Robyn Scherer was living with her husband in the Los Angeles suburbs in a new house. They had a cat and a dog named Honey. Their 2-year-old son bore the name of her husband, his father and grandfather. It was the summer of 2007.
But there was a dark undercurrent in that seemingly idyllic life, Scherer said, punctuated by an often-absent husband, his gambling, a string of mistresses and ultimately the murder of his parents.
Ex-husband Ernest Scherer III watched his wife of more than a decade testify in an Oakland courtroom Tuesday. It was the first time she and “Ernie,” as she called him, had seen each other since late March 2008.
Prosecutors say Scherer III murdered his parents, Ernest Scherer Jr. and Charlene Abendroth, on March 7, 2008, after earnings from his poker-playing dried up and he found himself unable to make payments on a $616,000 loan from his parents for the couple's home in Brea.
The couple’s beaten and stabbed bodies were found in their Pleasanton home on March 14, 2008. Scherer III was arrested on suspicion of the double murder in February 2009. Robyn and Scherer III’s divorce was finalized in June, according to Robyn Scherer.
Scherer testified that Scherer III had always been able to meet her requests for money to pay their bills until the third week of February in 2008, a few weeks before his parents were killed.
She said that by April 2008 their bank account had nothing in it,
and she could no longer pay their mortgage or their massive credit card
In a tape-recorded phone conversation with Scherer III a few weeks
after his parents were killed, that was played in court, Scherer
told her ex-husband the car in the videotape that was taken the night on
which authorities think his parents were killed "looks like yours" and "kind
of freaks me out."
But Scherer III said, "I was not in Northern California at that
time, and I've said that many times to the police.
"I'm not a violent person, and I could not have done what someone
did to my parents.
Scherer III told Robyn Scherer that he could understand if she
wanted to get a divorce because he had had multiple affairs with other women
during their marriage.
But he asked her to wait to divorce him until after the police
investigation was completed and a possible murder trial was finished, saying,
"They can't force a wife to testify against a husband."
Scherer III said it would be better if they stayed married during
a possible trial "so I don't spend the rest of my life in jail or face the
She described a simple beginning to her relationship with Scherer III. She was a high-school senior when they met in a chat room in 1996. They talked about Brigham Young University, which he attended and where she was headed on a 90 percent swimming scholarship. Three years later, they were married and moving in together for the first time.
“We packed up the very few things we had and started our lives,” she said of their first residence in Provo, Utah.
Shortly after marrying, the two lived in Scherer III's parents' home for a few months. The senior Scherers lived in San Ramon at the time. Scherer smiled often as she recalled that her father-in-law “always made me feel welcome in his home.”
“He was a kind, generous and nice man,” she said. “He was good with grandchildren. He helped me with things around the house when he could, bought me a drill, helped fix springs in the couch, the toilet paper holder when he yanked it too hard and it broke."
Scherer said she observed early in her relationship with Scherer III that he and his father shared an affinity for poker. Father and son would attend poker and bridge tournaments together and visit casinos frequently, she said.
In previous testimony, Ernest Scherer Sr. said Scherer Jr.’s card-playing days went as far back as the late 1960s, when his son was in college and paid part of his tuition with poker winnings.
But Scherer III’s poker life detracted from their married life from the start, Robyn Scherer said. He was unemployed for four to six months after graduating from BYU with an economics degree, and spent much of that time playing online poker. After that, she testified, he held three jobs over the span of a year before deciding to pursue poker professionally.
“[Poker] wasn’t a consistent source of income,” Scherer said, adding that she worked several jobs during college. “It was up and down. Sometimes he’d win, sometimes he’d lose.”
Scherer said she saw her husband less and less and that he began playing with a poker group in Salt Lake City for higher stakes. But his betting wasn't limited to poker anymore, she said.
“Sometimes it seemed like he was betting on anything you could bet on,” she said. “He was always on the phone about football games, basketball, contestants on 'American Idol.' ”
When he wasn’t betting, according to his ex-wife, Scherer III was updating the Excel spreadsheet of his earnings that he maintained almost daily or seeking entrance into tournaments or live games, some of which were in faraway cities.
“If he got a phone call about a great game, he’d go,” Scherer said. “Sometimes he’d get a call and be gone all night.”
In fall 2004, the relationship had become “rocky,” said Scherer, who at the time was six months pregnant with their son, Ernest Scherer IV. Scherer III admitted to an extramarital affair, she said, after she discovered an e-mail on his laptop.
Scherer said that discovery and her pregnancy factored into the couple’s decision to find a home closer to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where Scherer III went for many of his poker tournaments.
When the couple moved to Torrance in 2005, Scherer said she saw her husband more often than she had when they lived in Utah — but that he still would be missing at key moments.
She said Scherer III’s uncle drove her to the hospital to give birth because her husband was snow-skiing when she went into labor. Within a week of his son’s birth, Scherer III was in Las Vegas celebrating New Year's Eve. Scherer stiffened and appeared to fight back tears as she recalled that trip.
In summer 2007, the couple bought a home in Brea with a loan from Scherer III’s parents, and the financial burden began to mount, Scherer said. There were now two mortgages to pay — one to Scherer III’s parents and another to the home’s previous owner. Scherer had become a stay-at-home mom and her husband's poker earnings were unreliable.
On March 5, 2008, Scherer III left Brea for what he told his wife was a trip to Las Vegas. Investigators believe that trip was to Pleasanton to commit the murders.
According to her testimony, Scherer and her little boy waved goodbye to their husband and father from the driveway.
She said she then had a hard time getting in touch with him during the time period in which his parents were killed.
She said he told her "it would be better if I deleted my text messages to him because it might make it look like he had something to do with" his parents' deaths.
Scherer said she complied with his request and deleted her text
messages to him.
Her testimony and Patch coverage continues Wednesday.
Bay City News contributed to this report.