STROUDSBURG -- A former pastor in the Poconos accused of killing both his first and second wives went on trial Monday for one of the homicides that happened in Monroe County.
Arthur Schirmer, 64, was led out of a Monroe County courtroom soon after 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen for his murder trial.
Prosecutors believe Schirmer beat his wife Betty in July of 2008, then staged a car accident on Route 715 near Tannersville, making it seem like Betty died in that wreck.
He was charged with Betty’s death in 2010.
"Everyone is in disbelief that something like that could happen, especially here in Reeders," said Dina Warner of Bartonsville.
Warner grew up in Reeders and said her friends knew Schirmer when he led the United Methodist Church there. She says he was loved in the community.
"Oh, he was a helpful individual. He was a very spiritual individual. If you ever needed anything, he was there. He helped out the sick and the elderly," said Warner.
But once the allegations came out that Schirmer killed his wife Betty, Warner said she started to wonder.
"How can someone be that way, like, so good and so wonderful and then be so evil. That had to be an evil thought process," said Warner.
Schirmer's case in Monroe County is now getting national attention because the former pastor is also accused of killing his first wife Jewel, in 1999 at their home in Lebanon County.
In that case, Jewel's death also seemed like an accident.
"I think we will be surprised. I think we will be horribly surprised what comes out in the end," Warner added.
Opening statements at the trial of former pastor Arthur Schirmer are set for Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.
The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.
Schirmer also faces a trial in Lebanon County for the death of his first wife Jewel. A date for that trial has not been set.