In Las Vegas, he was Ernie Scherer, a single guy in Sin City playing in the professional poker circuit and going on double dates at night clubs, a former friend of the accused murderer testified in court yesterday.
But that life was decidedly different than the one he was leading in Brea, Calif., where he was a married father of one.
The lies kept piling up after that, according to testimony from Bill Kraus, who met Ernest Scherer III, 31, two and a half years ago.
Kraus, a piano player and musician at a night club inside the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, said he befriended Scherer after he came to a few of his shows. After he welcomed Scherer back with his date to the show on the microphone, Scherer later told him "just so you know, this is a different girl," which elicited a smile from the defendant, appearing gaunt and in red jail clothes Tuesday at the Renee C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.
Scherer is accused of two counts of murder for the brutal beating deaths of his parents, Ernest Scherer, Jr., 60, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, in their Castlewood home in March 2008. He faces two special circumstance clauses--multiple murder and murder for financial gain--that could give him the death penalty. Monday's testimony starts the second week of pre-trial proceedings to see if there is enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial.
Kraus said he and Scherer became fast friends, playing basketball and golf, betting on sports games and going on dates with their girlfriends. For a while, Kraus said Scherer was dating mainly one woman by the name of Adrianne Solomon, who was from North Carolina. Later, around the time of the killings, he began taking a new woman out to Kraus's club.
Kraus said Scherer seemed to be enjoying himself, saying "dating was fun." When Kraus was hired for an all-expenses-paid gig in Puerto Rico, he called up Scherer on his layover in Florida and within minutes, the defendant was packing his bags to join him. When he wasn't performing, Kraus said the two "went out virtually every night," meeting two women in the capital city of San Juan. Kraus said he headed back to Las Vegas after five days, but Scherer stayed two more nights so he could meet up with Solomon.
A few weeks before the March 7 killings, Kraus testified that Scherer approached him about buying a gun for him. He said he told him some poker players he knew had been robbed and he wanted the weapon for protection. Kraus said he'd consider it, and they later went to Pahrump, a town an hour outside of Las Vegas, to a gun shop. But after Kraus said he spoke with the gun shop salesman about transferring ownership to Scherer's name and hearing that there could be some gray areas in legality, he told Scherer he couldn't do it. Scherer told him he understood and "didn't say hardly a word" on the car ride home.
Kraus said he received a text message from Scherer the day the bodies of Scherer Jr. and Abendroth were discovered, saying he had a family emergency and needed to go back to California. When pressed in a phone call, Scherer told him calmly "there was a robbery at my parents' house and they were murdered," Kraus testified.
"If it was me, I'd be crushed and he seemed so well put-together," Kraus said.
A few weeks after the bodies were found and the investigation ensued, two Alameda County Sheriff's investigators traveled to Las Vegas to interview Kraus. Scherer visited Kraus later that same night when he was wrapping up a performance. Kraus testified that he told Scherer he'd found out that the defendant was married and had a son.
"He told me he was going to tell me, but there wasn't really an appropriate time," Kraus said.
But the friendship fizzled after that point, Kraus said, because he couldn't trust Scherer. Scherer continued to occasionally come into the night club to see Kraus after that, bringing dates and also coming alone.
Kraus's testimony was the third of Monday's proceedings. In the morning session, testimony was given by Alameda County Sheriff's Detective Kyle Ritter and Bob Golick, a casino host and proposition player at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles County.
Golick testified that Scherer, who was a regular at the card club, asked him for $10,000 three weeks after the killings, saying he needed to pay for his parents' funerals. Because fellow poker players typically lent money informally, Golick said he didn't read into Scherer's request, and, after rallying up $5,000 from other players and contributing $5,000 of his own money, handed Scherer two pink poker chips worth the $10,000. After that meeting, Golick testified that he didn't see or hear from Scherer again.
Det. Ritter testified that searches on a computer owned by Scherer included countries that don't extradite, fake passports, auto detailing, the Hells Angels biker group and Hans Reiser's murder trial.
The hearing is expected to continue this morning.