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Retired pastor Arthur Schirmer on trial in death of 2nd wife

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 02:21:23 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 07 2013 05:42:43 PM CST

Schirmer trial starts

STROUDSBURG, Pa. -

Jury selection has been completed for a retired pastor accused of killing both of his wives.

Arthur Schirmer is charged with killing Betty Jean Schirmer in 2008 and staging a car accident to cover it up.

A series of events that year made investigators suspicious of Schirmer and the story he was telling about how Betty Jean died, officials said.

First, one of Schirmer's parishioners killed himself at Reeders United Methodist Church, claiming Schirmer was having an affair with the man's wife.

Then, investigators learned Betty Jean was the second Schirmer wife who died in an accident. The first, Jewel, died in Lebanon County a decade earlier.

Schirmer, now 64, said both deaths were accidents, claiming he and Betty Jean crashed their car trying to avoid a deer on Route 715 in Pocono Township.

Investigators, however, said the car was going only 25 miles an hour, and Betty Jean's blood was found in the church garage.

Lebanon County investigators kept a close eye on the Monroe County case. After Schirmer was charged in Betty Jean's death, Lebanon County investigators started digging deeper, too.

Jewel died in 1999 after falling down a staircase in the couple's Lebanon County home. Late last year, a Lebanon County grand jury heard new testimony about alleged infidelity and financial problems and saw new forensic tests that claimed Jewel's injuries were not consistent with falling down the stairs.

Schirmer was charged in Jewel's death and is scheduled to stand trial in Lebanon County in March.

A panel of 12 jurors and four alternates was chosen in Monroe County on Monday. Opening statements are expected Tuesday in Stroudsburg.