Death of Pastor's Wife Ruled Homicide

Authorities have claimed that the death of both wives of a jailed former Pennsylvania pastor were homicides.

Former pastor of Reeders United Methodist Church in Jackson Township, Arthur Schirmer, 63 is currently awaiting trial on charges of homicide and tampering with physical evidence in the July 2008 death of his second wife, Betty Jean.

Officials began an investigation into his first wife's death, after Arthur Schirmer was charged with the murder of Betty Jean.

Schirmer told police that he returned home on April 23, 1999, to find his first wife Jewel lying at the bottom of the basement stairs in their Lebanon County house, bleeding from the head. She died the following day at the Hershey Medical Centre of a traumatic brain injury. Her cause of death was originally ruled as "undetermined," after the forensic pathologist could not decipher if her injuries were consistent with contact with a blunt object or a fall down the stairs. After a second assessment earlier this month however, Dauphine County Deputy Coroner reclassified her death as a "homicide."

In the homicide of Betty Jean, Schirmer told police he was driving his wife to a nearby medical center after his wife awoke complaining of jaw pain. He said a deer had darted in front of their car, and he was forced to swerve off the road, with his wife's head hitting the windshield, causing massive head injuries.

Authorities say however the amount of blood inside the vehicle was not consistent with the minor damage outside, and determined that his wife was in fact murdered in their Monroe County garage.

Although Shirmer has yet to be charged with his first wife's death, Jewel Schirmer's brother says he always believed the death of his sister was a homicide. "I knew since '99 that she was murdered," said Jonathan Behney said yesterday. "I'm happy, I'm elated, but it doesn't come as a real surprise."