Scherer to stand trial for parents' deaths

In ruling, judge says evidence, motive point to professional poker player's guilt

Ernest Scherer III sat emotionless in an Oakland courtroom Friday as Judge Jeffrey Horner ordered the defendant to stand trial for the deaths of his parents in their Castlewood Country Club home.

Horner said testimony taken from a series of hearings over the past month--from evidence to a motive--indicate Scherer III's guilt. The 31-year-old Brea, Calif. resident will be arraigned Sept. 4 and remains locked up in Santa Rita Jail, where he's been held since February on a no-bail warrant.

In his ruling, Horner said Scherer III will have to answer to all charges against him, which include two counts of murder with special circumstances--multiple murder and murder for financial gain. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, a former San Ramon school board member and active member of the Republican Party and his wife Charlene Abendroth, 57, a well-liked Cal State East Bay professor active in the Mormon church, were brutally stabbed and beaten to death March 7, 2008 in their Castlewood home, authorities testified. Scherer Jr., discovered with $9,000 in cash in his pockets, was stabbed six times and received six blunt force injuries while Abendroth, whose body lay in a different room, received a dozen stab wounds and 20 blunt force injuries, according to testimony from an Alameda County Sheriff's detective.

"These two individuals met a horrific death," Horner said. "The person who inflicted those wounds did so in significant anger."

In reviewing testimony, Horner said the crime scene was made to look like a burglary, but there was no sign of forced entry and no valuables such as jewelry and computers were taken. Referencing testimony given by Scherer III's grandfather Ernest Scherer Sr., the judge said it was clear the defendant "was upset with his parents who wouldn't help him financially," and that they favored his sister. Scherer III, a professional poker player with more than $300,000 in career earnings but steeped in debt, was living a life of luxury he couldn't afford, "was a compulsive gambler and couldn't be trusted with money," Horner said.

Scherer III stood to collect $1.5 million in inheritance upon turning 30 years old, according to testimony.

A security tape recorded by the Castlewood Country Club showed a 2001 red Camaro owned by Scherer III entering the community at 8:27 p.m. March 7 and exiting at 1 a.m. the next morning, a window of time that would be consistent with when investigators believe the couple were killed, Horner said. Also suspicious, the judge said, was a 17-hour period of time that Scherer III's cell phone was turned off--a lapse where authorities believe the defendant drove from Las Vegas to Pleasanton, killed his parents, and then drove south to Brea. Calling the behavior unusual, the judge said "Mr. Scherer simply didn't do that; he was always on the phone."

A day after authorities believe the couple were murdered, Scherer III had his car detailed in Brea, insisting on watching his car as it passed through the wash, and replaced the tires, according to testimony. That, the judge said, led him to believe Scherer III may have been worried about tracking blood into his car and leaving tire tracks on his parent's property.

A computer that was seized from a hotel Scherer III was staying at contained searches for fake passports and countries that don't extradite, according to testimony.

When the case goes to trial, it will be based on circumstantial evidence. Scherer III refused a DNA test days after the killings, and a murder weapon, believed to be either a knife or other similarly sharp object, has not been found. Horner agreed with defense attorney Richard Foxall that Scherer cannot be seen in still shots taken from the security tape, a claim the prosecution made during the preliminary hearing.

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Like this comment
Posted by QWERTY
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

I hope the jury finds him guilty and the judge awards him the same punishment he meted out to his parents.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 23, 2009 at 2:22 pm

now now mes petites...lets dig deep and take the HIGH ROAD...justice will be served...

Like this comment
Posted by CastleRat
a resident of Castlewood
on Aug 23, 2009 at 8:15 pm

GUILTY! No other suspects no other motives...........Justice will be served but you mean the LONG road.

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasident
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 24, 2009 at 1:19 pm

"A security tape recorded by the Castlewood Country Club showed a 2001 red Camaro owned by Scherer III entering the community at 8:27 p.m. March 7 and exiting at 1 a.m. the next morning"

Not to stand up for this guy at all, just to get confirmation - I thought the security tape recorded a red Camaro that wasn't positively identified as Sherer's. It would be pretty open and shut if they got the license plate on the security tape, but from previous articles in the Weekly, I gathered that wasn't the case. Could be wrong. Been on a jury before though and that kind of detail makes the difference.

Like this comment
Posted by Janet Pelletier, managing editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Judge Jeffrey Horner said in his ruling for Scherer to stand trial that he determined that while you can't see the driver in the still shots from the security tape, the Camaro is Scherer's car.

Keep in mind that Horner also explained before he made his ruling that the burden of proof in ordering a defendant to stand trial is not the same as it is in a jury trial (guilty beyond a reasonable doubt)

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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