Former poker high roller Ernie Scherer III has been charged with murdering his parents and then found guilty and convicted for two consecutive life sentences. The court's verdict in Scherer's case was announced in March, 2011, a year later, March 3rd, 2012, CBS News' documentary TV series 48 Hours Mystery aired an episode called The County Club Murders covering the full affair of Scherer murdering his parents.
The shocking story began on March 14th, 2008, when Ernest Jr. Scherer and his wife Charlene were found brutally murdered in their residence in the Castlewood Country Club community in Pleasanton, California. The police found out that the crime has been committed a week ago, on March 7th and the investigation began.
Detective Scott Dudek and prosecutor Michael Nieto had taken up the case and started gathering evidence and searching for possible suspects. “We were able to eliminate close circle of friends. We were able to eliminate political enemies,” Dudek explained. “It just constantly would come back to we couldn't eliminate their son.” Ernie Scherer III was questioned by the police a number of times, however, he denied having anything to do with his parent’s murder while the police did not have any actual evidence that Ernie did it himself or hired someone to do it for him.
Still, he remained the main suspect as Ernie was the only one with a possible motive and there were no actual signs that the homicide might have been a part of breaking and entering. “As I walked through the house, it looked like a person had watched a TV show to say, well, this is what a burglary's supposed to look like,” Detective Dudek explained. “...It wasn't ransacked, it was just, 'OK, I'm gonna take a piece of linen out and throw it on the thing so it looks like it's ransacked. There was $100 bills sticking out of the jeans that you could see from 50 feet away looking into the bedroom. What burglar is gonna leave — ultimately, it was over $9,000 sticking out of somebody's jeans.”
The investigation continued and detectives kept coming back to Ernie, a professional poker player with a $90,000 gambling debt, $40,000 in credit card debt, and a $616,000 loan from his father for a new house. According to his parent's will, Ernie was also supposed to receive $2 million from their estate. “Who asks to see your parents' will on day two of a murder?” Dudek asked remembering Ernie's eagerness to see the will.
After another visit to the police office where he was directly asked whether he was in any way involved in his parent's murder, Ernie Scherer packed his bags, told his wife Robyn he needed to mourn and left. As police learned latter, Scherer did quite the opposite of mourning. He gambled and played poker all over the country and posted Craigslist ads in newspapers in search of female companions. Prosecutor Nieto says Ernie could have dated over a hundred of women who were fascinated by his high roller lifestyle.
“Oh, yeah... He was a high roller,” said Adrian Solomon, who met Scherer on a business trip to Las Vegas. “...Show tickets, restaurants, everything... He felt like a rock star being able to treat me to these things.”
However, neither Solomon nor other women knew that Ernie was a married man with a 3-year-old son and a suspect in a homicide case. “It's sad — not just for me, but all the women who...had no idea. They had no idea that he was married, that he had a son,” Ernie's wife said.
With Ernie gone and police not having any real evidence except a circumstantial case against him, the detectives kept on searching for clues. The Castlewood Country Club surveillance camera had caught a blurry image of a red car with a black top entering the territory on the night when the Scherer's were killed and then leaving four hours later. The car looked very similar to Ernie's Camaro. However, due to a very poor video quality there was no way of telling if it was actually his car. The police had searched the Camaro for evidence only to find out that Ernie had scrubbed it squeaky-clean at the local car wash the day after the murder.
Eventually Michael Nieto found evidence which he missed before – a bloody piece of paper discovered at the crime scene, which turned out to be a warranty card from a Nike youth baseball bat. “I called my investigator and I said, 'You got to get up here. We found the murder weapon,'” he said. “These two people, 57 and 60 years old, have no reason to have a youth baseball bat in their home. Never mind a warranty card affixed to the barrel of a baseball bat with dad's blood on it.”
The investigators once again went down Ernie's path that he took the day of the murder which led them to Primm, Nevada. Nieto knew that Ernie bought gas at the Chevron station there and had some burgers at the local McDonald’s. Just a few feet away from there they found a Nike Outlet store. “That led us to a particular cash transaction in which an individual purchased three items: The baseball bat, a pair of Nike Tomahawk Impax shoes, size 12, and a pair of youth soccer goalie gloves. Those three items might as well be a 101 kit for how to commit murder,” said Nieto.
Ernie had used the baseball bat to kill his parents and size 12 Nike shoes to make bloody footprints which were supposed to keep the investigators off track as Ernie's foot was size 10. However, the police said the footprints raised their suspicion at the very beginning of the investigation as they were sure that a professional killed wouldn’t just make such a mistake and since no valuables had actually gone missing, the possibility of burglary was also ruled out.
Ernie Scherer was arrested on February 23rd, 2009, in Las Vegas and charged with the murder of Ernest and Charlene Scherer. His trial began just two years later, on January 4th, 2011, and after three months he was convicted with two lifetime sentences. “It is an overwhelming feeling to know that all of that hard work, all that sacrifice comes to that moment,” Prosecutor Michael Nieto said. “And knowing that the right thing happened, there is no other feeling like it.”
Image courtesy of Bluff Magazine.