Ernest Scherer III, a professional poker player accused of killing his parents for financial gain in March 2008, testified in his own defense this morning in his Alameda County Superior Court murder trial.
Scherer, 32, faces two counts of murder for the deaths of Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, at their Castlewood Country Club home in Pleasanton.
In his second day of testimony, Scherer continued a run-through of his background under questioning by his attorney, Richard Foxall.
Scherer described his family life, including his relationships with his parents and wife, Robyn, from 2003 when he began playing poker full time. Around this time, his marriage was on the rocks.
"Robyn and I never fought…we just didn't have a lot in common and had parallel lives," he said. Around Christmas, Scherer began to seriously consider divorce but decided to stay together because "Robyn was pregnant and very, very opposed to getting divorced."
During Robyn Scherer's testimony on Tuesday, Feb. 15, prosecution played a recorded cell phone conversation between the then-husband and wife in which Scherer asked Robyn to postpone divorcing him, because "a wife can't be forced to testify against her husband."
Scherer testified that while his marriage was rocky, his relationship with his parents was stable even after telling his mother that he was no longer a practicing Mormon.
"We love each other, we just didn't see eye to eye on religion…(or) the poker thing," he said.
Scherer and his father, however, attended poker tournaments in Las Vegas and often shared the same room. Scherer testified that his father was aware of his extramarital affair with Adrian Solomon, though the two were never formally introduced.
In 2004, Scherer and his family moved to Torrance, where he "very much" wanted to get a fresh start. He said he stayed in Southern California exclusively during this time, opting to work on his marriage and raise his infant son.
Scherer testified that while he and his wife had promised to make more of effort to develop common interests, promises fell short in 2005. When Scherer again brought up divorce, Robyn refused and Scherer said he would begin to travel more.
He testified that in 2006, he was caught counting cards and banned from playing blackjack at several Las Vegas casinos, including the Bellaggio, MGM Grand, Paris and the Rio.
Scherer was also banned from playing blackjack at Caesars Palace for counting cards, but he took advantage of a complimentary room and gave a detailed account of how to get free rooms, show tickets and meals by betting a specific way.
Also that year, Scherer testified, he took a trip to Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico, with Solomon. At the time, he was still married to Robyn.
He said that while in Mexico, he researched buying a gun in order to bring it back to the United States. Foxall asked Scherer why he would look into buying a gun in Mexico and avoid registering it in California.
Scherer replied, "If you don't want to legitimize paranoia, why does the government need to know who owns guns?"
He continued to tell the court that he and his father were opposed to big government and said gun registration laws are often unconstitutional.
Scherer then testified that in 2007, he looked into buying a house in Brea, Calif. He began moving cash from a safe-deposit box into his bank account, he said.
He testified that he hadn't deposited the cash into his account earlier because he hadn't declared the money as income.
The decomposing bodies of Scherer Jr., a real estate investor, and Abendroth, an accounting lecturer who taught for more than 30 years at California State University East Bay in Hayward, were found at their home on March 14, 2008. The couple had been brutally beaten and stabbed.
In the days before the slaying of his parents, and while his wife was in Sacramento attending a party, Scherer testified that he headed to Las Vegas, where he placed a Craigslist ad in the hope of meeting a woman "to go on a date." Not long after placing his ad, he was exchanging emails and calling Pamela Waters, although Scherer said little in court about that date.
In addition to the two counts of murder, Scherer faces two special-circumstance allegations of multiple murder and murder for financial gain.
He is also charged with two use-of-a-deadly-weapon clauses for allegedly using a sharp instrument in the murders.
Prosecutor Michael Nieto told jurors in his opening statement that he believes Ernest Scherer III killed his parents on the night of March 7, 2008, because he faced financial pressure from his gambling debts in Las Vegas and from the purchase of the home in Brea.
The defense is working its way chronologically though the days leading up to the crime. Scherer is likely to get to March 7, 2008 when he continues his testimony Monday.