A former Pennsylvania pastor was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday, two months after he was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of his second wife.
Arthur “A.B.” Schirmer, 64, was sentenced Monday in Monroe County Court of the first-degree murder of Betty Schirmer, his second wife. He awaits trial on the charges of also killing his first wife, Jewel Schirmer in 1999.
Prosecutors say that Schirmer used a crowbar to bludgeon his wife, Betty, on the head before he loaded her into a car and staged a slow-speed accident to conceal the crime. In September, a grand jury concluded that Schirmer killed both women with blunt objects. Jewel Schirmer, 50, died at Hershey Medical Center of a traumatic brain injury from an alleged fall down a flight of stairs. The families of both women and the community at-large are in shock after the verdicts, but also relieved that justice has been served.
“My mom is finally able to rest in peace,” Betty Schirmer’s son, Nate Novack, said after the sentencing. “We do have some closure and it’s a great day overall, even though the life conviction isn’t going to bring my mom back.”
As Schirmer took the stand in his own defense, he relayed his version of what happened to Betty Schirmer. He said he was driving Betty to Pocono Medical Center on July 15, 2008, when she awoke complaining of jaw pain and had removed her seat belt to get comfortable. He went on to say that a deer ran into the road and he swerved to avoid it, crashing into the guide rail and causing Betty to hit her head against the windshield.
Local police originally believed his story but as a more thorough investigation took place, their concerns deepened Another alarm bell went off due to a man committing suicide in Schirmer’s office. The man had apparently learned that Schirmer was having an affair with his wife, leading to his death. Police weren’t sure if he really killed himself or “received unwanted help” to an early death.
Later police claimed that the damage to the car was too minor to have caused an injury that produced as much blood as paramedics found in the car. Police also found her blood on the garage floor, along with evidence that someone had tried to clean it up.
One of Schrimer’s two daughters, Julie Campbell, said, “I just didn’t hear evidence that led me to believe that he committed a crime.” Both daughters and Schrimer’s girlfriend continue to believe in his innocence.
A jury deliberated about 90 minutes before returning its verdict. Schirmer has maintained his innocence in both cases.