OAKLAND (CBS SF) - Professional poker player Ernest Scherer III was sentenced Friday to two consecutive terms of life in prison without parole for murdering his parents at their Castlewood Country Club home in Pleasanton three years ago to try to collect his inheritance.
Citing what he called "the horrific nature of the wounds that the defendant (Scherer) inflicted on his own father and mother," Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner said it might seem redundant to sentence Scherer to two life terms but he wants to make sure Scherer never goes free.
"We don't know what future lawmakers will do" in formulating sentencing guidelines, Horner said.
Scherer, 32, was convicted on March 23 of two counts of first-degree murder as well as three special-circumstance allegations: two counts of murder for financial gain and one count of committing multiple murders.
In addition, he was convicted of a use-of-a-deadly weapon clause for using a sharp instrument to kill his parents.
The decomposed bodies of Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, a real estate investor, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, an accounting lecturer at California State University, East Bay, were found at their home on March 14, 2008. They had been brutally beaten and stabbed.
Prosecutor Michael Nieto said he believes they were killed a week earlier, on March 7, 2008.
Scherer III wasn't arrested until Feb. 23, 2009, when the Alameda County Sheriff's Office finally completed a lengthy investigation that largely relied on circumstantial evidence against him, such as a videotape of a car similar to his at his parents' home on the night authorities think they were killed.
He was arrested in Las Vegas and transported to Alameda County to stand trial.
Nieto said Scherer killed his parents because he faced financial pressure from his gambling debts in Las Vegas and from the purchase of his $880,000 home in Brea. The prosecutor said Scherer also spent large sums of money on various girlfriends that he had around the country.
Nieto said Scherer needed a $616,000 loan from his parents, as well as a smaller loan from the home's previous owners, to be able to afford the house.
But Scherer's lawyer, Richard Foxall, told jurors in his closing argument in March that they should find Scherer not guilty because he doesn't think the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Scherer killed his parents.
Dr. Carolyn Oesterle, the sister of Scherer Jr. and the aunt of Scherer III, said he doesn't deserve any leniency because he lived "a sick, selfish lifestyle" and "was given more advantages than most people."
Oesterle said Scherer "beat his own parents with a baseball bat and slit their throats because he wanted to maintain his lifestyle and was desperate."
Catherine Scherer, the sister of Scherer III, said the deaths of her parents and her brother's life terms "have effectively left me with no living family" except for her husband and children.
She said that because of her parents' deaths, "Dreams were lost, promises were broken and our lives will never be the same."
In a statement to the court before he was sentenced, Scherer neither apologized for killing his parents nor claimed that he is innocent.
Instead, he talked about the DNA and blood evidence in the case and said he thought there was insufficient evidence to convict him.
Referring to the jurors in the case, Scherer said, "I'll never fully understand how they convicted me."
Scherer said he agrees with a lot of things his family members said in court about his parents.
He said, "I was blessed with great parents. I loved them and they loved me."
In an unusual twist, Scherer said a female juror in his trial has corresponded with him following the verdict in his case.
He said the juror "had questions for me" and "gave me insight into the jury deliberations."
Referring to the female juror, Nieto said he thinks Scherer is trying to "prevail on her to change her views" about his guilt but so far she has affirmed her decision in favor of convicting him.
Nieto said he wanted to note for the record that Scherer smiled at the female juror throughout his trial.
Foxall said the correspondence was initiated by the juror, not by Scherer, and also said he thinks "any non-verbal communication (during the trial) was from the juror to Mr. Scherer, not by him."
But Nieto said after today's hearing that Scherer frequently commented on the female juror during breaks in his trial.
"He would chide me that he had a special relationship with the juror" and thought she might vote to acquit him, Nieto said.
The prosecutor said he doesn't think the juror's contacts with Scherer will cause his conviction to be overturned.
"I have no concerns," Nieto said.
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