TANNERSVILLE, Pa. - A retired pastor has been ordered to stand trial on charges he killed his wife and staged a car accident to cover it up.
After hearing more than four hours of testimony Tuesday, a judge in Monroe County ruled that Arthur Burton "A.B." Schirmer will be tried on charges of homicide and evidence tampering in the 2008 death of his wife Betty.
Investigators said on July 15, 2008, Schirmer told police his wife's head hit the windshield of his car after he swerved to avoid hitting a deer.
Schirmer told police his wife wasn't wearing a seat belt.
Investigators said a trail of Betty Jean's blood was later found in the couple's garage, but Schirmer said that was from an earlier accident.
In court, a scientific expert testified the blood found in the car was not consistent with a crash.
Prosecutors said that testimony proved one thing.
"It concluded fairly quickly that she was bleeding prior to getting in that car," said Michael Mancuso.
A paramedic testified the car had very little damage and she couldn't figure out how Betty Jean suffered a severe head injury.
The court also heard testimony from Betty Jean's son who said he saw a birthday card from Schirmer to his mother.
It said, "For all the pain I've caused you, I'm sorry. I hope one day you'll be free."
Betty Schirmer's death was initially ruled an accident. But police reopened the investigation after the November 2008 suicide of a man whose wife was having an affair with A.B. Schirmer.
Defense attorneys are standing by the original death certificate.
"They didn't even want to use the original one," said Jim Swetz. " Why not? Cause it said accident. We're confident after the investigation is complete that'll be the story at the end of the day as well, accident."
Police are also re-examining the 1999 death of Schirmer's first wife, Jewel, who was reported to have died in a fall down a flight of stairs when the couple lived in Lebanon County.
Schirmer has denied harming either of his wives.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley Vaughan Willis/SXC