The actions of Ernest Scherer III following the murder of his parents led family members to suspect that he was responsible for the deaths, according to testimony in court this week.
Scherer is charged in the March 2008 deaths of his parents, Ernest Scherer Jr. and Charlene Abendroth, who were bludgeoned and stabbed at their home on Castlewood Drive.
In court Tuesday, Scherer's aunt, Carolyn Oesterle, testified she had volunteered to pay for his defense but then his behavior -- suggesting he hide out and providing her with a secret email account -- led her to reconsider.
"I said, 'If you run, I will not pay for an attorney,'" Oesterle told the jury.
Despite their relationship, neither made eye contact with the other during Oesterle's testimony, and she referred to Scherer not by his name but as "the defendant."
She described Scherer's unusual behavior following the killings; in one case, she glimpsed him fist-pumping behind her back when she said she didn't think he was involved in the deaths. Oesterle also told the jury that her nephew worried from the beginning that police would suspect him.
"Why would they come after you?" Oesterle said she asked Scherer during a walk following the funeral. "Because I'm an heir," she said he replied.
"But you couldn't have done anything like that," Oesterle responded.
She said Scherer was walking slightly behind her when she glanced back toward him and saw the gesture.
"I saw him do, 'Yes! I knew it!'" she recalled. "As soon as I turned, he went into a totally placid face."
Oesterle also testified that her brother's estate was valued at more than $1.1 million and that Abendroth's estate came to nearly $1.6 million, and that Scherer immediately began to try to get his hands on the inheritance.
She said Scherer hired two attorneys -- one as early as April 2008, just a month after the slayings -- in an effort to gain access to his parents' wills and assets.
Oesterle also recounted a telephone conversation with a police investigator, in which she was told her brother and sister-in-law suffered before they died. Scherer, who was there during the call, got on the line.
"He asked her when he could get into the house," Oesterle testified, adding he didn't like the answer.
After the funeral, she said she went with Scherer and his wife Robyn to the Castlewood home "to see where the bodies were."
"There were marks on the wall and he said, 'Somebody was swinging something,'" Oesterle testified.
It was only later that Scherer became hard to find, according to Oesterle, who said he had no permanent address and that he was staying in motels or with friends. At one point, she testified, he told her he was considering camping in Connecticut.
"He said maybe the best thing to do was to go somewhere where nobody knew where he was but he could keep in touch by email," Oesterle told the jury, referring to the secret email address he'd given her.
Scherer's attorney, public defender Richard Foxall, has consistently maintained that police singled his client out from the start and never considered other potential suspects.