The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 22, 2013

Ex-pastor convicted of killing his second wife

STROUDSBURG — A former Pennsylvania pastor awaiting trial in the 1999 death of his first wife was convicted Tuesday in the 2008 death of his second wife.

Arthur Schirmer, a former associate pastor at a Methodist church in Reeders in northeast Pennsylvania, blamed the second death on a slow-speed car crash and said his first wife fell down the stairs. But authorities ultimately charged him with killing both women.

The verdict came after prosecutors argued in court that Schirmer clubbed Betty Schirmer on the head with a crowbar, then loaded her into their PT Cruiser and staged a low-speed accident.

Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso had asked jurors Tuesday to convict the 64-year-old of premeditated murder.

But Schirmer's attorney insisted in his closing argument that while his client cheated on Betty, 56, he had no motive to kill her.

"Accidents happen," Brandon Reish told jurors. "Sometimes there are no explanations. Car accidents, falling down stairs, falling off ladders. People die in accidents every day."

Schirmer was convicted of first-degree murder and evidence tampering. He pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence. His attorney pledged to appeal.

The ex-clergyman is charged separately in the 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel Schirmer, and awaits trial in Lebanon County.

Schirmer, a longtime United Methodist pastor, asserts that Jewel — his wife of more than 30 years — fell down the basement stairs while vacuuming. He said he found her with the cord of a Shop-Vac wrapped around her ankle.

"That's staging 101," Mancuso said Tuesday.

Like Betty Schirmer, he said, Jewel Schirmer suffered "forceful, hard blows to the back of the head. It was murder, and it was going to happen again."

Schirmer took the stand in his own defense last week and testified that he was driving his second wife to the emergency room for treatment of jaw pain when he swerved to avoid a deer and hit a guard rail.

Local police initially treated it as a straightforward car crash. State police began a more thorough investigation months later, when a man committed suicide in Schirmer's office after learning the pastor was in a relationship with his wife, the church secretary.

Authorities ultimately concluded the crash could not have caused Betty Schirmer's extensive head and brain injuries. Police also found her blood on the garage floor, along with evidence that someone had tried to clean it up. Schirmer contends she was cut while helping him move a wood pile weeks before the crash.

 

1
Text Only
News
  • xfire20b.jpg Firefighters battle blaze at BJ's in Danville

    DANVILLE — A fire Sunday damaged BJ’s Steak & Rib House, 291 Mill St., and endangered a neighboring shop and apartment building.

    April 20, 2014 6 Photos

  • Chase leads to jail

    MILTON — Charges were pending Sunday against a man allegedly tied to a rash of recent burglaries in Milton borough who ran from Milton Police on Saturday.
     

    April 20, 2014

  • Police: 3 steal debit cards, $10G in jewelry for drug trip to NY

    NEW BERLIN — Three Valley teenagers are under investigation for allegedly stealing debit cards and roughly $10,000 in jewelry from three parked vehicles in Union County earlier this month to fund a trip to New York to buy drugs.

    April 20, 2014

  • Valley farmers keep eye out for deadly pig virus

    CAMP HILL — Pork producers across the commonwealth — and in the Valley — are on the alert for a still existing virus that last year killed 12 piglets in Pennsylvania and a million piglets around the country.

    April 20, 2014

  • Loaded language

    Sometimes it’s the offhand remark that’s the most telling. Indeed, the way we Americans casually, often unthinkingly, incorporate gun metaphors into our everyday slang says a lot about how deeply embedded guns are in our culture and our politics, and how difficult it is to control or extract them. Consider this list, presented as bullet points — which are themselves so conventional, so central to the typography of mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations, that you can forget what their shape represents.

    April 20, 2014

  • Prize claim cost man $1,829

    WINFIELD — Western Union is doing what it can to educate people about the risks in wiring money. An entire section on its website (www.westernunion.com) is devoted to providing information that might reduce the risk of people falling victim to fraud schemes.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Reel good time enjoyed by 200 young anglers

    TREVORTON — It only took about three minutes for J.C. Wallish to reel in his first fish at the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s annual Youth Trout Derby on Saturday.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Elytte Barbour's 'bad trip' put him on the road to prison, friend says

    SUNBURY — A former roommate of slaying suspect Elytte Barbour drove 450 miles from North Carolina to spend 45 minutes in the Northumberland County Prison with his best friend last week, and was not surprised when he heard Barbour say: “I am afraid to spend the rest of my life in jail.”

    April 19, 2014

  • bonehunt20a.jpg 60 dogs battle for biscuits at annual bone hunt

    It was a scene similar to ones playing out all over the nation this weekend: nervous parents holding baskets and bags, watching their little ones search for goodies in the grass.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona tribe set to prosecute first non-Indian under a new law

    PASCUA YAQUI INDIAN RESERVATION, Ariz. — Tribal police chief Michael Valenzuela drove through darkened desert streets, turned into a Circle K convenience store and pointed to the spot beyond the reservation line where his officers used to take the non-Indian men who battered Indian women.
     

    April 19, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Poll

How do you eat your chocolate Easter bunny?

Feet first
Tail first
Ears first
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.