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Former pastor bound for trial in wife's '99 death - abc27 WHTM

Lebanon County

Former pastor bound for trial in wife's '99 death

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LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) -

A former Lebanon County pastor charged with killing both of his wives is headed to trial for the death of his first wife 13 years ago.

Arthur Burton "AB" Schirmer, of Stroudsburg, appeared for a preliminary hearing Tuesday before District Judge Kim Wolfe, who found enough evidence to send the case to trial, which was tentatively scheduled for March 4.

Schirmer, 64, is charged 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.

Mr. Schirmer claimed he came home to the Bethany United Methodist Church parsonage to find Jewel's body in a pool of blood at the bottom of the basement steps. His wife 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.

The investigation was reopened last year after Schirmer was charged in the death of his second wife, Betty Jean. A second autopsy determined Jewel's death was a homicide and a grand jury determined her injuries were not consistent with a fall.

Schirmer has been held without bail in Monroe County since September 2010, when he was charged in the 2008 death of Betty Jean. Prosecutors in that case say Schirmer killed his second wife and staged a car crash to cover up the crime. He faces trial in 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.

Schirmer's attorney has said his client is innocent and has the support of his three adult children with Jewel Schirmer.

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