The Country Club Murders

Did skyrocketing debt push a former high roller to savagely kill his parents?

Produced by Sara Rodriguez
[This story previously aired on Dec. 7, 2013. It was updated on Feb. 8, 2013]

PLEASANTON, Calif. - It was March 22, 2008, when the Scherer family gathered to say goodbye to their parents, Charlene and Ernest.

"It's horrible. I hope that no one ever has to endure it. It's horrible," Catherine Scherer told "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant.

Catherine watched as her brother, Ernie, helped carry their father's casket. Ernie's wife, Robyn, offered support.

"Ernie, and my son and I were all standing and holding the flower...And I'm just sitting there crying and crying," Robyn recalled in tears.

"And my son is, like, sitting there right with me. And he has no idea why we're there. He'll know someday. I wanna make sure he knows who they were."

"There was a point in which someone told you how they died," Van Sant noted to Catherine.

"Oh, boy," she replied, "That was a hard moment," she replied. "I kept seeing it in my head."

While no weapons were found at the scene, police told Catherine her parents were bludgeoned to death. The killer then used another weapon to cut their throats and wrists to make sure they were gone. Her mother suffered the worst damage.

"I know that her face was unrecognizable -- it was horrific. I remember closing my eyes and -- and crying and wishing that I could have taken it for her, so she didn't have to suffer," Catherine cried.

Asked who could do something like that? Catherine replied, "I don't know."

Word of the murders rocked the quiet, upscale Castlewood Country Club community in Pleasanton, Calif.

"We have our homicide detectives here and their meticulously going through the home and the surrounding homes and neighborhood to find any clues in this case," said Sgt. J.D. Nelson.

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Ernest and Charlene Scherer
Family photo

Before they moved to Castlewood, Charlene and Ernest Scherer raised their family in San Ramon, not far from San Francisco. They had a passion for traveling.

"We'd had family vacations. We would go to Big Sur. We would go to Yosemite," Catherine recalled. "...and one of my mom's favorite things is, I used to say, "Why do you put in all of this effort and tolerate all of the whining and the complaining from us kids? And she said, 'Because you don't understand history until you can live in it, till you can see it and touch it and experience it.'"

Charlene was an accounting professor for 31 years. She was also a devout Mormon who expected hard work and tried to instill ethical values in her son and daughter.

"She wanted us to do the best that we could 100 percent of the time," Catherine said. "And it wasn't that she was harsh or critical, just that she wanted us to achieve our biggest potential."

Ernest Scherer had made his fortune in real estate. He also got involved in politics, becoming a member of the San Ramon School Board in the late 1980s. Mayor Abram Wilson says Ernest could rub people the wrong way.

"A lot of people were very uncomfortable around Earnest," Mayor Wilson said. "He was the one that was always the one that voted against."

Ernest's confrontational style eventually got him ousted from the board -- an event that led him to carry a grudge against his opponents for almost 20 years.

"They recalled him. And as it turned out, he continued to fight them," said Catherine.

In fact, Ernest was scheduled to have a meeting with Wilson to reveal what he thought was corruption on the school board. Just days before that meeting, he was found beaten to death.

"The first thing that came to my mind, was that Ernie ticked off the wrong person, Ernie was digging too deep," said Mayor Wilson.

"Do you believe that Ernest and Charlene knew their attacker, that they opened the door and let that person in?" Van Sant asked Detective Scott Dudek.

"There's no doubt in my mind that they knew who the person was inside their house," he replied.

Detective Dudek spearheaded the investigation for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

"When we arrived at the scene, it was March 14, 2008. Based on the decomposition of the bodies, we felt that the murder had occurred several days before," he explained. "And it appeared to us that the last newspaper that was picked up was March 7th."

The last time the Scherer's were seen was on the night of March 7.

They had gone out to dinner around 6:30 p.m. at the Castlewood Country Club restaurant before heading home. When their bodies were found by police a week later, they were in their pajamas and their home was turned upside down.

"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," Det. Dudek noted. "...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.'"

But the home showed no signs of forced entry. And even though Ernest was a bit of a gambler -- who just that day won a large sum of money -- this burglar wasn't interested in any of it.

"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," said Dudek.

And police discover another odd clue -- one they think the killer wanted them to find.

"This is the entryway floor to the Castlewood home," Det. Mike Norton said of the preserved floor. "We took the whole floor, not only the tile, but we took the entire floor."

Detective Norton believes the bloody footprints were intentionally made the night of March 7, 2008, as part of a staged crime scene.

"These footprints were made -- maybe slow and methodically -- where the suspect wanted us to know what kind of shoe made this and how big the shoe size was," he explained. "We were able to determine...that there's a Nike 'Swoosh.'"

Prosecutor Michael Nieto was assigned to the case.

"There was no way that a professional killer would have left that type of evidence at the scene. Unless it was an attempt to sort of throw authorities off the track," he told Van Sant.

"Where must you turn next?"

"You go inside. You look at everybody in the family."

"And in this case, who are you looking at?"

"In this case, they looked at Catherine Scherer and Ernest Scherer III," Nieto replied.

Police were quickly able to eliminate Catherine as a suspect. She'd been at her home in Utah the night of the murders.

"I was at the Alameda County Sheriff's Office for questioning. And I said, 'Where are you going with this?'" Catherine said. "They said, 'Well, there's only one person we can't rule out.' 'Well, who?' They said, 'Well, your brother.' 'My brother? Really?'"

Questioning Ernie Scherer

"We were able to eliminate close circle of friends. We were able to eliminate political enemies," Detective Scott Dudek explained. "It just constantly would come back to we couldn't eliminate their son."

Investigators began to focus in on Ernest and Charlene Scherer's son, Ernie, who traveled the country as a professional poker player.

"Why would my brother do it? There's nothing to gain from that," Christine Scherer said of her brother. "Killing my parents? That's ridiculous."

But there was something to gain. Ernie stood to inherit more than $2 million from his parent's estate. Cops say he was desperate to see the will.

"Who asks to see your parents' will on day two of a murder?" said Det. Dudek.

Just four days after gis pare

Just four days after his parents bodies are discovered, Ernie agrees to be questioned by police.

Ernie tells police that on the night of March 7, the date cops believe his parents were murdered, he was fast asleep at his home in Brea, Calif., hundreds of miles south of the crime scene:

Ernie Scherer: Drive time from my house to my parent's house was roughly six-and-a-half, seven hours. So it's kind of unrealistic for me to have driven from my house all the way up to their house, killed them, ransacked the house, drive all the way back.

Ernie tells police he was home alone; his wife Robyn was away visiting family. But he assures cops they can easily verify his story.

Detective Mike Norton: What car were you driving then?

Ernie Scherer: My Camaro ... And you -- you'll be able to -- you'll be able to track me almost all the way to my door on my cell phone.

"I wanted to just have him clear himself. ...so they could move on and focus on what I thought would be more important, finding the real person who I thought was responsible," said Robyn.

Ernie Scherer had been married to Robyn for nine years, and the two had a 3-year-old son, Ernest IV.

"I'd like to think I've always been a good wife," said Robyn.

She even supported her husband when the economics major she married decided to leave a promising career in business for the unpredictable world of professional poker.


"Give me a sense of what life is like with a professional gambler. What are the highs? What are the lows?" Van Sant asked Robyn.

"Gosh, you're all over the map. You have good days where there'll be wads of cash that come home and they're sitting on the counter," she replied. "The next day, you could lose $15,000 to $20,000."

"And what's it like living that roller coaster?"

"Stressful," she said with a laugh, "very stressful."

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Ernie Scherer
Bluff Magazine

At the height of his gambling career, Ernie made more than $100,000 in a single year and even played in the World Series of Poker. He was doing so well, his father agreed to loan Ernie $616,000 to buy his dream home.

"What were the terms of this loan from Ernie's parents?" Van Sant asked Robyn.

"It was for a five-year loan," she replied. "And every month we owed them a payment of $3,850."

Asked if the loan created tension between Ernie and their mother, Catherine said, "Yes. ...She didn't think that supporting him in any way with his poker was a good thing and would bring good things in any way."

Charlene was unrelenting in her criticism of Ernie's chosen profession.

"'You can't be a professional gambler. That's like saying I'm a professional nose picker,'" Catherine told Van Sant.

"At the time she died, what was their relationship like? Were they close?"

"No. No. ...when he became a poker player, it was like snip. That relationship just severed."

And Charlene's intuition that Ernie's gambling could lead to trouble came true.

"We met at a craps table in The Rio in Las Vegas," said Adrian Solomon.

Solomon was living in North Carolina in 2006, when a business trip led her to a chance encounter with Ernie Scherer.

"I liked that he was tall. He had beautiful blue eyes," she told Van Sant. "I do remember looking at his left hand to see if there was a ring on it...And he didn't have one. So, I said, OK, you know, this is a guy I can talk to for a little while."

Solomon was in the dark about Ernie's wife and young son in California. And Robyn had no idea her husband was on the prowl in Las Vegas.

"How did the casinos treat Ernie? Was he comped?" Van Sant asked Solomon.

"Oh, yeah... He was a high roller," she replied. "...Show tickets, restaurants, everything... He felt like a rock star being able to treat me to these things."

Sgt. Ray Kelly: Are you gettin' kind of famous in the poker world?

Ernie Scherer: I'm very well known in the poker world.

Ernie and Adrian took exotic trips together and he introduced her to close friends David Mauk and Billy Krauss, who performed a dueling piano show at the Paris hotel.

"Did the two of you talk about a future together?" Van Sant asked Solomon.

"We did...I remember going into Tiffany's and looking at engagement rings," she said. "He talked to my mother about marrying me."

But Solomon soon saw a side to Ernie that made her think twice about getting serious.

"Throughout our time dating, his betting went from, you know, maybe $75, $50, $75 for his initial bet up to, like, $500 for his initial bet. And he increased his betting dramatically," she said.

Ernie Scherer: I routinely carry $5,000 to $10,000 in cash and then maybe another $40,000 in chips.

Police wondered if Ernie's volatile, risky lifestyle might have created a motive for murder. They confront him.

Detective Mike Norton: But let me ask you bluntly. Did you have any involvement in your parents' death?

Ernie Scherer: No.

Detective Mike Norton: OK. Did you hire anybody or did you pay anybody...

Ernie Scherer: No.

Detective Mike Norton: ...to kill your parents?

Ernie Scherer: No.

Investigators have their suspicions, but without solid evidence Ernie is free to go.

Sgt. Ray Kelly: All right, Ernie. Thanks for your time.

Ernie Scherer: Thanks for doing your job.


But just one week later they would unearth a chilling lead.

"This building here is called Lower Castlewood Country Club. Up there you can see a surveillance camera. That surveillance camera points to the street out there," Dudek pointed out.

After combing through hours of video, police spotted images of a red convertible with a black top entering Castlewood Country Club at 8:27 p.m. on the night of the murders; it left four hours later.

Could the blurry image be Ernie Scherer's red Camaro?

Armed with this new information, cops want to confront Ernie. But he has vanished.

"He said goodbye to me," Robyn said. "And I said, 'Well, when am I gonna see you again?' And he said, 'I don't know. I'll be in touch.'"

Shoe prints & secrets

Just five days after his interrogation, Ernie Scherer hit the open road for parts unknown.

"Did he say where he was going?" Peter Van Sant asked Ernie's wife, Robyn.

"No, he just said he had to grieve," she replied.

Ernie took off in his dad's car leaving behind the red Camaro cops believe is seen on this surveillance video. When cops search Ernie's Camaro for evidence, they learn he is one step ahead of them.

"He had a full detailing done of both the exterior and interior of his Camaro," said prosecutor Michael Nieto.

Police discover just days after the murder, Ernie spent $140 having his car scrubbed at a car wash; he even following it in on foot.

"He's walking through like he's a car," Van Sant commented.

"He's a bizarre individual and this was his way of sanitizing the car," Det. Scott Dudek replied.

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Police searching the Scherer home discover a set of very distinct bloody shoe prints they believe the killer wanted them to find. Authorities determined the prints were made by a size 12 Nike sneaker, because in the prints you are able to see the distinctive Nike Swoosh symbol (circled, top left).
Police evidence

With no trace of evidence left in the car, cops pour over crime scene photos searching for clues... starting with those bloody footprints.

Investigators conclude the size 12 Nike shoe prints left behind at the crime scene were part of a grand deception.

Ernie normally wears size 10.

"I believe that's why he left those shoe prints intact, in an attempt to throw off investigators. In the event that they did come to him with questions about those bloody shoe prints, he would simply be able to say 'I wear a size 10,'" Nieto explained.

And there was another intriguing blood trail that always troubled police.

"There were footprints that led from Charlene to Ernest. And then continued on to a linen closet," Nieto told Van Sant.

"Why would the attacker go to a linen closet?"

"It was clearly somebody who had personal knowledge of the contents of that closet."

Someone like Ernie. Ernie knew his dad stored his decorative sword collection in that closet. After the murders, when family was allowed inside the Scherer home, Ernie led his wife, Robyn, directly to the closet.

"He reaches in. He pulls out this sword, takes the sheath off the sword, and he's looking at it. And he said, 'Isn't this a beautiful sword?'" Robyn said. "He's putting it back in the closet, under his breath he says, 'I wonder where the second one went.'"

Remember, both parents had been savagely slashed. After Ernie fled, Robyn thought about that missing sword.

"And then just [snaps] something clicked. I thought, 'Oh, my gosh.' There wasn't a doubt in my mind that he had something to do with it," Robyn said. "As soon as I thought of that, first thing I did was call the police."

Ernie is now the No. 1 suspect, but cops don't have the concrete forensic evidence they needed to arrest him. All they could do was watch Ernie and he made that easy.

"He posted Craigslist ads all over the country looking for women," Nieto told Van Sant. "And I'm talking from Oregon all the way to upstate New York."

Asked what his typical Craigslist ad was like, Nieto replied, "'A 29-year-old man. Looking for someone who can carry on a conversation. Is up for fun whenever the moment grabs you. Enjoys a good bottle of wine.' And the nauseating comments went on from there."

"How many women on the side do you think he had over the years?"

"I would probably say it's easily 100," said Nieto.

Ernie met another woman in New Orleans during the city's annual Jazz Fest celebrations.

"Seemed like a nice guy," the woman told Van Sant. "He was a gentleman. Seemed very non threatening."

Ernie now had a new identity. He said his name was Bill Franks and he was writing a novel.

"The plot was -- poker player in Vegas finds out that his parents...are murdered. ...And he essentially ends up going on the run," the woman explained.

After telling her about his work of fiction, the two headed to a casino near Bourbon Street, where Bill Franks suddenly became Ernie again.

"We would walk up to the craps table and they would call him Mr. Scherer. And I look up, and I'm like, 'Well, what -- hello?' she said.

Ernie explained that Bill Franks was just a pen name.

"And this isn't getting weird yet?" Van Sant asked.

"You know, no. It wasn't. ...Blonde roots," she said with a laugh. "Didn't ding at all."

Ernie's behavior then took an even stranger turn as the two walked into his hotel room.

"And I turned back around. And he had basically taken all the furniture that was not bolted down and he had [it] against the door with some bungee cords and it was like a ninja," the woman told Van Sant. "And I turned around and I looked at him and I said, 'What the f--- is this?'"

"He's barricaded the door ...To keep you in or keep someone out?" Van Sant asked.

"Keep someone out," she replied.

She then pointed at a second bungee cord.

"And I said, 'Could you explain that?' And he said, 'Well, it's for a quick getaway.' Out the window."

"And you're thinking what to yourself at that point? I'm barricaded in a room with a guy with a bungee cord whose name was Bill, but now it's Ernie?"

"It still didn't go off," the woman told Van Sant. "I felt this guy has some kind of emotional BS goin' on with him...that's how I explained it away. But after Ernie left New Orleans, this woman decided to Google his name."

"That's when I found out he was, indeed, a professional gambler. And that his parents' murder had happened a month-and-a-half before," she said. "And the more I read, the more I researched, literally, physically, the sicker I got."

Pamela Nichols, who lived in Las Vegas, met Ernie on Craigslist and had already been on two dates with him when he called the day his parents bodies were found... to cancel their dinner plans for that night.

"He had just gotten a call saying that his parents' house was broken into and both of them were murdered," Nichols said. "If I had received that news, I wouldn't even be able to talk on the phone, let alone make a phone call to somebody I hardly knew."

Phone records reveal Ernie told Nichols about the killings before he informed his own wife.

"This had to be a jaw-dropping moment when they gave you all this information about your husband's secret life," Van Sant noted to Robyn.

"Oh, yeah," she replied. "He had secret credit cards, secret P.O. boxes, secret everything."

"Secret lovers," Van Sant added.

"Oh, yes," she said. "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."

"They say there's nothing worse than a scorned woman, you know. And...once [Robyn] became that scorned person -- she was my third detective on this," said Det. Dudek.

Investigators laboring to build an air-tight case against Ernie Scherer weren't ready to arrest him.

"Evidence was still being gathered," Nieto explained. "And that's why I said it's never too late to discover the truth."

But they would soon use Robyn to turn the tables on her husband.

"I was just along to do what I needed to do to catch him and get him locked up," she said.

Ernest Scherer Junior suffered six blows to the head and six stab wounds. His wife, Charlene, suffered 20 blows to the head and 12 stab wounds.

"As your son is born, you go, 'Oh, God, I hope my son is just perfect, you know," Det. Scott Dudek said. "And what this individual ended up being was your worst nightmare, as far as a son could be."

Motive for Murder?

Three months into Ernie Scherer's cross-country joy ride, police get a tip that he's gambling in Las Vegas. A detective secretly places a GPS tracker on his car to keep closer tabs on him.

"His sister was a No. 1 concern," said Dudek.

"If this person, who is my brother, could willingly and knowingly walk into my parents' house and beat them and slice them until they were dead, he'd have no qualms walking into my house and doing that to my family," said Catherine Scherer.

Catherine, living in Utah, was now afraid of her brother.

"It was a very tense time for me. My family's hiding. I'm hiding," she said.

She was warned every time Ernie was nearby.

"Gotta get out. Got to leave," Catherine said. "It was horrible."

Asked if she was living in fear of her husband, Robyn Scherer said, "Yeah. I didn't know if he was gonna come get me or my son. ...The blinds were shut. Doors were locked. The alarm was on."

Ernie's movements were being tracked and so were his finances, giving cops a motive for murder.

"He'd ran outta money. Just plain and simple," prosecutor Michael Nieto told Van Sant.

"You believe that he killed his own parents just for some cash?"

"Absolutely," he said.

Police learned Ernie had gambling debts approaching $90,000 and carried more than $40,000 in credit card debt.

"Did it get to a point where you couldn't pay the bills?" Van Sant asked Robyn.

"Yeah, it did," she replied. "I kept saying, 'I need you to give me some money,' because every month we owed his parents."

Around that same time in 2008, the real estate market was collapsing. Ernie's mom and dad suddenly wanted their loan back...now.

"The noose was tightening around his neck," Nieto said. "He had no reliable stream of income and he decided to act."

Investigators say Ernie wanted a gun.

The day before his parents were murdered, Ernie came to the Master at Arms, in Pahrump, Nevada.

"The two individuals came in. They were acting very strangely," owner Robert Brentlinger said.

Ernie brought his friend, piano player Billy Krauss, to help.

"One was very stoic, quiet, didn't say much. The other was bouncing off the walls, all over the shop. He made me very nervous," said Brentlinger.

As a Nevada resident, Krauss could purchase the weapon and leave with it the same day.

"Did Krauss ever say why Ernie wanted this gun?" Van Sant asked Nieto.

"He actually asked Ernie why he wanted the gun. And Ernie said that he wanted it for self-protection," he replied.

When Brentlinger let Krauss know buying a gun for Ernie, an out-of-state resident, was illegal, Krauss told Ernie the deal was off.

"He wanted it right now. And I wouldn't do it," said Brentlinger.

Cops say the failed gun purchase didn't deter Ernie. The following day, they believe he drove west out of Las Vegas with murder in mind.

"We have him at Primm, Nevada, at a Chevron station based on gas receipts," Det. Dudek explained. "We have him at a McDonald's where he charged $5 worth of hamburgers at McDonald's. ...And mysteriously his cell phone records stop."

In the early afternoon of March 7 2008, Ernie Scherer's cell phone went dead. He was driving along a stretch of Interstate 15, which runs from Vegas to Los Angeles. Seventeen hours passed before his cell phone came back to life.

"His cell phone was off because he didn't want to be tracked to Pleasanton when he was committing the murders of his parents," said Nieto.

Ernie's cell phone was off, but the surveillance camera near his parents' home was on. Police build a timeline.

"We believe that he arrived in the evening of March 7th, 2008...after 8:00 p.m. And that he entered the home sometime after that," Nieto said. "And he's on the lower level of the home, and confronts his mother first... And that she's able to run up the stairs in an attempt to flee, and that he catches her at the very top of the stairs."

Nieto believes Ernie then turns on his father, inflicting six fatal blows with an unknown weapon before grabbing a sword from the linen closet to complete his violence.

At 12:42 a.m., police say Ernie's car is seen on surveillance tape leaving Castlewood Country Club. By the time Ernie's cell phone comes back on, he is at his home in Brea, 390 miles away.

"How long does it take to drive from his parents' house to his home in Brea? Van Sant asked the prosecutor.

"Members of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department did exactly that," Nieto replied. " Departing at the same time shown on the surveillance video, and they arrived at the vicinity of his Brea home at 2900 Primrose at exactly 6:36 a.m. ...The exact minute that his cell phone came back to life.

"Is that the closest thing for you in this case to a fingerprint?" Van Sant asked.

"It's close," Nieto said.

But investigators wanted to find a way to get Ernie to admit it's his car on that surveillance tape. Robyn received a phone call from detectives asking for her help.

"He asked if I'd be willing to do a recorded phone conversation with Ernie. It was arranged," she said.

Robyn Scherer: Hello?

Ernie Scherer: Hi.

Robyn Scherer: Hi, How are you?

Ernie Scherer: Oh, I'm so glad to be talking to you. How are you?

Robyn had not spoken to her husband for weeks -- since the day he disappeared. She tries her best to act like nothing is wrong:

Robyn Scherer: Well, where are you?

Ernie Scherer: In northern California.

Robyn Scherer: Northern California.

Ernie Scherer: Yeah. I'm not-- I'm not really trying to hide myself. I mean, I've been...

Robyn Scherer: Well, I think that they think you're trying to hide.

Robyn was about to play one of the most important cards in this investigation and bluff her poker playing husband:

Ernie Scherer: They're trying to build a circumstantial case against me. Because there's no physical evidence that I committed this crime, because I didn't commit the crime...

Robyn Scherer: They have a police video with something that looks like your car and you in it...

Ernie Scherer: You can see the face of the driver?

Robyn Scherer: Yes. Were you there?

It was a lie. You can't see a driver on this surveillance tape. But Ernie didn't know that.

Robyn Scherer: Were you there? ...cause I thought you were driving back home. And there was this video that they have and it clearly looks like it's your car [long pause] hello? [long pause]."

Ernie Scherer: What else can you tell me about the video? I'm here... I'm just thinking.

That long pause convinced cops it was Ernie's car and him in it.

Asked what the pause told her, Robyn told Van Sant, "Oh that was just the moment where I'm like, 'He was there.'"

And on Feb. 23, 2009, nearly one year after the bodies were found, Ernie Scherer is arrested in Las Vegas for the murder of his parents.

Despite his arrest, Ernie tells a friend in this jailhouse conversation, he'll soon be out:

Ernie Scherer: I will never have to worry about this again for the rest of my life. I can just go on, and live my life, and never give it another thought.

The Trial

Awaiting his trial, a confident Ernie Scherer mocked the case against him.

"That was one of his statements to me: 'I wanna be free by Christmas. Hey, come on,'" said Det. Scott Dudek.

Prosecutor Mike Nieto admits his evidence is circumstantial.

"I want you to tell me about the witness who saw Ernie enter his parents' home that night" Peter Van Sant asked Nieto.


"There is no witness that saw Ernie enter his parents' home," he replied.

"Are there any fingerprints?"

"There were no fingerprints."

"So no witness, no fingerprints...and you can't verify the car."

"Yes."

"That's a strong case?"

"It is," Nieto replied. "When you consider everything together, everything points to Ernie being responsible."

The defense counters with solid forensic evidence, saying foreign DNA found mixed in with the victim's blood does not match Ernie.

"That's your killer, isn't it?" Van Sant asked Dudek.

"That's what the defense would have you believe," he replied. "Just because someone's DNA is present, that doesn't mean they're the responsible party. ...Could've been one of the first responders at the scene. It could've been anyone that had been in the Scherer home prior to March 7th, 2008."

Looking for anything to bolster his case, Nieto took a second look at those crime scene photos. Something caught his eye.

"I'm getting chills just telling you this story now," he said.

Nieto made a startling discovery: a bloody piece of paper, 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."

"You don't have a physical murder weapon but you essentially have a murder weapon...with this little piece of paper?" Van Sant asked.

"Yes," Nieto replied.

More than two years after the murders, investigators finally knew the instrument used to kill Ernest and Charlene. Now they needed to find a way to put the bat in Ernie's hands.

"I focused on Primm," Nieto said. "[Ernie] had used the McDonald's and the Chevron station as the starting point for his alibi, so I said, "Let's see what else is in Primm."

And just like that, the dominoes started to fall into place. Standing just footsteps away from the McDonalds is 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.

The items were purchased on March 7, 2008.

"What are the chances, on the day of the homicide, that a person buys a bat and buys the exact same size shoe that we find in a crime scene," commented Dudek.

Said Nieto, "In the sage words of my grandmother, 'one too many coincidences is not a coincidence.'"

On Jan. 4, 2011, with cameras banned from the courtroom, the murder trial of Charlene and Ernest Scherer would begin. The prosecution would take the jury through the surveillance video, Robyn's phone call, Ernie's lies, and, of course, that bloody warranty card.

"Ernie Scherer decides to take the stand. Why do you think he's doing that?" Van Sant asked Nieto.

"I think it's consistent with his narcissistic personality. I think he is persuaded that he can convince at least one member of that jury to either find reasonable doubt, or to find that he's completely innocent," he replied.

And there was one female juror that gave prosecutor Nieto cause for concern. Ernie appeared to be flirting with her. And she appeared to flirt back.

"Exchanges of smiles, glances," Nieto said. "And then once the juror left the courtroom he would look at me and laugh and make comments about essentially how he had this one juror in his corner."

As they await the verdict, Robyn and her son serve as a reminder of just what is at stake.

"Would he be willing to hurt me, or hurt Ernest... It was really scary," she said.

But would this professional gambler win his final hand? After an exhaustive three-month trial, Ernie Scherer is found guilty of murdering his parents.

"It is an overwhelming feeling to know that all of that hard work, all that sacrifice comes to that moment," Nieto explained. "And knowing that the right thing happened, there is no other feeling like it."

Asked what it was like to hear the guilty verdict, Robyn described it as "emotional."

"I was shaking," she said. "And I wanted to make sure that I looked at him and saw his reaction."

"What did you see?" Van Sant asked.

"He put his head down. And then when he lifted it back up at one point I saw his eyes...he had that look like, 'I got caught,'" she replied.

Robyn lives each day knowing she will eventually have to explain to her young son just how his father murdered his grandparents.

"Does he have a living memory of his father?" Van Sant asked.

"He doesn't really know him," Robyn replied. "He just remembers that we used to live with somebody who had this red convertible."

"It's horrible," Catherine said. "To look at your brother and say, 'Why would you do that? Where is there any logic, any love, anything?' And to feel like not only have you lost your parents, but you've just lost effectively your entire family."

Ernie Scherer is serving two consecutive life sentences. His appeal and his petition to the California Supreme Court to review his conviction have been denied.

Catherine Scherer has set up a scholarship in her mother's name at Cal State East Bay, where Charlene taught there for more than 30 years. Click here to learn more.

  • Peter Van Sant

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"

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