Former pastor Arthur Schirmer received a life sentence in Pennsylvania today for the 2008 brutal slaying of his second wife, Betty. He is currently awaiting trial in a second murder case involving the 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel.
The former Methodist pastor has continually maintained his innocence in both alleged killings. However, earlier this year, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder for Betty Schirmer’s death. The mandatory sentence, life in prison without parole, was handed down to Arthur Schirmer in Monroe County court this morning.
During Schirmer’s trial, prosecutors reportedly accused the former pastor of murdering his second wife by striking her head with a crowbar.
They further contend he placed Betty’s lifeless body inside the couple’s vehicle and tried to hide his crime by staging an accident. During his trial, Schirmer claimed that the accident occurred as he was swerving to avoid hitting a deer.
Investigators in the case reportedly indicated that the magnitude of Betty Schirmer’s injuries were not consistent with a vehicle accident. Blood was reportedly discovered on the floor of the Schirmer’s garage and evidence indicated that a cleaning of the area had been attempted.
For Betty Schirmer’s family, the former pastor’s life sentence brings both relief and sadness. “My mom is finally able to rest in peace,” explained Betty’s son, Nate Novack. “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.”
The suspicious circumstances surrounding Betty Schirmer’s death led authorities to re-open the case involving Arthur Schirmer’s first wife. In 1999, the former pastor claimed he found his wife, Jewel Schirmer, dead from an apparent fall at the couple’s home. After reviewing evidence in the case, prosecutors charged Arthur Schirmer with her murder.
A grand jury report, released in September, reportedly included the following statement:
“We find it particularly disturbing and difficult to believe that both of [Arthur] Schirmer’s wives could have suffered such horrific injuries by accident,” states the report. “To the contrary, we believe probable cause exists to believe that neither woman died from an accident.”
Do you agree with the Pennsylvania court’s decision to give the former pastor a life sentence?
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