Castlewood deaths were a double homicide, say police | March 21, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - March 21, 2008

Castlewood deaths were a double homicide, say police

Former school board member Scherer was active in the San Ramon Valley

by Janet Pelletier

A former school board member and his wife who were discovered dead in their Castlewood home Friday afternoon were brutally beaten to death, said police at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Sgt. Scott Dudek of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department said police weren't releasing any possible motives to the murders, but said they could rule out a murder-suicide.

Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, and his wife, Charlene Abendroth, 57, were found toward the front portion of their 4,000-square-foot, two-story home at 18 Castlewood Drive. Dudek said the Sheriff's Office received a call that an employee of the Castlewood Country Club had seen Scherer's motionless body from a window of the home.

The employee checked on the home after the couple's daughter had asked them to do so. Dudek said the daughter became suspicious and concerned because she spoke with her parents every day and hadn't heard from them in a week.

Police believe the couple, who were married for 31 years, were murdered sometime between the night of March 7 and into the morning hours of March 8.

"We believe they left the Castlewood Country Club for dinner at approximately 8 p.m. on March 7," Dudek said. "We believe they were killed sometime after leaving that dinner when they returned to their house at 8 o'clock. Mr. Scherer had missed a meeting that he had scheduled for Saturday morning, so it's very probable that the murder occurred sometime after 8 o'clock."

Dudek said he doesn't believe the murders were random, although police haven't ruled that out.

Police have canvassed the neighborhood of Castlewood, which is in unincorporated Pleasanton, handing out questionnaires in an attempt to see if residents had seen any people not known to the area or suspicious vehicles.

"There's one way in Castlewood and there's only one way out pretty much to get back to the main road," Dudek said. "That could be a huge factor for us in detecting to solve this double homicide."

The couple had lived in the home for two years. They purchased it from the parents of professional golf player Paula Creamer. They previously had lived in San Ramon.

Scherer Jr. was a board member of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District from 1988 to 1990, when he was recalled, as well as an active member of the California Republican Party, and police are looking into these leads for possible motives.

He donated $250 in the November 2006 re-election campaign for Danville Town Councilwoman Karen Stepper, who served on the school board with him.

"It's very disturbing," said Stepper. "He was passionate about this valley and standing up for his principles."

She said that Abendroth was her instructor at Cal State East Bay when she was studying toward her CPA.

"I probably knew her first but didn't know they were related," Stepper said.

Abendroth was a professor at Cal State East Bay in the accounting department for more than 30 years.

Stepper said the couple had been traveling a lot recently.

Two motives investigators are looking into include Scherer's activities as a poker player and as a former school board member.

Dudek declined to answer a claim that Scherer kept large amounts of cash in the home.

"I'm not going to confirm or deny that for safety reasons," Dudek said. "It has been reported on and some of the other Web sites that he was in fact being referred to as a professional poker player. I don't believe that's accurate that he was a professional poker player. His main business interests were buying and selling property."

Dudek went on to say there were some items in the house that were disturbed but declined to say if police thought it was a burglary or "made to look like a burglary."

He added that police don't believe Scherer had any gambling debts.

Scherer's son, Ernest Scherer III, is considered a professional poker player and at least one Web site lists his earnings at $300,000. Dudek declined to comment on whether the son had gambling debts.