A prosecutor alleged yesterday that professional gambler Ernest Scherer III brutally murdered his parents at their upscale Pleasanton home in March 2008 because he was in serious financial trouble and wanted to inherit their money.
In his closing argument in the preliminary hearing for Scherer III, 31, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein said Scherer III "was living a very expensive lie" by residing in a house worth nearly $1 million in Brea in Orange County with his wife and young child and at the same time going out with a number of different women while he played poker in Las Vegas.
Stein told Judge Jeffrey Horner, who is presiding over the hearing, which met for several days in July and resumed today, that, "The defendant (Scherer III) murdered his parents for financial gain" because he was "in dire straits" and expected to inherit $1.5 million.
But defense attorney Richard Foxhall said Stein didn't produce sufficient evidence to prove that Scherer III is the person who killed his parents and accused Stein of "putting the cart before the horse" and "shoe-horning the evidence into a particular theory."
Scherer III is accused of two counts of murder for the deaths of Ernest 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 in Pleasanton.
Stein described their residence as being "a very nice home in an upscale area."
The decomposed bodies of Scherer III's parents were found on March 14, 2008, but authorities believe they were killed late the night of March 7, 2008, or early on March 8, 2008.
A forensic pathologist testified last month that Scherer III's parents died from multiple blunt force injuries and stab wounds.
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.
The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine if there's probable cause to have Scherer III stand trial on the charges against him.
But Foxhall alleged that Stein "is talking about possible cause, not probable cause" and is only "talking about a possible series of events," not hard facts.
Stein admitted, "There's no single piece of the puzzle that point's to Mr. Scherer's guilt" but he said that when all the pieces of the case are put together "it's very clear that he beat and stabbed his parents for money."
The prosecutor said the evidence in the case indicates that Scherer III drove from Las Vegas to Pleasanton to kill his parents and then drove to his home in Brea.
Stein said Scherer III's cell phone was turned off for more than 17 hours during that time period, which he said was "exceptionally uncharacteristic" because Scherer III usually was on the phone constantly.
He said he thinks Scherer III turned off his phone because he didn't want to be tracked to his parents' home.
Stein said a video from a security camera at the Castlewood Country Club indicates that a red Chevrolet Camaro similar to one owned by Scherer III drove toward his parents' home at 8:27 p.m. on March 7, 2008, and left the area at 12:42 a.m. on March 8, 2008.
He said the video shows Scherer III driving his car and alleged "he was on his way to kill them (his parents)."
The prosecutor said Scherer III attempted to cover up evidence in the case by going to a car wash in Brea shortly after his parents were killed to have his Camaro washed and detailed and by putting four new tires on his car even though they were "completely unnecessary."
Stein said Scherer's actions after his parents were killed, which also included researching the possibility of getting a false identification card and passport and finding countries from which he couldn't be extradited, "shows consciousness of guilt and that is most incriminating."
Judge Horner said he won't issue his ruling in the case until Friday morning because the unusually long closing arguments by Stein and Foxhall didn't finish until late in the day today.
"In view of the hour, it's not appropriate for me to make a ruling today," Horner said.