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."
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.