Was he an upstanding man of God….or a wife killer?
Arthur Schirmer, 64, struggled to choose an urn to keep his beloved wife’s ashes in. Then he saw it. Decorated with deers, it was perfect for Betty, 56.
She’d loved watching deer, and ironically, it seemed they’d also been the cause of her death.
‘A deer came right out in front of our car,’ Schirmer had told the police just days before. He explained how he’d been driving Betty to hospital in the early hours, as she’d got jaw pain.
On the way, Arthur swerved to avoid a deer in the road and lost control of the car. An ambulance arrived to find little damage to the car, and Schirmer unhurt.
But Betty hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt. The interior of the car was covered in blood from her head injuries.
Her life-support machine was turned off the next day. Schirmer arranged for her to be cremated.
He was a church minister, but at Betty’s memorial service he arranged for two other churchmen to officiate. It wasn’t surprising that he found it emotional. It would have brought back memories of burying his first wife, Jewel.
Jewel and Arthur had been married for 30 years when Jewel, 50, tripped down the basement stairs. Schirmer found her with the vacuum cord around her ankle.
He and Betty had married two years on. Now, seven years later, he was burying her too.
Then, on October 29 2010, a man committed suicide in Schirmer’s office at the church where he worked.
The dead man was the husband of a church administrative assistant. ‘Why?’ people asked. The man alleged his wife and Schirmer were having an affair, since before Betty’s death.
Authorities reopened their investigations into the crash.
Found dried bloodstains on Arthur and Betty’s garage floor, leading to the car passenger door. The samples couldn’t be compared with Betty’s, as she’d been cremated. However, they proved a match with her relatives.
After examining pictures of the crash scene, it was found that Betty’s injuries were inconsistent with the accident.
Police arrested Schirmer and charged him with first-degree murder.
At his trial, everyone wondered why Betty hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt. She was usually so safety-conscious.
And the blood on the garage floor? Schirmer said she’d been helping him when she gashed her arm.
Experts concluded that the crash would not have caused Betty’s severe head injuries.
The defence pointed to a lack of motive. But the prosecution suggested Arthur Schirmer wanted to continue his affair.
It was put to the jury that Schirmer had clubbed Betty to death with a crowbar in the garage, before putting her in the front seat and staging the crash.
In January 2013, Arthur Schirmer was found guilty of first-degree murder and evidence tampering.
His conviction holds an automatic life sentence without parole.
Then in June 2014, Arthur Schirmer pleaded no contest to the charge that he killed his first wife, Jewel. He got 20 to 40 years for that killing.
He might have been a religious man, but God wasn’t the only one to judge him this time.
By Rachel Tompkins