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Deaths of both Pa. pastor’s wives ruled homicides

TANNERSVILLE, Pa. (AP) – The death of the first wife of a Pennsylvania pastor charged with killing his second wife is now also classified as a homicide, authorities said.

Arthur Schirmer, 63, former pastor of Reeders United Methodist Church in Jackson Township, is awaiting trial in northeastern Pennsylvania in the July 2008 death of his second wife, Betty Jean.

The 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel Schirmer, was originally said to be “undetermined,” but the cause of death was amended earlier this month by the deputy coroner in Dauphin County, where she died at a hospital, according to the Pocono Record (
http://bit.ly/xIyIGy). The couple lived in neighboring Lebanon County at the time.

John Leahy, chief detective in the Lebanon County District Attorney’s office, told the newspaper Monday that Jewel Schirmer’s death had been reclassified to “homicide.” He said he had not seen the amended death certificate and did not know the cause, but added that the investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed.

Arthur Schirmer’s attorney has said that his client denies that foul play was involved in either death.

Arthur Schirmer said he came home on April 23, 1999, to find Jewel lying at the bottom of steps and bleeding from the head. She died the next day at Hershey Medical Center.

In the death of his second wife, Schirmer said he was driving her to Pocono Medical Center on July 15, 2008, after Betty Jean awoke complaining of jaw pain, and she removed the seat belt in the passenger seat to get comfortable. He said a deer then darted into the road and he swerved to avoid it, crashing into the guide rail, and she hit her head against the windshield. Police later said the damage to the car was too minor to have caused an injury that produced as much blood as paramedics found in the car.

Defense attorneys on Monday asked a Monroe County judge to suppress statements Schirmer made to police and some evidence found as a result of search warrants in his second wife’s death. A hearing on their motion continues Feb. 7. Schirmer remains in the county prison without bail on charges of criminal homicide and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

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Information from: Pocono Record,
http://www.poconorecord.com/

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)