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Lawyer: Gossip doesn't make Pa. pastor guilty

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm •  Published: January 8, 2013

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A prosecutor suggested Tuesday that a philandering Pennsylvania pastor killed both of his wives because he was unhappy with his sex life, but the former clergyman's attorney said that his client's adultery doesn't make him a murderer.

Monroe County prosecutor Michael Mancuso told a jury in the Poconos that Arthur "A.B." Schirmer, 64, repeatedly hit his second wife in the head with a heavy metal object in 2008, then staged a car accident in a bid to cover it up. He said the plot unraveled a few months later when a member of the congregation committed suicide in the church office after learning that Schirmer was in a relationship with the congregant's wife, the church secretary.

Emails and other evidence pulled from Schirmer's computers indicate the former Methodist pastor's marriage to Betty Schirmer was "very, very troubled," Mancuso said, telling jurors about one email in which the pastor complained his menopausal wife had lost "all interest in sex," and that they hadn't been together sexually in two years.

The retired pastor is charged separately in Lebanon County with killing his first wife, Jewel Schirmer, in 1999. Mancuso told the jury about that case, too, saying there are similarities in how the women were killed and that Schirmer had cheated on Jewel, too.

Schirmer has pleaded innocent in both cases.

His attorney, Brandon Reish, acknowledged his client's philandering ways, including the fact that Schirmer had a sexual encounter with a longtime mistress just weeks after his wife's death. But he said in his opening statement that just because Schirmer cheated on his wives doesn't mean he killed them.

"You can't take bad behavior, bad science and church gossip and turn them into a murder, let alone two," Reish said.

The trial is expected to focus in part on the car crash that Schirmer blames for his wife's death.

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