The son of a couple brutally killed in their Castlewood home last March was looking to cash in on a lucrative inheritance, investigators revealed today.
Ernest Scherer III, 30, was arrested Monday night in Las Vegas and waived extradition to the Bay Area Tuesday night, arriving by plane at midnight. He was taken for questioning by Alameda County Sheriff's investigators to San Leandro and was booked into Santa Rita Jail Wednesday morning. He is scheduled to go before a judge for arraignment at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland at 2 p.m. Thursday. As of this morning, Sgt. Scott Dudek of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department said he had not retained a lawyer.
Scherer III was charged Tuesday with two counts of murder and two special circumstances clauses that could lead to the death penalty for the deaths of his parents at their country club home in March 2008, according to Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff.
According to an arrest affidavit, Dudek wrote that Scherer III killed for financial gain. That gain was to the tune of $1.5 million, the estimated inheritance Scherer would have received upon turning 30, in the event his parents were deceased. Scherer III turned 30 years old July 3, nearly three months after his parents' deaths.
Scherer Jr., 60, dabbled in poker, but made a living in real estate investments. His son was more professionally involved on the gaming circuit, having participated at least once in the World Series of Poker. Gambling websites list Scherer III's career earnings as more than $330,000.
But despite his winnings, the son was in a state of financial collapse. Dudek said the son was known to have debts. The affidavit states that Scherer III's parents lent him more than $600,000 to purchase a condominium in Brea, Calif., where he had been living at the time of the murders with his wife and young son. Property taxes and monthly mortgages went unpaid as Scherer III and his wife accumulated credit card debt of more than $40,000, the affidavit reports.
Since the murders, Scherer III moved around, living in Utah, Mississippi and Las Vegas, where he was apprehended.
Other damning details in court records state that he attempted to purchase a gun days before the killings. His cell phone records showed that there was no activity for a total of 17 hours during the time police believe Scherer Jr. and Charlene Abendroth, 57, were brutally beaten and stabbed with a sharp object. Investigators, who have declined to discuss the murder weapon(s), believe the pair were killed March 7, sometime after returning home from a dinner at the Castlewood Country Club. Scherer Jr. missed a meeting he had scheduled for 8 a.m. the next morning.
The couple's daughter, Catherine Gray, asked a country club worker to check on them after she became concerned having not heard from them in a week. A worker visited the home on March 14 and could see Scherer Jr.'s body through a window. Abendroth's body, clad in pajamas as was her husband, was found in a nearby room. The affidavit says when investigators asked Scherer III to explain the silence in cell phone usage, he said his battery had died.
The couple had lived in the home, located near the first hole of the Hill Course on Castlewood Drive, for nearly two years. They purchased it from the parents of professional LPGA golfer Paula Creamer. Previously, they had lived in San Ramon for a number of years.
As late as Monday, sheriff's investigators declined to officially name Scherer III a suspect, calling him a "person of interest," but their suspicions mounted on the son as they ruled out other close family members, friends and acquaintances. Scherer Jr. was actively involved in the Republican Party and was a former San Ramon Valley school board member who was recalled in the 1990s and up until his death, remained involved in school issues. Abendroth had been an accounting and lecturing professor at Cal State East Bay. She was also an active member of the Mormon Church,where the funeral service was held. Abendroth's friend Linda Lea Hurley remembered her at her services as terribly bright and quite outspoken, someone who inspired other Mormon women to become more involved in church affairs.
Funeral services were held for the couple March 22 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pleasanton, where Abendroth was a devoted member. In tributes, friends and family members recalled how the couple had a passion for traveling, hiking and birding. Their feats ranged from climbing Half Dome to leading bird expeditions from Turkey to Ecuador to traveling extensively across all seven continents.
Scherer Jr.'s sister Carolyn Scherer Oesterle said the family was close knit. Scherer Jr. taught his daughter Catherine the winning strategies of board games and encouraged his son to play soccer. Even though he didn't know a thing about soccer, Scherer Jr. bought books about the game, studied the plays and eventually became a soccer coach for many of the years his son played the sport.
She also talked about all the Ernies in the Scherer family. Having Ernie Sr. and Ernie Jr. was difficult enough, so the family nicknamed Ernest III "Skip" to lessen the confusion. Then, she added, Skip named his first-born son Ernie IV. The four Ernies always posed for a photo of themselves at the frequent family gatherings Scherer Jr. was fond of arranging.
Scherer III attended his parents' funeral and was said to have shown little emotion. The same day as the services, investigators served a search warrant his Brea home in Orange County and collected evidence.
Early on, investigators also focused on a reported security video showing a red Chevy Camaro seen in the neighborhood at the time of the killings. Residents of the relatively quiet and shellshocked country club community were asked if they had seen that vehicle. Department of Motor Vehicle records show that color, make and model car registered to Scherer III.
The arraignment is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Department 112 at the courthouse at 661 Washington St. in Oakland. Dudek said the hearing was schedule in Oakland because that location is better equipped to handle larger-scale cases than the smaller Pleasanton courthouse on Stoneridge Drive.
Jeb Bing and Bay City News contributed to this report.