Poconos Coal

Jurors in Arthur Schirmer's murder trial view crime scene photos, video

STROUDSBURG, Pa. - The first motorist on the scene of a 2008 car crash involving a former pastor and his wife said the man seemed oddly calm even though his spouse was unconscious, bleeding profusely from a head wound and struggling to breathe.

Stan Dickerson testified Wednesday in the homicide trial of ex-clergyman Arthur Schirmer.

Prosecutors said Schirmer hit his wife on the head with a metal object, then staged a car crash in a bid to conceal the crime.

Dickerson said he came upon the scene a few minutes after the July 2008 crash in the Poconos. He said there was a lot of blood in the car, and on Betty Schirmer.

He said Arthur Schirmer displayed no emotion and was so calm, "I thought at first he was in shock."

Earlier, the jury learned that when Schirmer moved out of the parsonage after his abrupt resignation as pastor of Reeders United Methodist Church, he emptied the ranch home of nearly all of its contents.

It's what he left behind that prosecutors hope will convict him of murder.

The jurors viewed crime scene photos and video depicting blood stains on the concrete floor of the one-car garage where, prosecutors allege, the 64-year-old former clergyman clubbed his second wife on the head with a metal object in 2008.

Schirmer is charged separately in the 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel, in Lebanon County.

Troopers on Wednesday walked jurors through the blood evidence, displaying photos that showed a vivid blue glow on areas of the garage floor where they had applied Luminol -- a chemical agent used to reveal blood stains invisible to the naked eye. Authorities say that Schirmer tried to clean up the mess after bludgeoning Betty Schirmer.

The defense maintains she died in a car crash. Prosecutors allege he staged it in a bid to conceal his crime.

Schirmer has told police he was driving his wife to the hospital in the early-morning hours of July 15, 2008, so she could be treated for jaw pain, when a deer crossed their path, and he lost control of the car and hit a guard rail. Betty Schirmer suffered multiple skull and facial fractures and died at the hospital.

Police reopened their investigation into the crash several months later when a member of Schirmer's congregation committed suicide in the church office. The man had learned Schirmer was in a relationship with the congregant's wife, the church secretary.

Schirmer quickly resigned as pastor in the wake of the suicide and moved out of the parsonage. Troopers investigating his wife's death searched the vacant property and spotted several small blood drops in the garage. The Luminol revealed larger splotches of blood.

Troopers said the garage floor was the only area of the house where they found Betty Schirmer's blood.

The defense explains the presence of blood by maintaining that Betty Schirmer was previously injured while moving a wood pile out of the garage.

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