tv Dateline NBC NBC January 9, 2012 2:00am-3:00am PST
nbc-universal television it is very exciting. >> they met in vegas, a professional poker player. >> he was making good money at it. >> a former trapeze artist, she fell for him, but she didn't gamble on this. >> i could smell the odor of decay and blood. >> for this. >> in every turn, there was another woman. >> married with a child, and a woman in every city. capable of murder? he had an alibi. >> credit card transactions and phone records of me driving from las vegas. >> could this little card hold
the key? >> it was just a shot in the dark. >> was he a calculating killer or was his life-style on trial? >> he made mistakes, that doesn't make him a monster. >> was there one more card up his sleeve? >> it goes back to him thinking i blessed some of the best. >> the player. good evening, welcome to "dateline." i'm lester holt. tonight, the story of a double murder that was both shocking and puzzling. there were no witnesses, and few clues. the victims were a respected couple. their son, it turned out, played poker for a living. could that life-style have had something to do with it? the case was a mystery until prosecutors looked again at a blood stained card, ignored in the original investigation. could that be the key? here is keith morrison. >> it was her first time in las
vegas. her first look at that famous strip, its outsized pitch, its gaud ee casinos with endless electronic clatter. and the darker places, where men in dark suits stand over the calm of wishful thinkers. her name was adrian solomon, she was here on business. >> excited to go to get to see what this city was all about. >> adrian came to vegas for a medical conference. meeting planning was her road business. >> i was gone probably 50% of the time. >> the job had brought her here to a vast casino, all alone. exciting, though buttoned down compared to her previous more exotic occupation, teaching the flying trapeze. >> i went to work for club med, worked at the vacation resort
seven years rgs living all over the world. >> i can't imagine what it would be like for a job where your responsibility is to teach people to relax and have fun and do it in a wonderful setting. >> it was the best job. >> in which she learned to embrace moments of fun, new experiences. but learned something, too, about how to read people. or so she thought. and now here she was, april, 2006, noisy casino, observing a craps game. >> gentleman standing to my side turned around and said do you want me to explain the game to you. so he did, and we started chatting. like any woman in her mid-30s is going to do, i looked to make sure he didn't have a wedding ring as he started to flirt with me. he asked if i wanted to go to dinner that night. i said i am going to dinner anyway, why not. >> her dinner date, a man named earnest sheerer the third. >> there wasn't that awkward silence you sometimes have on
first dates. >> ernie, that's what he called himself, was good looking, college educated, former eagle scout raised in a mormon household. though his occupation was rather unusual u he was a professional poker player. >> kind of surprised me that someone with his background would be a professional poker player. >> of course, you did something odd for awhile, too. >> which is why i had no judgment about it whatsoever. i found it very interesting. yeah, he was making good money at it. >> ernie explained how he mastered the poker skill of cleverly hiding tells, any clues about the cards he was holding. >> he was good at reading people, which of course is very important in the poker world. >> he kept an apartment in southern california he told her, but spent much of his time in las vegas. >> he gambled enough at the tables. he had a high enough status he got free rooms and free meals, show tickets. >> and he seemed to be doing it all rather responsibly, saving
money he told her for those times when the cards weren't so lucky. >> it was almost like somebody having a sales job that they know sometimes they're going to get a lot of great sales, sometimes they're not. >> she fell for ernie, over the next few days of magic time in vegas. soon, a long distance relationship blossomed. they were on the phone every day. there were trips, she to vegas, he to meet her in places like aruba, mexico. one day, ernie told adrian he lived her. >> it was very exciting. >> ernie traveled to adrian's home base in north carolina several times, got to know her family, her mother lynn. >> he was charming. he was comfortable with us and us with him. >> we talked about marriage. we were looking at engagement rings. >> they actually talked about children. >> the first one was a girl, he would love her, but he really wanted a boy. >> so it was wonderful. not perfect, of course, what is.
ernie's mother, the devout mormon did not approve of his poker playing apparently. even though ernie's father loved poker, in fact they often played together. >> he really seemed to like his father and respect his father. they seemed to be close. >> so why didn't they want to meet her? it was frankly a little hard to understand. >> how he explained it to me, his mother did not approve of our relationship because i was not mormon, and we traveled around together and were living a life of sin or whatever. >> scarlet woman. >> exactly. >> when she did meet his dad once, it didn't go well. >> we were in the lobby at caesars. he said this is adrian. he said noi who she is, turned his back to me. i don't think i have ever been so offended. >> by then the bloom had faded. wasn't going to be a marriage or children.
>> for probably the last six months of our relationship, i think we both knew that it wasn't going anywhere. >> and in february, 2008, they broke it off. so maybe that's why weeks later she didn't hear right away about what happened. >> emergency, need everybody now. >> what kind of problem? >> i don't know. >> didn't hear about the grizzly double murder, or that one of the victims was named earnest sheerer. coming up, was one of the victims the man she had loved? >> it didn't seem like something like that could really have happened to someone i know. >> when "the player" continues. that can of pledge under your sink isn't just a great way to clean wood. pledge is also gentle on leather. safe on stainless. missed a spot. great for shining motorcycles... wood? come on. it's pledge. car seats and dashboards. hey there! it cleans laminate furniture...
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>> reporter: adrienne solomon was putting life's pieces back together. her two-year romance with professional poker player ernie scherer had deflated and failed. she was in san francisco on a business trip, and a text showed up. >> she said, i heard about his parents. let me know if there's anything i can do. >> reporter: adrienne got herself to a computer and got online and saw the appalling story. >> and learned that they had been murdered. it was surreal. it didn't seem like something like that could really have happened to someone i know. >> reporter: not her ernie, thankfully, but ernie's parents, ernest and his wife charlene, murdered, found dead in their own house, which was
coincidentally in an upscale country club right across the san francisco bay from adrienne's hotel. and now, of course, the house was a crime scene where even the seasoned lead detective was horrified by what he saw. >> it was probably the most gruesome, brutal homicide scene i have ever seen. >> reporter: march 14, 2008, the call came in, a country club employee had seen what looked like a body through the scherers' window. detective kristen tucker was one of the first on the scene. >> as i approached the front door of the home, i could smell the odor of decay and blood from quite a distance away. >> reporter: and inside was like a war zone, blood everywhere and the battered bodies of two people who had clearly fought for their lives. >> the bodies had suffered extensive, extensive injuries. >> reporter: it wasn't just the odor that told investigators the
bodies had been here for a while. >> there was a week's worth of newspapers that had been collected. >> reporter: they narrowed the time of death to between friday evening march 7th, the last time anyone saw them, and saturday morning, march 8th. method of death? hard to be sure. no murder weapon lying around, but they had been hit by some blunt instrument and sliced by what must have been a very big knife or sword. what happened here? was it a home invasion robbery? possible, judging from the mess. ernie scherer was a wealthy real estate investor known to carry cash around. detective mike norton. >> in the victims' bedroom, the drawers had been pulled out, a lot of clothes had been thrown on the floor. >> reporter: a decorative sword was missing and two jade statues, likely expensive. but wait a minute, maybe it wasn't a robbery. >> her purse was present on the kitchen table. there was jewelry. >> in the father's pants pocket
in his bedroom there was a large amount of cash. >> reporter: $9,000 in cash rolled up in his jeans pocket. >> and that was untouched? >> untouched. >> reporter: so was the crime scene staged to hide something more sinister than robbery? why, for example, did they find that odd and very obvious pattern of bloody shoe prints but only around the bodies? >> and the shoe prints would go back and forth to each victim, but they just disappeared. you were thinking, how did this person get out? >> reporter: still, easy enough to i.d. the shoe prints. there was an obvious nike swoosh in the middle. little checking revealed it was a nike impact tomahawk, big, maybe close to a size 12. but who wore them? who would do such an awful thing? and why? >> in our area, we just didn't have a husband and wife in their
60s in a multimillion-dollar neighborhood killed for no reason. >> reporter: investigators poked around the scherers' background looking really for enemies with motive. and it turned out they had some. or at least ernest did. >> ernie was a very passionate person on his views and he wasn't afraid to let you know how he felt. >> reporter: guy houston, a former california state assemblyman knew ernest for his conservatism. >> he did make people angry, but it was all in a political -- it wasn't a personal basis. it was all political. >> reporter: besides, what happened to them was too ugly even for politics. and as for charlene -- >> i don't know anybody who didn't like her. >> reporter: here was her friend from the mormon church. >> her confidence, her command, her good heart, her ability to reach out and help people. >> reporter: which she had also been doing professionally for decades as an accounting teacher, said this colleague at cal state east bay. >> she not only wanted to help
students with the particular subject area and the class, she also wanted to help the students with their career and their life. >> reporter: so who was responsible? who knew? not a suspect in sight. >> i instantly got my phone out and sent him a text message. >> reporter: the minute adrienne solomon heard what happened, she reached out for her ernie. they decided to meet in san francisco for dinner that very night. >> even though we weren't in a relationship anymore, we'd been friends for a long time. i felt good that i could be there for him. he got really upset during dinner. i was there to be a listening board for him. >> reporter: and that was that. until a few days later when ernie phoned again, very upset. >> he said that the cops are starting to harass him a little bit. >> reporter: and again adrienne calmed him down. all normal police procedure, she told him. you always hear they have to
look at family first. so that's just what they were doing. >> reporter: but ernie was a mess, asked to see her again. so adrienne arranged to meet him at her next business stop in dallas. be a support again. >> exactly. >> reporter: but adrienne had no way of knowing what was coming. or what that news would do to her. >> it was horrible. i think i started shaking. what was wrong with me that i didn't see this? >> reporter: was it about the murder? no. no, it was something else altogether. coming up -- revelations about the double life of a man she thought she knew. >> he did it in las vegas. he did it in new orleans. >> he did it everywhere he went. >> what else had he done? when "datene" co hey, your high speed internet here, at home...
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when adrienne solomon learned her ex-boyfriend's parents had been murdered, she wanted to be there to support ernie, especially now that he said police were harassing him. >> i knew everything about him. we dated for a couple years. of course he couldn't have done this. >> reporter: adrienne told her he could meet her in dallas at her next business trip. and it was actually just as she arrived when it happened. the moment gave her clarity she'll remember the rest of her life. >> i was in the taxi headed from the airport to the hotel in dallas, and my phone rings and it is a detective. >> reporter: she listened to him say he was investigating the death of ernie's parents and he had a question. >> and he said, now, i know you guys broke up, but can you tell me how long this affair lasted? >> reporter: affair? why did he use that word? >> why would you say that? we dated exclusively for two years. >> you don't know what you're talking about, she told him. >> he said, so you don't know he's married and has a child? i said, what are you talking about? i said to him, why would i believe you?
>> reporter: but by the time she hung up the phone, adrienne knew. she did believe him. >> all of the puzzle pieces came together in my head. >> reporter: suddenly it all made sense, why he never wanted her to see his apartment or meet his parents, why his dad snubbed her that time at the casino. he had been married all along, to a woman named robyn, and had a young son ernest iv. and every good opinion adrienne had of him and her and her own judgment flew out of the window of that dallas cab. >> i'm a smart person. how could i have not put all of these pieces together? we talked about having kids together and he wanted to have a boy? he already had a boy. what is going on? >> reporter: things happened quickly then, quickly and painfully. >> my phone rang and it was him. i said, listen, the cops just called, and so he asked, what did they tell you? i'm like, well, i know you're married. he's like, it's in name only.
we're not really married. it's not a true marriage. let me come and explain this to you. i said, i don't want to see you. please just go. >> reporter: he wouldn't. he refused. she met him in the lobby. >> then he tried to explain everything away. >> reporter: he couldn't, of course, and she sat there half listening, her equilibrium gone in a whirl of bad feelings. >> i was hurt and angry with him and myself. and it was unbelievable to think that those two years had been a sham. >> reporter: oh, yes. and, in fact, more than one sham. a whole quilt of shams. detectives back in northern california had begun to uncover details of a double life which appeared to be, shall we say, prodigious. >> it seemed like at every turn there was another woman this guy had some involvement with. >> coming out of the woodwork. >> there was quite a few of them. >> he said he was recently single.
>> reporter: like pamela nichols, for example, who responded to ernie's ad in march 2008 in the dating section of craigslist in las vegas. she met him for drinks. >> ernie's personality was very nice, friendly. >> reporter: the two made plans to have dinner march 14, 2008. but about 2:00 in the afternoon, said pamela, ernie called to cancel. >> saying he needed to go home, that his parents' house was broken into and burglarized and they were both murdered. >> reporter: but in the weeks after the murder, ernie's craigslist conquest resumed. >> he did it in las vegas. he did it in new orleans. >> he did it everywhere heent and he got lots of responses. >> does that surprise you? >> it surprised me that he was able to form the level of intimacy very rapidly with so many different women that he did. >> kimberly olsen was one of them. she formed a very intimate
relationship with ernie scherer, met him in september 2008, six months after his parents' murder. she was at a casino in mesquite, nevada. >> he came over and said he needed a pretty girl to blow on his dice at the craps table. he was a smooth talker. >> that's a line. >> it is. i fell for it. >> reporter: from day one, their relationship was based on honesty, she said, full disclosure, all the dirty laundry. >> he would tell me the stories about his wife and his girlfriend and going back and forth. i told him he was a jerk. i think he knew he had made a lot of mistakes. >> of course he also told her about his parents' murder. >> he missed his parents. he would tell me stories about him and his father. he'd get teary-eyed about it. >> kimberly got to know ernie, she said, very, very well. >> if you can drive through texas with someone and not want to strangle them in the middle of texas you get to know someone
really well. he was really sweet. >> reporter: she eventually moved in with him. did you love him? >> i did. >> but that other woman, adrienne solomon, was struggling. >> if he could lie to me, lie to my family for two years, look at rings, what else was he capable of? >> reporter: but, of course, living a double life doesn't make you a double murderer. those alameda county detectives knew that perfectly well. but, as they were discovering, a cheating heart wasn't the only disturbing thing about this professional poker player. >> turned out he had some other secrets, and he was battling some long odds. >> why did he want to get in the house so badly? >> he wanted the will. >> when "the player" continues. ever since that ol' broom dumped me here...
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it was, to say the least, eye opening when detectives encountered adrienne solomon and heard her account of the secret life of ernie scherer iii. >> i kind of thought, you know, he stole two years from me. >> reporter: not to mention the truly audacious extent of ernie's philandering. this after all was not some tabloid smack-down. ernie's parents had been callously, deliberately murdered, not anything you'd expect from a hormonally hopped-up lover boy. the detectives encountered lots of the victims' blood but very few useful clues. >> we were looking for everything, every blood stain, fingerprints. >> reporter: and they found nothing that pointed to ernie. after all, those mysterious bloody nike shoe prints were consistent with a size 12 and
also the csi people found in one of those a speck of dna that did not belong to either ernie or his parents. now, early on, there was only that curious incident, just a little odd, happened the day after the bodies were discovered. ernie showed up at the house all distraught insisting officer tucker give him entry. no can do, she said, active crime scene and all. >> he became demanding and even condescending very, very quickly, which surprised me. >> why did he want to get in the house so badly? >> he wanted the will. >> he told you that? >> he did. >> reporter: his parents' will, which investigators found in a desk drawer. >> and the will indicated that their fairly significant estate would be divided equally between their two children, katherine and ernest, and they would receive their inheritance at the age of 30. >> did you determine how old ernest was? >> i did. ernest scherer iii would turn 30 in july, and his parents were killed in march.
>> reporter: ernie's father had a couple million invested in real estate, though at the time of his death the value of the estate was certainly shrinking right along with housing prices. still, was it even remotely possible ernie would kill his parents to cash in on an inheritance? the detectives had a look at ernie's financial situation. and you know how some professional poker players claim they win a lot? maybe not. at least not in ernie's case. >> we learned that he had 60-some-odd thousand dollars in credit card debt and he also in talking with different casinos had lost a significant amount of money to the tune of $80,000 or $90,000 in his play in the last year. >> reporter: oh, but that was not the worst of it. not even close. by march of 2008 when the murders happened, real estate in california was huffing and
puffing on its race to the bottom, and six months before that ernie the son wanted to buy a house in the city of brea in southern california but couldn't get a loan. banks not so sanguine about the security of a poker player's income. so he borrowed the money from his father, 616,000. but then real estate started tanking so father ernest asked son ernie to go to a bank, refinance, pay back his loan. and ernie couldn't. >> he was frantic trying to refinance his home. >> and at the time that they were killed he had missed a mortgage payment to his parents for the first time. >> so this is approaching some sort of crisis. >> that's what we felt, yes. >> reporter: so motive? well, maybe. investigators told ernie they wanted to talk, and he agreed to come down to the station, where he explained their suspicions were groundless. ernie had an alibi. >> there will be credit card
transactions showing my drive from las vegas to california. >> reporter: he had driven from las vegas that afternoon, stopped for gas and a bite to eat at mcdonald's in primm, nevada. there were credit card records to prove it. he arrived around 5:00 p.m., fell asleep on the couch, watched a movie on tv and went to bed. wife and son were away, he said. and bright and early the next morning he met his elderly grandfather for a bridge tournament, which his grandfather ernest senior confirmed. still, detectives had some questions that ernie surely should have been able to answer, shouldn't he? >> so we asked him, what road did you take to get to your home? he wasn't able to tell us. we asked him what television show did you watch? he wasn't able to tell us. >> reporter: and then when they checked ernie's cell phone records, they found an unusual gap in transmission, right around the time of the murders. from the afternoon of march 7th
to the early morning of march 8th, 17 hours 46 minutes, ernie's phone did not register on any cell phone tower anywhere. >> he was just a guy that was constantly talking on his cell phone. so the fact there's a 17-hour window where he's not using it at all was definitely suspicious to us. >> reporter: but as the investigators' suspicions grew, just as they felt they might possibly be closing in on something, ernie scherer iii disappeared. coming up -- following the trail, connecting the dots. police turn up a strange story. >> he asked me if i would do something slightly illegal for $300. >> but was it the smoking gun they needed? when "dateline" continues. there she is ! hey, i got a leak ! yoo hoo ! wait a minute, come back ! um, miss ?
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>> reporter: it was the 23rd of march 2008. ernie scherer iii, a person of interest in the particularly violent murder of his parents, quite suddenly got out of dodge. >> he was gone. >> reporter: a guilty conscience? or an innocent man fed up with negative attention from the cops? but detectives back in alameda county, california, did not panic.
ernie probably didn't know it, but a rather enterprising police officer had put a gps tracking device on his car. >> for a majority of the time we knew where he was. >> reporter: the car and ernie's visits to dating sites led police to a number of young women he, well, met. like the one in new orleans who called the police after a strange night with a man who first told her he was writing a novel about a gambler who is a suspect in his parents' murder and who then told her his own parents had been murdered. and when she went back to his hotel room, he had rigged it with bungee cords, said if someone had come to get him he had a plan to escape. >> he was going to break the window of the hotel room and basically rappel out of the hotel room window. >> did she, quite understandably, hightail it out of there? >> no. she chose to stay. >> reporter: stay the night? >> she did. >> reporter: meanwhile, the lead
detective dudek called in reenforcements and pretty soon some of the boring of all police work paid off. a deputy borrowed from the local jail poured through hours of security camera footage taken from the scherers' country club. finally, there it was, a red camaro approaching the home on march 7th and exiting march 8th, just when the murders were thought to have occurred. a red chevy camaro with a black top. isn't that the same make, model and color of ernie scherer's car? sure looked like his car to a cop's eye. trouble was they couldn't see the license plate or the driver's face. could have been coincidence. and even that, the car and the other evidence they gathered, wouldn't be enough to persuade a d.a. to file murder charges. so the cops brought everything they knew to the forgotten woman in our story, ernie's wife robyn. she had been left behind when ernie took off a couple of weeks
after the murders. when she saw what investigators had, she was not only ready to divorce ernie, she told police she would help them by attempting to bluff the poker player. >> hello? >> hi! >> hi! how are you? >> detectives recorded this phone call in which she tells ernie about the video but chooses to embellish the facts a bit, telling him his face was visible. >> the video was sent to a studio, like disney or something and it was enhanced. it looks like you in your car and they're basically saying you were there friday night. were you in the bay area on friday night? because i thought you were driving back home and there's this video that they have and it clearly looks like it's your car. >> reporter: and then? a long pause. >> hello? >> i'm here. i'm just drinking. there's a video -- like from someone's house or something?
house in castlewood? from a gas station? what kind of video is it? >> no. it's going into the country club area. >> going into the country club area. >> uh-huh. and it looks like your car and looks like you in it. >> you can -- you can see the face of the driver? >> yes. were you there? and if you were -- >> no. >> -- you better have an explanation as to why you were there. are you lying to me? >> i understand why you're asking the question. and obviously -- you know, the police are listening to this phone call, i'm assuming. right? >> i guess. i have no idea. >> reporter: and in this game of poker, it was hard to say who was playing whom. in the end, there was no smoking gun, but was ernie spooked a little? was that why he reached out again to adrienne solomon with this request? >> i'm really hoping we can end up back together.
>> reporter: he told her, said adrienne, he was thinking of changing his lifestyle, quitting poker if only she'd take him back. but she was a different adrienne now. >> i think i kind of felt more powerful in that conversation than i had with him in a long time because i know that i don't trust a single word that he says. >> reporter: meanwhile, back in vegas, detectives learn days before the murders ernie scherer had made an unusual request of this man, his name is david mock. >> he asked me if i would do something slightly illegal for $300. >> reporter: david is a professional piano player in vegas. >> he says, i'm looking to get a gun because i'm a professional gambler and i carry a lot of money. i thought, no, i'm not going to do that. >> reporter: and investigators discovered ernie also asked david's performance partner to buy him a gun and offered another friend $50,000 to point
the finger of suspicion away from ernie and toward someone else. and even if none of it was definitive, it all added up and it looked bad for ernie. and so, finally, nearly a year after the murders, the alameda county d.a. made the decision to roll the dice. it was february 2009. kimberly olsen was at home with ernie in their las vegas apartment. >> there was a knock on the door and ernie answered the door. i came out and there were fbi agents with guns drawn. >> reporter: ernie scherer was charged with two counts of murder. and kimberly olsen thought the whole world had gone crazy. >> he's a poker player and he had made his mistakes obviously with the women in his life. but that's a very far jump from being a poker player to murdering your parents. >> reporter: but back home in north carolina, when adrienne solomon heard about ernie's arrest -- did you believe he could have done such a thing? >> i believed he could have. and for me that was enough. >> reporter: a trial date set,
based on circumstantial evidence. even though the mystery dna at the crime scene was never identified, even though not one piece of direct evidence connected ernie to any murder weapon or those mysterious nike footprints. remember, they were consistent with a size 12, and ernie wore 9 1/2 or 10. and you knew one of the lines that was coming had to be -- a defense attorney couldn't resist it -- if those shoes don't fit, you must acquit. >> absolutely. >> and a jury might just look at that. >> and that went through my mind several times. >> reporter: and then someone noticed that little piece of paper right there. what was that? coming up -- >> so that was a shot in the dark. >> absolutely. >> and it hit its mark, a bull's eye. >> i'm thinking, that's the ending of the book. >> but does the gambler have one more bluff in store?
it was september, 2010, months before ernie was to go on trial for the murder of his parents. prosecutors pored over the evidence. was there anything else? anything they missed they might use to seal the case against ernie scherer? and that's when they saw it, something quite odd. >> they came across a piece of paper that we had come across that had blood droplets on it. >> reporter: just one small piece of paper that one of the detectives picked up from the
bloody floor from the murder scene a few feet from the bloody body of ernie scherer. it was a warranty card for a baseball bat. no big deal. except when they searched every square inch of the house, one thing they didn't find was a baseball bat. >> they thought it was odd, for 60-year-olds to have a warranty card for a baseball bat. >> reporter: not just any baseball bat but a nike baseball bat. with the nike swoosh, just like the one that was in the blood on the floor from the sneakers. were they on to something here? >> so they kind of backtracked. they wondered hey, was there any nike store around where we had him getting gas and a hamburger? they found across the street a nike outlet store. >> so that was just kind of a shot in the dark.
>> absolutely. >> there it was, a nike outlet store in primm, nevada, just yards from the gas station and the mcdonald's where ernie used plastic to buy gas and food, maybe 12 hours before the murder. possible hitch? ernie did not use a credit card at this or any other nike store that day. so maybe he didn't buy a baseball bat to use on his parents. unless -- did he use cash in an effort to hide a purchase at nike? one of the d.a.'s investigators asked nike to check purchase records for march 7, 2008. and, as they say in vegas, jackpot. at 11:38 a.m., just before ernie used his credit card at the mcdonald's and the gas station, there was a cash purchase at the nike outlet, one pair of size 12
nike impact tomahawk sneakers, a baseball bat and junior match soccer gloves. >> i'm thinking, even the most skeptical jury in the world has to realize, put it all together, the book is just finished. that's the ending of the book. >> reporter: in january 2011 the alameda county prosecutor told jurors that ernest scherer iii was a narcissistic sociopath who savagely murdered his parents in pure blood. >> he's sheer evil, he thinks he's smarter than everyone. >> reporter: heavily in debt and desperate for money, ernie's house of cards was collapsing before his eyes, said the prosecutor, so he killed his parents for the money. for his inheritance. even ernie's own family unanimously turned against him, including ernest scherer senior, ernie's grandfather who took the stand on his 95th birthday to testify against his grandson, his namesake.
and once again adrienne had a date to see ernie, in court. >> they asked you to testify. >> they did. it was overwhelming and terrifying. >> reporter: adrienne told the jury about ernie's two years of deception, the double life, all those lies. >> i made it a point not to look at him during the entire time i was in the room and during the entire testimony. >> reporter: was it enough for the jury? ernie's defense jumped to its task, arguing the evidence, the red chevy camaro, the dead cell phone around the time of the murders, asking his friends to buy a gun, all of that could have been simply coincidence. it could be explained away. and, besides, said the defense, there was actual physical evidence to prove someone other than ernie committed the crime, that speck of unidentified dna found in one of those bloody shoeprints at the crime scene. the prosecution argued it was just a mistake, contamination. but did it point to the real killer?
as for the so-called jackpot evidence, the cash purchase of the nike sneakers and baseball bat and gloves? who knows who bought those, said the defense, but it wasn't ernie. anyway, those nike sneakers were a size 12, he wore a 10 or 9 1/2. proves he didn't do. right? and on that point, the prosecution had only this. >> he is very proficient at misinformation and disinformation. and i think that he intentionally bought shoes that were too large for him. >> ernie scherer took the stand himself, sat up there for the better part of seven days, confident, often smiling, and claiming it was his lifestyle the prosecution put on trial. >> he was human, he made mistakes like everybody else does, but it doesn't make him a monster. >> reporter: would he convince the jury? >> i think it goes back to him thinking, i'm at a table and there's all kinds of chips in the middle of the table, and you know what?
i bluffed some of the best. these 12 people? they're nothing compared to some of the poker players that i've bluffed so i'm going to give it my best. >> reporter: the jury stayed out for 2 1/2 days. we spoke with one of the 12 jurors who deliberated and an alternate who sat through the case. the defense would argue that in a way the prosecution put this man's lifestyle on trial. i mean, he was raised as a mormon -- >> somebody should. >> somebody should? >> yeah. all other things being equal, his lifestyle counted against him. >> reporter: but, of course, all things were not equal. and though a couple of jurors held out for a while, in the end it came down to this. >> too many coincidences. way too many. >> because, taken by themselves, they could be explained. >> they could be. >> yeah. >> but you put them all together? doesn't work. >> reporter: and so ernest
scherer iii was found guilty. two counts of first-degree murder, two consecutive life sentences, no parole. his sister katherine, daughter of the victims, spoke publicly for the first time outside the courtroom. >> hard to have to talk about my parents and the loss. they're no longer with me at all. it does tear me up. >> do you feel justice was served? >> i don't know. it's hard. it's hard to admit that anybody could do something like that. >> reporter: and adrienne solomon, the one-time teacher of the flying trapeze, the woman who thought she had learned a thing or two about reading people, still wonders why she just didn't see it. >> i don't trust my judgment and i don't trust other people are telling the truth. and that's hard. >> i wonder if you'll ever get that back. >> i don't know. i'm sure over time -- everything's been getting better. but i'm still not ready to be trusting of everyone so easily.
>> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm lester holt. of "dateline." i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. ca ptioonns by vitac -- www.vitac.com -- edition of "meet the press." live from new hampshire. the last debate before the first in t nation republican presidential primary. vong here is just 48 hours away. we come to the granite state where nearly one in five voters remains undecided despite seeing these candidates face to face in town halls, coffee sps and even in their living rooms. a small state that will have a big impact on the race. their motto, live free or die. the issues, jobs and the economy. america's role in the world and which of these candidates i best suited to take on president obama? this morning, a debate, in rtnership with facebook, the
world's number one social platform, and the "new hampshire union leader." the candidates, thessues and your queions. this is the nbc news/facebook republican candidates debate from the capital center for the arts in concord, newhampshire. here now, the moderator of menopause, david gregory. [ applause ] and good morning and welcome to this special edition of "meet the press." the final debate before new hampshire voting begins. all six candidates are here and before we begin, you know the drill, we quickly go through the rules. each candidate will have one minute 60 seconds, to make their statement to respond to questions and at my discretion, 30 seconds for follow-ups or rebuttals. we're on a pretty tight schedule so i will ask the candidates to stay within their allotted time ande'll see how that goes. we have partnered with facebook so some of e questions will come from me and soof