A professional poker player accused of murdering his parents at their country club home just outside Pleasanton in March 2008 was upset that his father initially hadn't helped him buy a house, his 93-year-old grandfather testified Wednesday.
Taking the witness stand in the preliminary hearing for 31-year-old Ernest Scherer III in Alameda County Superior Court yesterday, Ernest Scherer Sr. said his grandson "felt there was favoritism" because the poker player's father had helped his sister buy a house.
However, Scherer Sr. said his son, Ernest Scherer Jr., eventually helped his grandson buy a house in Brea in Orange County.
Scherer III is accused of two counts of murder for the deaths of Scherer Jr., 60, and his wife, Charlene Abendroth, 57, an accounting lecturer who taught for more than 30 years at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, inside their Castlewood Country Club home just outside the city limits of Pleasanton on March 14, 2008.
Scherer III also faces two special circumstance allegations that could bring him the death penalty: multiple murder and murder for financial gain. In addition, he's charged with two use of a deadly weapon clauses for allegedly using a sharp instrument to kill his parents.
Scherer III wasn't arrested and charged until late February, about 11 months after his parents were killed.
The purpose of the preliminary hearing, which will resume next Monday, is to determine if there's enough evidence to have Scherer III stand trial.
Scherer Sr., whose testimony was videotaped in case he doesn't live long enough to testify at his grandson's trial, if there is one, said a month or two after his son and his wife were murdered his grandson "asked that I give his wife money."
Scherer Sr. said his grandson's wife "was looking for a substantial amount of money to pay her mortgage, bills and property tax."
Referring to his grandson, he said, "I felt it was his responsibility, not hers" and didn't give him any money.
Scherer Sr. said he called a local law enforcement agency when he returned to his home in Laguna Niguel in Orange County the afternoon of June 18, 2008, three months after his son and his wife were murdered, and noticed that his grandson's car was parked there.
He said he told an officer, "There was a serious problem with my family because there was a murder and my grandson was a suspect and I didn't want him in my house."
Scherer Sr. said the officer removed his grandson from his house but he didn't press charges for kidnapping.
He said his grandson's relationship with his mother "was not very good" and his grandson "did not show any love or affection for her."
Scherer Sr. said the reason the relationship between his grandson and his mother wasn't good is that "she was a good Mormon and was very much against his gambling."
He said his grandson's wife also objected to him playing poker.
Scherer Sr. said his grandson usually played poker in Las Vegas but also played at other locations.
According to Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. Scott Dudek, one of the lead investigators in the case, Ernest Scherer Jr. dabbled in playing poker for small amounts of money but made his money in real estate.
But Dudek said Scherer III was a professional gambler whose sole source of income was gambling. He also said Scherer III was known to have debts.
Scherer Sr., who was dressed in a brown suit, said he often played recreational bridge with his grandson at senior centers in Orange County.