The man accused of killing his father-in-law and attempting to kill his mother-in-law in their Lake Tahoe-area home in 2021 made his first appearance in court Tuesday, where he pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and other charges.
Daniel Serafini, 49, was arraigned in Placer Superior Court on suspicion of shooting Gary Spohr, 70, once in the head, killing him; and twice shooting Wendy Wood, 68, in an effort to kill her. Wood survived the initial attack but died a year later.
Serafini faces special circumstances in the murder and attempted murder case for allegedly lying in wait inside Spohr and Wood’s home before attacking them. He is also accused of burglary for allegedly entering the home and a trailer unlawfully with the intent to commit theft, according to the criminal complaint.
Standing with his hands cuffed at his waist, Serafini, a former Major League Baseball player, pleaded not guilty to the allegations, denying the special circumstances, including the use of a .22-caliber firearm.
District Attorney Morgan Gire, standing outside the courtroom Tuesday, said this has been a “big case” for Placer County.
“We’re glad to see this day begin to get one step closer to justice,” he said.
Serafini was arrested Oct. 20 in Winnemucca, Nevada, more than two years after the shooting following a “lengthy” investigation by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. He was apprehended with the help of the Winnemucca Police Department and the U.S Marshals Service’s Reno office and extradited to Placer County late last week.
He denied an interview request from The Sacramento Bee.
Serafini is married to Spohr and Wood’s oldest daughter, Erin Spohr. The couple have two children, for which Serafini faces additional charges of child endangerment.
Placer County investigators have not commented on a potential motive for the crime, but lawsuits between Erin Spohr and her sister, Adrienne Spohr, allege money played a role. Spohr and Wood’s estate was worth $10 million, according to Erin Spohr’s lawsuit. Adrienne Spohr alleges in her suit that her sister and Serafini were involved in the “targeted” attack on her parents.
Erin Spohr’s lawsuit alleges her sister exercised “undue influence” over their mother and persuaded Wood to disinherit her oldest daughter.
According to comments made on a reality TV show, it is believed Serafini and his wife were in financial straits.
Serafini appeared in a 2015 episode of Paramount Network’s “Bar Rescue,” in which he told producers he had lost $14 million in “bad investments and a bitter divorce settlement” following the end of his major league career.
He purchased a bar called the Bullpen in Sparks, Nevada. And according to the show, Serafini was $300,000 in debt and at risk of losing his home and his parents’ house.
A second suspect, Samantha Scott, 33, was also arrested in connection to the deaths of Spohr and Wood. She was taken into custody in South Las Vegas by the U.S. Marshals Service Nevada Violent Offender Task Force.
Scott still awaits extradition to Placer County.
Serafini will return to court Nov. 27 for a preliminary hearing.
Gire said the investigation will continue throughout the court process, and if convicted Serafini faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.