Castlewood in cold blood
Double homicides shock local community as investigators continue to follow leads
The golf course community of Castlewood is in a state of shock after a husband and wife were discovered dead in what authorities described as a gruesome crime scene.
The couple was brutally beaten to death, according to police.
At a press conference held Monday afternoon at the Alameda County Sheriff's Department Dublin headquarters, Sgt. Scott Dudek said police weren't releasing any motives to the killings.
Ernest Scherer, Jr., 60, and his wife, Charlene Abendroth, 57, married for 31 years, were found last Friday toward the front part of their 4,000-square-foot, two-story home at 18 Castlewood Drive. Dudek said the sheriff's office received a call that an employee of the Castlewood Country Club had seen Scherer's motionless body from a window of the home. The employee checked on the home after the couple's daughter had asked them to do so. Dudek said the daughter became suspicious and concerned because she spoke with her parents every day and hadn't heard from them in a week. The family is offering a $25,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information leading to an arrest or arrests.
Police believe the couple had been dead for a week.
"We believe they left the Castlewood Country Club from dinner at approximately 8 p.m. on March 7," Dudek said. "We believe they were killed sometime after leaving that dinner when they returned to their house at 8 o'clock and Mr. Scherer had missed a meeting that he had scheduled for Saturday morning, so it's very probable that the murder occurred sometime after 8 o'clock."
The couple were found in their pajamas.
Dudek said he doesn't believe that the incident was random, although police haven't ruled that out.
"Do I believe it was random? No. Do I have proof? No," he said.
Police have canvassed the hillside enclave of Castlewood, which is unincorporated, handing out questionnaires in an attempt to see if residents had seen any people not known to the area or suspicious vehicles.
"There's one way in Castlewood and there's only one way out pretty much to get back to the main road," Dudek said. "That could be a huge factor for us in detecting to solve this double homicide."
Scherer Jr. often tried his hand in poker, but his son was much more involved as a pro poker player who had at least once played in the World Series of Poker. One Web site lists Ernest Scherer III's earnings at more than $300,000.
Dudek declined to answer a claim that Scherer Jr. kept large amounts of cash in the home.
"I'm not going to confirm or deny that for safety reasons," Dudek said. "It has been reported on [gambling911.com] and some of the other Web sites that he was in fact being referred to a professional poker player. I don't believe that's accurate that he was a professional poker player. His main business interests were buying and selling property."
Dudek went on to say that there were some items in the house that were disturbed but declined to say if police thought it was a burglary or "made to look like a burglary."
He added that police don't believe that Scherer Jr. had any gambling debts.
Dudek declined to comment on whether the son had any.
The couple had lived in the home for nearly two years. They purchased the home, located near the first hole of the Hill Course, from the parents of professional LPGA golfer Paula Creamer. Previously, they had lived in San Ramon for a number of years.
Scherer Jr. was a board member of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District from 1988 to 1990, when he was recalled, as well as an active member of the California Republican Party, and police are looking into these leads for possible motives.
Terry Koehne, spokesman for the school district, said investigators came to the district's offices in Danville last Friday.
"When they looked through the home, that there was documentation pertaining to the school district and they wanted information about what Ernie's history was with the school district," he said.
Koehne said he last saw Scherer in the district offices about a week and a half ago.
"He was gathering information about a measure that the school district's putting on the ballot in June--(we were) just assuming that he was starting to wage an opposition campaign," he said.
While Scherer's visits to the school district declined after he moved to Pleasanton, he still came in from time to time.
"He was an activist for his own personal cause," Koehne, who had known him for 12 years, said. "He had a rather tumultuous past when it came to his relationship with the school district. He was very outspoken. There were times where he would be absolutely relentless and then other times where you would think that he would surface and provide some vocal opposition but didn't."
Scherer donated $250 in the November 2006 re-election campaign for Danville Councilwoman Karen Stepper, who served on the school board with him.
"It's very disturbing," Stepper said of the news of his death. "He was passionate about this valley and standing up for his principles."
She said that Abendroth was her instructor at Cal State East Bay when she was studying toward her CPA.
"I probably knew her first but didn't know they were related," Stepper said.
She said the couple had been traveling a lot recently.
In a statement to the media, university officials said they are deeply saddened to hear the news of their deaths.
"This is a heartbreaking tragedy and a tremendous loss for Cal State East Bay," said President Mohammad Qayoumi. "Charlene Abendroth dedicated more than 30 years to teaching Cal State East Bay students and was a friend and valued colleague to countless faculty and staff."
Abendroth was a co-adviser of the Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Association, a Cal State East Bay student organization that has posted a tribute on its Web site, www.cbe.csueastbay.edu/bap/.
Marty Sborov, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, said the couple, especially Abendroth, always wanted to live in Castlewood.
"It was their dream to live here, in the wooded environment," she said. "It seems like it became the worst environment."
Sborov said residents in the hillside community of about 170 homes are "devastated and don't know how to react."
Anyone with information is asked to either call Sgt. Dudek at 510-667-7478 or call the anonymous tip line at 510-667-3622.
Emily Atwood and Dolores Fox Ciardelli contributed to this report.