A murder trial begins today for former Pastor Arthur “A.B.” Schirmer of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. The churchman is accused of killing his second wife, Betty Jean, in 2008.
Schirmer has also been charged with first-degree murder of his first wife. Jewel suffered a suspicious death in 1999.
Betty Jean passed away in a car accident in a mountainous area. The prosecution is claiming he premeditated her murder, then staged the crash to cover up his involvement. He told police he was driving the car, and was forced to swerve off the road when a deer cut him off.
He explained the fact that she wasn't wearing a seatbelt by telling officers she had unbuckled it herself, after experiencing jaw pain. He was allegedly driving her to the hospital to have it checked out, at the time.
According to the Christian Post
, an examination revealed that the woman had lost considerable amounts of blood, inconsistent with the accident.
His first wife died when she fell down the stairs in their home. He stated he was not home when the incident occurred. The Grand Jury took into consideration the fact that both women died in accidents.
“We find it particularly disturbing and difficult to believe that both of A.B. Schirmer's wives could have suffered such horrific injuries by accident. [...] To the contrary, we believe probable cause exists to believe that neither woman died from an accident,” they said in September.
Witnesses are set to testify that Schirmer was unfaithful to his wife, often approaching parishioners – “women in his church who were having trouble in their own marriages.”
He will be tried in Lebanon, where he first lived with wife Jewel, before moving to Monroe County to live with Betty Jean. A trial date for the first murder has not been set yet.