OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ernest Scherer III was found guilty Monday of brutally killing his parents in a bid to gain control of a more than $1 million inheritance the 32-year-old professional poker player needed to pay off a rising debt.
After 2 1/2 days of deliberations, a jury of seven women and five men found that Scherer's denials on the witness stand of committing the crime were not believable and that deputy district attorney Michael Nieto provided enough evidence to prove that Scherer beat his parents with a baseball bat and then slashed their necks and wrists to ensure they would not survive.
While no direct evidence linked Scherer to the murders, one juror said after the verdict that Scherer's demeanor in the weeks after the murders and during the trial convinced him that Scherer was guilty.
"In a case where you are accused of killing your parents, if you're innocent, you show outrage for being accused of something you never did," said the juror, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "How could you not be showing some emotion? That's what did it for me."
Scherer bowed his head and shook it from left to right as the guilty verdict was read while his ex-wife Robyn, who testified against him, cried. Scherer also began to shake his head as he glanced at the jury moments later when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner thanked its members for their work.
Just weeks before, Scherer was on the witness stand telling the jury that he was alone and asleep in his Southern California home the night his pajama-clad parents Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, were killed in their Castlewood Country Club home in Pleasanton, east of San Francisco.
While Alameda County sheriff's investigators were never able to find a direct piece of evidence linking Scherer to the killings, they did discover numerous abnormal actions by Scherer III that Nieto said proved he was guilty.
Among that strange behavior, evidence in the case revealed, was that Scherer III, an avid cell phone user, had his phone turned off for more than 17 hours the night his parents were killed.
Nieto also presented evidence showing that someone bought, with cash, a baseball bat and Nike running shoes at an outlet store in Primm, Nev., hours before Scherer's parents were beaten. That evidence was matched with Scherer III's credit card records, showing he was across the street from the outlet store purchasing gas and food just minutes before the bat and sneakers were purchased. Other evidence showed a bat was used to beat Scherer's parents and sneaker prints found at the scene matched the same model of those purchased in Primm.
A security camera video also showed a car similar to Scherer III's driving in and out of the Castlewood Country Club the night his parents were killed.
The timing of the car's entrance to the country club and exit coincides with the prosecution's theory that Scherer drove to Pleasanton the night of March 7, 2008, killed his parents and then drove back to Los Angeles to meet his grandfather for a bridge tournament Monday morning. The fact that Scherer did not use his cell phone for 17 hours also matched that theory.
The lone juror who agreed to talk to reporters said the jury believed Scherer III made the cash purchase at the outlet store and found it unusual that he had his phone turned off for the exact amount of time it would have taken him drive to Pleasanton and commit the crimes.
But, the juror said, those weren't the only two pieces of evidence the jury believed pointed toward guilt. It was almost all the evidence Nieto presented, the juror said.
"Inconsistencies, unknown whereabouts -- there is just too much to list," the juror said. "(Scherer III) had a hard time keeping a story consistent."
Nieto and Scherer III's public defender, Richard Foxall, declined to comment after the verdict citing a gag order imposed by Horner.
In a prepared written statement, Scherer III's ex-wife, Robyn, thanked investigators, the district attorney's office and the jury for their work on the case.
Scherer III now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced May 20. In addition to being found guilty of killing his father and mother, he was found guilty of committing the murder for financial gain and for using a deadly weapon.
The juror said he is confident in the verdict.
"He showed no emotion at all. The first time they showed a picture of his murdered parents, no emotion," the juror said. "Did he love his father? Yeah, but money drives you to do crazy things."
(c) 2011, Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.).
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