Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 11, 2011

Castlewood killing case nears its end

Closing arguments set for the end of the month

by Glenn Wohltmann

It was three years ago this past Monday that Ernest Scherer Jr. and his wife Charlene Abendroth were killed in their home on Castlewood Drive, according to police who quickly zeroed in on their son, Ernest Scherer III, as the prime suspect.

Scherer spent much of the last week on the witness stand testifying in his own defense, and jurors are expected to get the case by the end of the month. They'll have to decide whether to believe Scherer -- who admitted lying to his wife, to numerous girlfriends and to others largely in the professional poker community -- or to believe the case laid out by prosecutor Michael Nieto.

The case relies exclusively on circumstantial evidence. A Camaro convertible similar to Scherer's drove past a video camera on Castlewood Drive near the time of the slayings. A baseball bat, sneakers similar to the bloody footprints found on the floor of the couple's home, and soccer gloves were bought in cash around the same time Scherer drove through the area in Nevada where they were purchased.

Nieto has laid out a case in minute detail, chronicling Scherer's spending habits and philandering with the claim that he was unable to keep up payments on a home Scherer and Robyn Scherer, his wife at the time, bought months before the slayings. Nieto has called that house the accelerant that led to the double killing.

The defense, both during the case and in Ernest Scherer III's statements before his arrest, maintains police focused exclusively on him and never looked at other potential suspects. Scherer has testified that he was home asleep on his couch at the time of the killings, although Robyn and the couple's son were out of town and there is no one to support that claim.

The case includes complications on both sides. Scherer's phone -- which his ex-wife has testified was "glued to his ear" -- was off for a period of time before and after the time of the crime. Unexplained DNA was found at the crime scene.

The jury will also have to decide which testimony to believe. Did Scherer "fist pump" as his aunt, Carolyn Oesterle, testified he did when she said he couldn't have committed the killings, or did the episode never happen, which is what Scherer maintains? Did Robyn delete text messages on her phone on her own or at his request?

The trial, which has been in various stages since last year, is nearing its end. The jury will get one week off, then hear closing arguments beginning March 21, but the case may come down to whether it believes four words spoken by Scherer.

Those four words were his reply to defense attorney Richard Foxall's question, "Did you kill your parents?"

"I absolutely did not," Scherer said.

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