A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for a former Lebanon County pastor charged in the death of his wife 13 years ago.
Arthur Burton "AB" Schirmer, of Stroudsburg, was preliminarily arraigned via video Wednesday before District Judge Kim Wolfe, who scheduled the hearing for December 11.
Schirmer did not enter a plea.
He was charged last month with criminal homicide in the death of Jewel Schirmer, who died a day
after she supposedly fell down a flight of stairs at her North Lebanon
Township home in April 1999.
Schirmer, 64, has long claimed he came home to the Bethany United Methodist Church parsonage to find Jewel Schirmer's body in a pool of blood at the bottom of the basement steps.
Mrs. Schirmer had suffered a fractured skull as well as injuries to her face, body, arms and legs, but the coroner could not determine whether her death was an accident or a homicide. Her death was later ruled a homicide in February of this year.
Authorities said a grand jury learned from EMS responders that an electrical cord had been found around Jewel Schirmer's foot, and other experts testified that her injuries were not consistent with a fall.
Schirmer has been held without bail since September 2010, when he was charged in the 2008 death of his second wife, Betty Jean Schirmer, in Monroe County. Prosecutors in that case say Schirmer killed Betty Jean and staged a car crash to cover up the crime. He faces trial for that case in January.
Authorities began investigating Schirmer after a suicide in his office at Reeders United Methodist Church. According to court
documents, Schirmer had been having an extra-marital affair with the
suicide victim's wife, who was his administrative assistant.
Court documents say the now-retired pastor was a philanderer who preyed on women in his church who were having trouble in their marriages.
Schirmer's attorney, James Swetz, has said his client will be vindicated. He has also released a statement from the three adult children of Arthur and Jewel Schirmer that said their father is "a compassionate and gentle man who would never harm anyone."
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