A pastor has been convicted of murder after a jury dismissed his defense that his wife died in a car accident.
Arthur Schirmer was convicted on Tuesday of the 2008 death of his first wife. The prosecution said the pastor clubbed Betty Schirmer to death with a crowbar, then put her body in their car and staged a low-speed crash to cover up his crime, The Associated Press reported.
The pastor stood motionless while the jury convicted him of murder, saying nothing as he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Betty Schirmer’s family let their emotions free after the verdict was read, with many of them crying tears of joy at the pastor’s murder conviction.
“Today, she can finally rest in peace,” said her son, Nate Novack, who also thanked prosecutors for “bringing my mom’s killer to justice.”
The attorney for the pastor convicted of murder pledged to appeal, and maintains that his wife died in an accident.
“Accidents happen,” defense attorney Brandon Reish told jurors. “Sometimes there are no explanations. Car accidents, falling down stairs, falling off ladders. People die in accidents every day.”
Prosecutors had alleged that Schirmer, the pastor of Bainbridge and Marietta United Methodist churches from 1975 to 1978, killed his wife because he was having an affair on her.
The legal ordeal isn’t over for the pastor convicted of murder. He still awaits trial in the 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel Schirmer. The pastor asserts that Jewel fell down the basement stairs while vacuuming, and that he found her with the vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her ankle.
Prosecutors told jurors that Jewel Schirmer suffered “forceful, hard blows to the back of the head. It was murder, and it was going to happen again.”
The pastor convicted of murder is also accused of having affairs on Jewel. Her brother said that she complained about his mistresses, but that divorce was not an option because of her upbringing, Penn Live reported.