Professional poker players appear to live lavish lives of luxury as they travel around the world competing in exclusive poker tournaments.
In 2008, however, a California man realized that achieving lasting success as a professional poker player was a lot harder than it looked as he racked up massive amounts of debt. So when police discovered he tried to dig himself out of that debt with the help of some discounted Nike goods, he was sentenced to life in prison…
The Upcoming Vacation
In March 2008, 60-year-old Ernest Scherer Jr. and his wife, 57-year-old Charlene Abendroth, were preparing to go on a family vacation to Hawaii with their adult children, Catherine Sherer and Ernie Sherer III, on the 15th of that month.
Last Minute Details
About a week before the trip, Catherine tried calling her parents, who lived in the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, California, to sort out last minute details for the vacation. However, the couple never answered Catherine’s calls or called her back, which was highly unusual…
A Concerned Daughter
After a few days of unsuccessfully trying to get in touch with her parents, Catherine started to fear something might have happened, so she called Castlewood Country Club and requested that they check on the residents. When they failed to get in touch with Ernest or his wife, they contacted the police.
A Grisly Discovery
Police arrived at the home shortly after on March 14, 2008, and discovered Ernest, a real estate investor, and Charlene, an accounting lecturer at California State University, East Bay, were both dead. Not only were they dead, but it appeared that they had been brutally murdered…
Ernest and Charlene had both been stabbed and beaten, and by the time cops arrived at their house on March 14, their bodies had already started to decompose. After examining the bodies, police suspected they had both been murdered about a week earlier on March 7.
The Last Meal
The older couple had last been seen alive at the Castlewood Country Club restaurant at around 6:30 p.m. on the night of the 7th, and police believed they were killed sometime after they returned to their 4,000-square-foot home inside the country club…
The Crime Scene
After opening an investigation, detectives collected as much evidence from the home. At first, it appeared the home had been ransacked and the burglars killed Ernest and Charlene when they realized they were home. However, the more police examined the crime scene, the more they felt that the killer staged the scene to make them believe that scenario.
The $9,000 Cure
Not only was there no sign of a forced entry, but the killer left $9,000, which Ernest had won that day at a local casino, that was sticking out of the 60-year-old’s pocket. Based on that evidence, police believed the killer must have been someone that the couple knew…
Detectives started by investigating Ernest and Charlene’s friends and family members and were able to rule out almost everyone as a suspect. The only person they couldn’t entirely rule out was the couple’s son, Ernie, whose alibi wasn’t strong.
The Victim’s Son
Ernie had graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in economics and married fellow BYU graduate Robyn Scherer shortly after. Instead of getting a stable job in business, Ernie chose to become a professional poker player, which forced him to travel around the country for tournaments and spend a lot of time away from his wife and their young son after they started a family…
Life as a Poker Player
In the beginning, Ernie was relatively successful and actually earned more than $100,000 in winnings. Despite the success, a bank wouldn’t loan him any money when he and his wife wanted to buy a home for their family in Brea, California, so Ernie turned to his dad for help.
Ernest loaned Ernie $600,000 to help him buy the home and set up a payment plan. Each month, Ernie was supposed to pay his parents $3,850, which he always paid on time. However, Ernie’s success as a professional poker player didn’t last…
In addition to the $616,000 Ernie owed his parents, he ran up over $100,000 in gambling and credit card debt. By March 2008, he could no longer make the payment to his parents, who had been pressuring him to pay them back since the real estate market had taken a downturn.
While investigating, police became suspicious when they found out that just days before Ernie’s parents were murdered, he tried to get a copy of their will, which stated that he was set to receive his $2 million inheritance on his 30th birthday that was only a few months away…
When detectives brought Ernie in for questioning, he claimed he was at home and asleep by 6 p.m. the night of his parent’s murder. According to Ernie, he was tired after spending the previous 2 days playing poker and his wife had taken their son to visit her parents in Sacramento. Since no one could confirm his alibi, Ernie told the police to check his cell phone records and credit card use to prove his location. However, when they did, investigators found a gap of 17 hours, which they suspected was the time he was killing his parents.
The Killer’s Footprints
Ernie also told police his shoe size was 10. At the crime scene, they found a set of bloody footprints from the killer, who wore size 12 Nike sneakers. However, police didn’t rule Ernie out because they believed the killer intentionally staged the bloody prints to throw them off. The footprints were too perfect with no smudging on the slippery, polished tile and there were no signs that the killer tried to clean the footprints up…
Looking for the Proof
Police knew Ernie had motive to kill his parents, mysteriously had a 17-hour gap in his phone and credit card records at the exact time of the murder, and even found surveillance of the exact kind of car that Ernie owned entering and exiting the country club that night. However, the video was too blurry to make out a driver or the license plate. Even though detectives were sure Ernie was the killer, they didn’t have the concrete evidence to convict him. They did, however, have enough proof to arrest him…
On February 23, 2009, police arrested Ernie in Las Vegas, where he had been staying with a girlfriend after splitting up with his wife. Once he was in custody, prosecutor Mike Nieto reviewed every last piece of evidence in hopes of linking Ernie to the crime…
The Murder Weapon
In a photo of the crime scene, Nieto noticed a bloody piece of paper that was a warranty card for a child’s baseball bat, which was the murder weapon. Detectives then found a receipt from a Nike outlet store, where Ernie purchased a child’s baseball bat, soccer gloves, and a pair of size 12 sneakers in cash.
Life in Prison
After the trial, Ernie was found guilty on March 23, 2011, of 2 counts of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to 2 consecutive life sentences in prison without parole in order to ensure he would never get out of prison. “Dreams were lost, promises were broken and our lives will never be the same,” Catherine said after her brother was convicted of killing their parents.