted 24 comments over the past four months.. The majority of the entries regard Investigator Roundtree and are comments on stories about an ongoing investigation into the files of seven murder cases left in his former apartment. Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, the display name on the account was changed to (?). To read the posts, go to augustachronicle.com/metro

SUSPICIOUS POSTINGS

"Gratefulmother" began posting on The Chronicle's Web site June 3 under a story about Investigator Richard Roundtree's involvement with Dads in Action, a group that provides male mentoring for area middle school pupils. "Gratefulmother" has posted 24 comments over the past four months. The majority of the entries regard Investigator Roundtree and are comments on stories about an ongoing investigation into the files of seven murder cases left in his former apartment. Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, the display name on the account was changed to (?).