Poconos Coal

Arthur Schirmer, former pastor, guilty in killing of 2nd wife

Jury finds Schirmer guilty of murder

STROUDSBURG, Pa. - A jury says a Monroe Co. pastor murdered his second wife. Soon, another jury will decide if he killed his first one.

Arthur Schirmer's trial lasted two weeks, but it took a jury in Stroudsburg barely an hour to convict him on Tuesday. Police say the ex-pastor killed not one, but two, of his wives.

"Nobody wins," said Larry Lurch, brother of Schirmer's second wife, Betty Jean. "Not going to bring my sister back."

Prosecutors said Schirmer murdered Betty Jo by hitting her in the head with a crowbar, then staging a car accident.

"The death of Betty -- of 'Bets' -- was not an accident," said prosecutor Michael Mancuso.

That was in 2008. Nine years earlier, Schirmer's first wife, Jewel, died under similar circumstances in Lebanon County. He goes on trial there in March.

"The injury patterns so similar between the two women, the circumstances, that sort of thing," said Mancuso.

Prosecutors brought Jewel Schirmer's death up at trial, something his lawyer said swayed the jury. Defense attorney Brandon Reish said he may use that to ask for a new trial. Prosecutors also said Schirmer had several affairs.

"The prosecution went to great lengths to suggest that the affairs were the motive, but there was no financial motive," said Reish. "There was no life insurance."

Mancuso said infidelity was never the sole motive.

"Yeah, he was a philanderer, but I'm not saying that he killed because he was a philanderer," he said.

For Betty Jo Schirmer's family, the verdict was little justice.

"Terrible, terrible thing," said Lurch. "It's just not going to bring her back. Don't matter what you do to the man."

Arthur Schirmer will be sentenced for this murder in March, just as he's set to go on trial for his first wife's death.

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