Update: Former Lebanon County pastor charged in wife's 1999 killing

Written by The Associated Press | Sep 28, 2012 10:12 AM

Police lights(Lebanon) -- A retired  pastor already facing trial in the death of his second wife was charged with killing his first wife in 1999 in Lebanon County. A grand jury concluded he killed both women with blunt objects. 

Arthur Burton ``A.B.'' Schirmer was charged with homicide in the death of Jewel Schirmer, his wife of more than 30 years, Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold announced today.

Schirmer's attorney said his client denies involvement in either of his wives' deaths.

Jewel Schirmer, 50, died at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of a traumatic brain injury from an alleged fall down a flight of stairs.

Police and prosecutors reopened the probe after her husband came under investigation in the 2008 death of his second wife, Betty, in the Pocono Mountains. A.B. Schirmer was charged two years ago with killing Betty and staging a car accident to cover it up. He's scheduled to stand trial in that case in January.

A Lebanon County grand jury cited medical testimony that revealed Schirmer used blunt objects to kill both his wives.

``We find it particularly disturbing and difficult to believe that both of A.B. Schirmer's wives could have suffered such horrific injuries by accident. To the contrary, we believe probable cause exists to believe that neither woman died from an accident,'' said the grand jury's report, released today.

Arnold declined to speculate on a motive, but the grand jury report indicates that Schirmer was unfaithful to Jewel throughout their marriage, carrying on affairs with women in the church. The grand jury also said the Schirmers had financial difficulties.

``I'm happy. I've been waiting 13 years for this day to come. It's time for justice,'' said Jewel's brother, John Behney, appearing at a news conference with Arnold.

Schirmer's attorney, James Swetz, said his client will be vindicated.

``Our belief, and what we intend to show in both of these incidents, is that the initial reports were correct, that the Monroe County death was an accident and in Lebanon County, there was evidence of heart attack'' preceding her fall.


*This story was updated at 12:53.

Published in Lebanon, News

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