Scherer to serve two consecutive life sentences | May 27, 2011 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 27, 2011

Scherer to serve two consecutive life sentences

Family urges that he never be released, after killing his parents

by Glenn Wohltmann

Ernest Scherer III received two consecutive life sentences without parole May 20 for the murder of his parents, Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, in their Castlewood home in March 2008.

He was also sentenced to two consecutive one-year terms for use of a deadly weapon. The two first-degree murder convictions included the special circumstance of murder for financial gain.

In statements to the court last Friday morning before the sentencing, his family members said they lived in fear during the year it took police to arrest him. His aunt, Carolyn Oesterle, said she still suffers from nightmares and troubled sleep more than three years after the brutal double slaying.

"He hit his parents with a bat, then slashed their throats to make sure they were dead," said Oesterle. She urged that he never be released.

"Whoever reconsiders this case should bear in mind the devastation these murders have caused my family," she said in a statement to the court.

Oesterle said her nephew grew up in a comfortable middle-class family with generous parents. She blamed his "sick, selfish lifestyle" for the crime, in which Scherer stood to share an inheritance worth well over $2 million.

"As far as I can see, there are no mitigating circumstances," she told the court.

She also noted that Abendroth was hit 20 times in the head and that when her brother Scherer Jr. was attacked, "before he died, he probably realized it was his own son."

Scherer III's sister Catherine Scherer wept when speaking before the court, saying the killing of her parents left a void in her life.

"The murder of my parents has effectively left me without a family," she said. "Dreams were lost, promises were broken, and our lives will never be the same."

She added that her daughter has been diagnosed with reactive detachment disorder as a result, and her husband lost his job because he needed to care for their children while she spent time dealing with the trial and her parents' estate.

Scherer III, 32, a graduate of California High School in San Ramon, spoke briefly on his own behalf.

"I just want to say that I agree with a lot of what was said about my upbringing. I was blessed," he told the court. "I was loved."

He seemed to once again try to deflect guilt, saying if people saw on television that police at a murder scene had found DNA they couldn't identify and size 12 sneaker prints, both of which were found at the scene, they would come to a different conclusion about who was responsible.

"I'll never understand how they (the jury) reconciled the DNA," he told the court.

Scherer III appeared at the sentencing in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland in his red jail outfit with one hand cuffed to a waist shackle. He was found guilty of the double murder on March 28, more than three years after it happened and has remained in jail since his arrest in 2009.

He was set to be moved to state prison immediately after his sentencing Friday.

Before the sentencing, Judge Jeffrey Horner denied defense motions for a new trial. In deciding the two life sentences should run consecutively, Horner cited the "horrific nature" of the crime and the level of planning and sophistication involved.

"The real truth of this hideous event is far, far worse ... the fact that their son would do this to them," Horner said in deciding to have the two life sentences run back to back. "A sentence should reflect the damage … the horror the defendant unfolded upon his parents."

Scherer III, a former Eagle Scout turned professional poker player, was arrested a year after the murders and it was nearly another two years before he was brought to trial. It took three months for the case to be laid out to jurors but less than 11 hours for that jury to convict him on all counts: two charges of murder for financial gain, one count of committing multiple murders, and a use-of-a-deadly weapon charge for using a sharp instrument to kill his parents.

The sentencing had an unusual turn of events when it was disclosed a female juror had been in communication with Scherer in jail.

"Not a lot of people have the opportunity to correspond with one of the people that convicted them," Scherer said.

It was revealed that Scherer and the juror had exchanged "non-verbal communication" -- smiles -- to each other during the trial, although the prosecution and defense disagreed on who began the exchange.

Prosecutor Michael Nieto produced copies of the correspondence between the two, noting that the female juror never wavered in her belief that Scherer III was guilty. Nieto, however, was concerned about what he saw as the defendant's attempts to coerce her into thinking he was innocent.

After sentencing Scherer III, Horner turned his attention to the family and friends of the murdered couple.

"Words fail me. There is no adequate way for me to convey or express the enormity of your loss. Nothing ... can ever close these wounds," he said, adding he hoped the family "can at last put them to rest in their hearts, their souls and in their loving memories."

Most of the jury showed up in court Friday morning to hear the sentencing.

"I spent three months of my life doing this, and I wanted to see the conclusion," said juror Paul Rollins. "I'm really glad I came."

He added he was shocked to learn about the correspondence between the juror and Scherer III.

Scherer has been held in an isolation cell and was put on suicide watch six days before the sentencing, a deputy told the Weekly.

Abendroth and Scherer Jr. were well known in the community. She was an accounting and lecturing professor at Cal State East Bay. She was also an active member of the Mormon Church.

Scherer Jr., an investor and part-time gambler, was actively involved in the Republican Party and was a former San Ramon Valley school board member who was recalled in the 1990s. He remained involved in politics up until his death.


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