Still awaiting trial for his first wife’s 1999 death, former Methodist pastor Arthur Schirmer was convicted of first-degree murder as well as evidence tampering in his second wife’s death on Tuesday.
The verdict was handed down after a Pennsylvania jury heard arguments from the district attorney as well as Schirmer’s lawyer. Schirmer attempted to blame the deaths of both women on accidents - one on a fall down the stairs and the other on a slow-speed car crash - but obviously no one was buying his stories.
The 64-year-old testified last week that he was driving his second wife to the hospital when he a deer crossed his path and he was forced to steer his PT Cruiser into a guard rail, allegedly causing her death. Although authorities initially treated the case as a normal accident, they became suspicious when a man committed suicide in Schirmer’s office after learning the pastor was sleeping with his wife, the church secretary.
After some investigation, it was concluded that Betty Schirmer could not have sustained her extensive head and brain injuries from the crash and a police search of Mr. Schirmer’s garage revealed evidence of blood as well as an attempted clean-up. The “foreceful, hard blows to the back of the head” that Betty endured were consistent with the damage that Schirmer’s first wife of more than 30 years, Jewel, supposedly incurred from falling down the stairs while vacuuming.
"Accidents happen," Schirmer’s lawyer, Brandon Reish, told jurors. "Sometimes there are no explanations. Car accidents, falling down stairs, falling off ladders. People die in accidents every day."
Reish admitted in his closing argument that although his client did cheat on his second wife, he had no motive to kill her. He has pledged to appeal the ruling.