BAY CITY NEWS—A prosecutor attacked the credibility of a professional poker
player accused of killing his parents by getting him to admit Tuesday that he
Prosecutor Michael Nieto began his cross-examination of Ernest Scherer III, 32, who is accused of murdering his parents at their Pleasanton home in March 2008, by creating a chart of people to whom Scherer admits he lied and listing the specific lies he told.
During three days of questioning by his attorney, Richard Foxall, Scherer said he didn't kill his parents and was not in Pleasanton at the time authorities believe they were killed.
The final question by Foxall, who first put Scherer on the witness stand Feb. 23, was whether Scherer killed his parents.
Scherer replied, "I absolutely did not."
In 90 minutes of cross-examination late Tuesday, Nieto forced Scherer to say that he lied often in instances in which he had extramarital affairs or had to borrow money.
Scherer also said that, as a professional poker player, being deceptive is part of the job description.
Scherer said one of his lies was when he invited a woman to his Brea house in Southern California five days after authorities say his parents were killed and told her that he was single.
He said the woman wondered if he was living alone in the 3,600-square-foot house, and he told her that he was helping a woman who had a young son and was going through a divorce by letting them live with him.
Asked by Nieto when he conceived the lie, Scherer said, "I don't specifically remember when I thought up that lie."
When Nieto asked if it was "a premeditated lie" for Scherer to have kept secret from his wife a credit card and post office box to hide his numerous extramarital affairs, Scherer said, "Obviously, yes."
The decomposed bodies of Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, who was a real-estate investor, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, an accounting lecturer who taught for more than 30 years at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, were found at their home on March 14, 2008. Nieto has said he believes they were killed the night of March 7.
Nieto told jurors in his opening statement Jan. 4 that Scherer III killed his parents because he faced financial pressure from his gambling debts in Las Vegas and from the purchase of the $880,000 Brea home, where he lived with his wife, Robyn Scherer, and their young son, Ernest Scherer IV.
Nieto said Scherer III also spent large sums of money on girlfriends who lived around the country.
Nieto said Scherer III needed a $616,000 loan from his parents, as well as a smaller loan from the home's previous owners, to afford the house.
Scherer admitted today that he lied to a poker player friend on March 24, 2008, when he claimed that he needed to borrow $10,000 because he had to pay for his parents' funeral and burial.
Nieto said, "You didn't pay a cent (for those expenses)," and Scherer agreed.
Scherer said he lied to his friend "because of pride" since he didn't want to admit that he was having problems paying his bills.
Although Scherer noted that his finances weren't in great shape, he said, "I've been in worse financial situations in the past, and part of being a poker player is having ups and downs."
Scherer initially objected when Nieto alleged that he had never been in such deep debt before because he owed a lot of money on his house, saying that he considered his house to be an asset as well as a liability.
But when Nieto pressed him on the point, Scherer smiled and said before the trial adjourned for the day, "It was the most debt I'd ever had in my whole life."
Nieto will resume his cross-examination Wednesday morning.
Scherer III is accused of two counts of murder and faces two special circumstance allegations: multiple murder and murder for financial gain. In addition, he's charged with two use-of-a-deadly weapon clauses because a sharp instrument was used to kill his parents.
He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted.