Transcribe your podcast

We get support from FSSAI store if you have an FSA account. Chances are you're not taking full advantage of it. So many people are unaware of just how many everyday purchases are covered by their accounts. Instead of letting those extra funds go to waste, head to FSA, store dotcom for all your eligible essentials at FSA store, you'll find everything from over-the-counter medications to prescription glasses and contact lenses, athletic braces and a lot more. Miss your dermatologist appointment shop, acne treatments and facial care, or stock up on at home diagnostics with top products like contactless thermometers, cold and allergy medications on the go, blood pressure monitors and at home covid testing kits with over 6000 eligible items.


FSA Store is the largest website with 100 percent eligible products guaranteed head to FSA store and use code dateline to get fifteen dollars off an order of 150 or more. That's FSA Starcom Code Dateline.


He is so good at understanding how to comfort other people. He was counseling women who were very vulnerable. She needed somebody to talk to. A popular pastor hiding something wicked, I found text messages, I love you, I can't wait to see. It was like someone just put a break through your heart. Lust lies, adultery. Was there more? There was just blood everywhere. And there's something fishy. You have a pattern of behavior. Yes.


Wives who turn up suspiciously dead. Yes. Just how far had he fallen?


If he did a lot of things that weren't appropriate. Doesn't make a murder. You have a wolf in sheep's clothing. The sinister minister.




The man of the cloth inspiring from the pulpit, he went away feeling that you've learned something, marrying the faithful, he officiated over my son and my daughter in law's wedding counseling, the troubled.


He is so good at understanding how to comfort other people.


But what if the minister is suspected to be not a man of God at all? I believe it was all fraud, the minister told the minister. Well, I think he was just hiding behind. That hat, but rather a stranger in clerical robes carrying out the devil's business, I believe he preys on vulnerable people laying on hands where he shouldn't be ministering to more than the soul, and he would basically counsel his way right into their bedrooms. Just who was the Reverend Arthur Burton Sherwin?


God wants to see for his many admirers, he was the eloquent pastor, making a joyful noise onto the Lord with his Christian quartet, AB, to his friends, a small town Methodist preacher in eastern Pennsylvania.


He was our friend, are confident he was just an all around good guy.


Darryl Cox sang alongside Abe for 20 years. He'd seen the fresh faced young pastor grow into an accomplished and devoted preacher.


All of the things that he helped my family with over the years, he was always there.


He'd watched his friend, the pastor, raise his music loving family. Abe and his wife Julie even performed together.


They sang together many, many times. They were quite a duo as far as a duets were concerned in the church to sing like the all-American couple. The couple's daughters, Julie and Amy.


My mom and dad were people who loved each other and took care of each other and just a very close family. But a deep sadness fell over the summers in 1999 when Abe's wife of 30 years suddenly died. His daughter recalls their father being overcome with grief.


He was very lonely. It was a hard year after he was a sad guy, huh?


But life goes on, and their father did in time meet someone who would become their stepmother. A recently divorced woman named Betty who shared his love for running and the outdoors.


They just seem like they were best friends. I mean, it really seems they had this this closeness. I loved Betty.


And Betty was loved by everyone. Her sister, Tina, remembers how she made even strangers feel instantly comfortable, no matter who you are.


It was always hello and you got to hug. Everybody got a hug. And out of everything in her life, Betty was enormously proud of her grown son, Nate Novak.


So if first impressions count, what were your first impression of Abby Schirmer? I knew he was a pastor, so I had respect for him right away. I thought he was a decent guy for my mom.


And in fact, it was the reverend, his stepfather, who officiated at Nate's wedding at a beach a couple of years later. Abby had embraced his new wife's big family. And they him they were thrilled to see their sister find such happiness after coming out of a long marriage that had soured Betty's mother. Jim was just delighted that her daughter had found such a fine, upstanding man.


He was so nice. You know, we just didn't think there was anybody better than him.


With his first chapter in his life opening up. Abby took a new church posting as the pastor of Readers United Methodist Church in the rural Poconos of northeastern Pennsylvania, about two hours away from his old church in Lebanon. Nate said his mother was homesick.


At first she was upset.


I think initially, just being so far away from not only myself, but also the rest of her family as well.


But he says Betty found comfort in Abby's congregation. The parishioners were happy to welcome her.


The always fun and friendly pastor's wife, very lively, very full of energy, always doing something.


Samantha Musante had attended Sunday school at the church from the time she was knee high, and she remembers how close the pastor and his wife seemed to be.


The church members always at home. Patti and Abby never do anything apart. They're always together.


And that's how life passed for seven years, Abby, Betty and their new expanded family of yours and mine.


But death was stalking the pastor yet again. We came down the road and spotted a vehicle.


It was a warm July night. Sometime close to two a.m.. Stanley Dickason and his girlfriend were driving down a deserted country road when they noticed a PT Cruiser down off the shoulder jammed against the guardrail. There was some smoke coming out from under the hood. We slowed up next to the vehicle, but being so dark and with the windows being up in the car, we couldn't really tell what was going on inside.


Dickerson got out of his car and knocked on the driver's side to see if he could help. The man rolled down the window. It was Abby Sherman.


I said, I'm fine, but I don't think my wife is. I think my wife is hurt.


Dickerson asked the pastor to turn on the car's interior light when he turned it on.


There was just blood everywhere in the car. Betty was lying in the passenger seat, shivering and covered in blood. The pastor appeared to be in shock, staring blankly straight ahead.


Said, what were you doing out here? You know, and he said his wife had some sort of a problem with her mouth, maybe a toothache, and he had to bring her to the hospital. And that's what he was doing out on that road, you know, that early in the morning. Dickerson called 911 what they needed. An ambulance passed the car to flip over and they hit a guardrail.


But she's sitting in the hope that the EMTs arrive within minutes. And Betty was taken to the regional trauma center, sunshade away from home on a business trip, rushed to her bedside, totally unprepared for what he would find.


It was shocking how she was in very bad shape. Yes, I wasn't expecting he wasn't expecting her to look as bad as she did.


Could you even recognize her name? No, I couldn't be that bad. That bad ass. Betty Schirmer was on life support and her family was being summoned. Why had Betty been so badly hurt in that car crash but not the pastor? There was something else that struck people as strange. At Betty's bedside, everyone was in tears.


But according to her son, everyone except her husband, no crying, no praying or anything like that. Oh.


She'd always been there for them. Now Betty's mom and most of her eight brothers and sisters had gathered at her bedside. She looked all tubes, bandages and swollen bruising. We are all in shock. It was just horrible, Betty's youngest sister, Tina, was at her bedside in intensive care just two weeks before they'd celebrated the birthday they shared.


They said their goodbyes after a nice lunch to remember with the last words were never have to make sure that we keep doing this every year on our birthday and.


She loves us, Betty's only son, Nate, got to the hospital as fast as he could, bringing with him a holiday photo of his mom in happier times, mother, son and the grandson she doted on.


She looks so happy with all of us together there on the couch. And I placed that in her hands to hold.


As you touched her hand, her fingers. Were you getting anything back? No. And as I put the picture in her hand, I whispered in her ear that I loved her and. Hope she can hear me. A solemn vigil began a life ebbing away amid intensive care machinery.


How are you comforting one another?


They're hugging and, you know, crying together and holding on to each other, saying some prayers at the hospital.


Betty's husband of seven years, Pastor Abby Schirmer, seemed to the family at times oddly distant and others overly genial. But perhaps they thought he was still in shock. After all, he'd walked away virtually unscathed from the car crash that had left his wife on life support.


No crying, no praying or anything like that. But Abby's daughter from his first marriage remembers her father was beside himself with grief.


He was upset. He was crying. I saw him at her bedside, sobbing, sobbing with one of his sisters, sobbing, holding on to her, not mine.


That's according to official reports. The pastor said he'd been doing about 50 in his PT Cruiser when the accident happened. A dear, he said, had darted out into the road and he swerved into the guardrail. Betty slammed into the windshield and arriving officer noted the airbags had deployed, but Abe told his sister in law, Tina, that wasn't wearing her seatbelt. I questioned maybe. What do you mean she didn't have a seatbelt on? She always wears her seatbelt.


She would never be without a seatbelt.


But Betty, moments before the crash had made the fateful decision to unbuckle her belt. The pastor told arriving officers. Less than 24 hours after she'd been rushed to the hospital, she died. Nate's mother was gone. The woman who built sandcastles with him, who taught him how to ride his bike, Nate had loved his mother so much.


I was overwhelmed with grief, crying and I was putting my head on her chest, just hoping to hear something. But there's nothing there.


Given the pastor's account of a relatively high speed crash and the arriving officers right up of the wreck, the corner with Betty's death, an accident caused by severe head injuries, there would be no autopsy. And Abby told Nate that his mother had wanted to be cremated. She was actually cremated the next day, very quick, a decision that surprised her family.


But the decision was properly the spouses. At the funeral, directors Abbey selected a container for her ashes that caught his eye.


He had picked out an urn with a deer on it, a deer, a deer, the deer that sent them into the guardrail. And Ursula recalls the car accident. Yes.


Odd choice, maybe, but Nate reminded himself his mother had loved nature. She and Abe had jogged together at local parks. Abe said she always enjoyed seeing the deer. His administrative assistant of the past two years, Cindy Musante, helped him take care of the funeral arrangements. Her daughter Samantha, who was 16 at the time, remembers it well that morning of the service.


I actually went over early and was helping her with, you know, last minute details.


The church was packed as people rose to eulogize the beloved Betty, but nothing was heard that day from the pastor, Abe Sherman.


He sat in the pews and listen. He'd presided over so many funerals but told friends that this was one he couldn't bear to speak out in the receiving line. The preacher stood next to his stepson, Nate, as the funeral goers each pause briefly to offer their condolences. One of them was Cindy.


He said, Nate, I'd like to introduce you to my church secretary. This is Cindy. And he said to me, we have a little inside joke between us at the church here. And he said, I go by Abbey and she is known as CD. And then he said A, B, C, D, and they kind of chuckled together about it.


Do you think that was kind of a cozy, jokey thing? I just thought that was kind of odd at the time.


While Nate wondered about the relationship between the pastor and his assistant, Cindy's daughter had some questions of her own. She'd noticed her parents drifting apart in the months before the accident.


Did your mom seem different, Samantha? Yes, definitely. She seemed much more distant from my dad.


Her father, Joe, struggled with alcohol, had steadied himself on the foundation of the church. A skilled cabinetmaker he'd even made a desk for the pastor's office was advancing very, very beautiful inside.


Jerry had three crosses on the front, but now he was back hitting the bottom.


So his demons were after him again and. Was the growing distance between Cindy and her husband, Joe, the reason why she and her boss, the Reverend Abe Schirmer, seemed to spend so much more time together? She needed somebody to talk to, you know, a lot better than your pastor. But Samantha would soon wonder whether the pastor's ministering was not so much godly as up close and personal. Samantha, please, teenage detective, and is surprised by what she thought, I was looking through my mom's phone and I found text messages, things like, I love you, I can't wait to see you.


You looked really nice today. And I'm sorry that isn't normal.


In the weeks after the death of the pastor's wife in a car accident, Samantha Musante wondered why her mother was spending so much time with her boss, the Reverend Abby Schirmer. What in the world was going on as being a nosy teenager? And I was looking through my mom's phone and I found text messages, things like, I love you, I can't wait to see you. You looked really nice today. And I'm sorry that that isn't normal.


Even at 16, Samantha knew it wasn't right for her mother to be trading flirtatious texts with the recently widowed pastor. Samantha became little miss fiction. She decided to set Things Are Right and her family by confronting her pastor in a kind of roundabout way, using a fake email address. She wrote one of those. I know who you are and know what you're doing, kind of messages.


And basically, you know, just said that someone knew about what was going on and he was going to he should stop or I was going to take it to the church. And at that point, I didn't want to didn't want to expose anybody. I didn't want to cause an uproar. I just I wanted my family back.


It didn't take the pastor long to figure out that his assistant, Cindy's daughter, was behind the threat.


Samantha was summoned to a meeting in the pastor's office, her the reverend and her mother.


How tough was that session?


Very, very difficult, because as the child, I had to just keep my mouth shut and say, yes, ma'am, no man to great authority figures in your life telling you you're out of line.


Yeah. Were they saying that you misinterpreted what? That. Yes.


Yes. We're just friends. How dare you?


Samantha didn't believe a word of what she was being told, but she didn't know where to turn with whether suspicions of the affair between her mother and her pastor. And your dad's in the dark and you know, and he doesn't. Yeah. At that point, I didn't have any other choice. I wasn't going to tell my dad. I couldn't at that point. I didn't have the nerve to break his heart.


But she could only protect her dad for so long. When Cindy and Abby went on a day trip together, Joe Musante got wind of it.


He called me and he said, what's going on? What's going on with Abby and your mother? Very, you know, what do I you know, what do I say? And at that point, you know, he's like he said, is she in love with him? And I think so.


Joe waited in the parsonage driveway for them to return and confronted both his wife and Abby. Samantha's mother came clean telling her husband while she felt an emotional attachment to the pastor, the relationship had not yet turned physical. She said, all right.


Yep, about and the affair. And and, you know, I'll try and work on things. My dad was trying his hardest now to work on things and, you know, get the marriage back on track. But Joe no longer trusted his wife of 18 years. His sister Rose found out later that he was monitoring Sandy's every move.


It was tracking Cindy's message, you know, telephone messages, how long she was talking and what numbers she was talking to.


And Joe didn't like what he saw. And even though she told him and you that she was going to. Yeah, put an end to this, there she was calling him.


Yeah. Joe drove his daughter out to the horse barn for a talk.


He was having panic attacks, you know, said I just don't know what to do. And I was young. I didn't know what to tell him at that point. He knew that. I think he knew that things just weren't going to work out. For a man who had struggled with depression all his life, the world was becoming an even darker place.


I think at that point I fear for my dad family was very important. And my belief is that he thought my mom was going to leave him. His kids running get taken away. And I think without his family, he wouldn't have had any reason to live the next afternoon.


Samantha says her mother called her in a panic. The pastor reportedly told Cindy Jo had called him threatening to kill not only himself, but maybe Samantha and her brother, too.


She told me that my dad had taken his gun out of his dresser and taken it to work.


Samantha says Cindy instructed her not to go home that night, that she may be in mortal danger. The 16 year old didn't know what to think. She had always been a daddy's girl, loved him beyond measure, but she was frightened. And so she obeyed her mom and took refuge at an outhouse. Joe gets home that night and the kids are gone and and Cindy's gone. So he keeps calling Cindy and begging her, you know, I would never hurt you or the kids.


You know that. Cindy, we can only imagine the storms that were thrashing Joe's mind on the night of October 28, 2008 alone. Brooding, he drove to Readers United Methodist Church. He smashed a rock into a glass panel of the rear door of the church. Then he sat down in the reverend's chair and took out his gun, sat right at the desk that he'd made that he made.


How is it possible, Rosie, he was going to kill the pastor? Yes. Or at least threaten him. But the pastor wasn't coming.


Cindy had reportedly phoned Abe to warn him that Joe was armed and on the move a bit left town. And so then he went to a motel because he thought the angry husband was coming looking for him with a loaded gun.


Right. Who knows how long Joe Musante sat in the pastor's chair before he pulled the trigger, but they found him the next morning slumped.


The bullet had gone through his skull and deflected off the upper part of a window frame.


Joe's sister knew something terrible had happened when her husband walked into her office that morning and he said Joe killed himself. What how could that happen? It was like someone just put a hole right through your heart, you just like, Oh. And I couldn't believe that anything like that could happen. Cindy broke the news to Samantha and her brother.


She said your dad decided that he didn't want to be here anymore. And my brother said, well, where did he go? I. It it didn't sink in and then I said, wait, what? And she said, You're here. Your father took his life at the office. In the church. Yes, in the pastor's office. What a dramatic statement that is. Yeah, definitely the biggest statement he could have made.


Samantha Wood learned later. Her father in his last hours was on the verge of submitting a formal complaint with a church that could get Abby Sherman fired. Joe Musavi didn't leave behind a suicide note, but there was something he wanted people to know, especially his daughter. He put his briefcase with all the cell phone records, the contact for the bishop of the church. And his cell phone, his camera under my bed. So kind of his case, he was building against the pastor.


Yeah, I definitely took it as a sign. You know, I figure this out. Rose didn't need to see Inside Joe's briefcase to understand what had happened. She says Cindy shamelessly told her about the love triangle the night before Joe's funeral.


So I watched her face and I felt like she was a woman that was awakened in some way that had not felt that ever before in her life. She evidently loved this guy.


Rose could not believe it.


This is a pastor. He can't step back and let the two of them work it out. He can't help himself. I mean, how could he do this? I mean, what's wrong with this guy?


The pastor was about to face more than a crime of the harsh. I was afraid for other parishioners, they should investigate him to find out if he's done this to other people. Rose was about to take up her brother's dying wishes and set in motion an investigation that could not only get a bounce from the parsonage, but could also potentially put the hymn singing preacher away for a very long time. Had he broken not only the Seventh Commandment, the one about adultery, but the Sixth Commandment as well, the one forbidding murder.


Road starts digging into the pastor's past and is stunned by what she discovers, there was these things that make the hair on your back of your neck stand up.


Cindy Musante seem to be moving on very quickly after the suicide of her husband Joe in late October of 2008. Her family said it wasn't two weeks before she packed up his belongings and taken them to the Salvation Army.


She must have, in her mind, left him long ago. I mean, you know, it's over for her.


The pastor's assistant was now free to be with the man she loved, her boss, the Reverend Abby Sherman.


He'd been a widower since losing his wife in a car wreck that summer. Cindy's daughter, Samantha, says her mom and Abby picked up together just days after her dad's suicide.


My mom went away the next weekend to go see him. So it's very difficult to be hurting and have just lost your father and have your mom go off visiting her lover. I guess that's healing the wounds pretty quickly.




Joe's sister, Rose, a one time counselor, tried not to judge her sister in law, but she was obviously head over heels for the past.


Still, she thought the pastor had a lot of explaining to do, basic things like why hadn't he called the police when Joe Musante had threatened to kill himself and possibly even his family?


Any time you threaten somebody's life or you threaten your own, you're supposed to call the authorities. You've been a counselor. You've been there. So I picked up on that and I thought, she's been a pastor. You know, you didn't even do that. Instead, Roe says he'd left the desperate husband to spiral out of control. Rose was haunted by thoughts of her brother's final hours. He folded.


He couldn't stand the pressure. And I felt really bad that he sat in that room by himself, you know, because I knew how much his guts were turned inside out.


Rose was determined to give her dead brother a voice. Seven days after Joe's suicide, she drafted a letter of complaint to the bishop. He has violated his pledge to be a man of God. She wrote and asked that the reverend be held accountable for his negligence. It wasn't a witch hunt. It was never you know, we're out to get you. My aunt simply wanted it investigated. You know, there's something fishy. When a pastor of a church has an affair with one of the parishioners, there's something wrong.


A week later, Abe was summoned for a meeting with the bishop. Rose says he didn't even try to defend himself. He resigned from the church. The bishop said he hung his head and he was a broken man when they left her office and he was done with a church.


That was it. He had to surrender his license and he had to get out of the parsonage within a certain length of time. And he wasn't supposed to talk to any of the parishioners. He wasn't supposed to make contact with him or anything. He was just supposed to leave and that was it.


But there was one churchgoer. He couldn't stay away from Samantha's mother. Months after withdrawing from the pulpit, the one time Reverend Schirmer was dropping by Cindy's house for dinner, she said, oh, he's going to come over for dinner.


He said, I think I have to work that night. You didn't like Schirmer? I had a lot of hostile feelings. I felt as if, you know, my family was invaded. And before Samantha knew it, dinners were turning into overnight stays.


He started bringing overnight bags in. The overnight bags didn't leave. You know, that's when panic really set in for me.


Samantha's at Rosewood later view a bee with disgust for spending more and more time with her dead brother's family, seemingly without a thought of the man who had taken his own life at his desk.


I just think he has no conscience. You know, he has no he doesn't care about anything but his own self.


But what Abby didn't know was that Rose hadn't just right at him out to the church.


A few days after she'd mailed that letter to the bishop, she'd made a call to the police. She had a hunch. She told investigators not about her brother Joe suicide, but about that car accident that killed the pastor's wife, Betty. People had sort of filed that away.


And then, yeah, then the reverend had lost his wife in a car wreck. Yeah.


Rose says it was Cindy who had originally told her about the accident that killed Betty, the pastor's wife.


He was taking her to the hospital early in the morning and a deer ran out. And, you know, he swerved and I said, did the deer hit the car? And she said, no. I said, oh, the story of the car accident that killed Betty struck her as odd.


And the more she uncovered, the more suspicious she became.


There was these things that were really disturbing you and make the hair on your back of your neck stand up.


One of the cops to receive Rose's call was Detective James West, the Pocono Township Police Department, who was assigned to investigate.


I immediately thought that I needed to look at this to see if there's any signs of foul play.


The Patrolman's report seemed cut and dried.


Betty had died after hitting her head during the car wreck, but the key witness had been Betty's husband, Reverend Abe Schirmer, the man the detective was told to take a look at at the hospital.


The pastor had given a vivid account of the crash to a deputy coroner.


He made it sound to this corner that that vehicle spun out of control and Betty went flying because she was unrestrained passenger.


Well, everybody, the driver, rural roads can see. That is a very plausible story. That is all of a sudden there's a deer. You try and swerve and you lose it. And God awful thing happens for a coroner who's located 45 minutes away, who doesn't know anything about the accident scene itself. That would seem normal. And he's taking down the account of a Methodist minister. That's correct.


Wagner kept digging and discovered in the department's archives a cache of photos from the crash site. When he punched them up on his computer. The detective immediately noticed they didn't match the story told by the pastor. The car was only minimally banged up. The airbags hadn't even deployed. It turned out the officer who had written up the original accident report got that important detail wrong, and the detective wondered why. You saw no tire marks on the road, there were no signs or evidence of evasive maneuvers and should have been in there weren't there were not to his eyes.


There was zero evidence in the photos indicating a high speed collision had ever occurred. And yet Betty's injuries had been simply horrific.


She'd suffered multiple skull fractures and two huge gashes on her head. It just didn't fit for the detective. There's no way a conscious person sitting in the passenger seat would sustain the kind of head trauma that she did. Did you say this thing stinks? Yes, I did.


Investigators noticed something else odd about the quarters in the cars, changed the impact of some minor that they didn't go flying out all over the place. So they were just where they meant, correct? It was hard to believe that this modest church in the Poconos had become the setting for a murder investigation, Detective James Wagner was delving into the charmeuse late night car accident, wondering why pictures of the supposedly high speed crash didn't seem to match the account of the driver, Reverend Abe Schirmer, whose wife Betty had.


He tracked down the passer by who called 911 on the night of the accident to see if he had any further information that might help explain the discrepancies just by looking at the car from when we walked up on it.


There didn't seem to be any real damage. The Good Samaritan motorists impressions confirm what the detective had concluded from the photos. Betty's injury seemed way out of proportion to the minor fender bender she'd experienced. She was shivering.


She wasn't really conscious.


Even at the time. He remembered thinking. It's strange that the pastor was staring out the windshield, making no effort to help his wife.


He made no attempt to get out of the car or really even speak to her or comfort her, which isn't something you'd expect from somebody who's who's with their wife, who's potentially dying.


And even more unusual. Detective Wagner realized the pastor relied on the motorist to call for help when he could have dialed 911 himself.


Mr. Schirmer had a functional cell phone and never made a 911 call.


Wagner kept looking at the photos, the statements. I got to a photograph of the blood in the seat, and I immediately noticed that this blood doesn't make sense. I had one of those moments where it's, oh, my God, this this is it.


Betty's car seat was spattered with blood, but the detective thought it shouldn't have been if she was initially injured while sitting in the passenger seat. How did it get under her if Betty did sustain a bleeding wound from that particular crash?


She would have been bleeding on herself.


There would be a void from her body, her legs and her butt in that seat.


The only logical way to explain the blood on the passenger seat, the detective thought, was if Betty had been injured and bleeding before she got into the car.


What I saw is that evidence that told me immediately that she was bleeding prior to that crash that had nothing to do with a deer and slamming into the windshield. Absolutely not. Could Abbey have done something so monstrous as to stage a car accident as a cover up for murder? It was shocking to contemplate as the investigation was ramping up. Members of Betty's family were wrestling with the past, reliving Betty's final days. Things just weren't adding up. Betty Suneet was bothered by one of the last phone calls he had with his mother.


I could tell there was something wrong. I just couldn't put my finger on it.


But when he sifted through a box of mementos his stepfather had given him, well, after the funeral, he found a birthday card Abby had written to Betty only a couple of weeks before she died. Tucked inside, it was a Post-it note. And the person who had said, for all the pain I have caused you, I am sorry. Someday I hope you will be free to laugh again. Free to soar truly free. And the word free was underlined, some sort of an apology.


What's going on? How do you read this? Obviously, there was something going on behind the scenes or behind closed doors that no one else was aware of. And Betty's family had been taken aback by what they saw as Abby's lack of emotion at the hospital.


Did you see any tears in that night? Never.


No. They thought at times he acted more like a party host than a grieving husband just out of the blue, just like Jessica and Billy. Come on and say, your sister, you know, like they just had a newborn baby or something.


And when two months after the accident, Tina took Abby out to lunch, she was surprised to find her newly widowed brother in law. So happy whole time lunch was going on.


He was texting. He's called Cindy. He said her name said, my name is Abby and having a good time with that.


So did you wonder who this CD woman really was? Yeah, it was.


He just was having too much fun. Two other things stood out for Betty's family, things that seemed out of character for their sister Abbie. Story about Betty not wearing her seat belt just didn't ring true. My mom would always say to me, seat belts save lives. If I wasn't wearing a seatbelt, she would always make sure that I put it on before it would go.


So that it makes sense to me. When he said that she was not buckled up, I didn't know what to think because that was it, like my mom.


And then there was Abby's decision to have Betty cremated. Did that surprise you?


It did. My mother chose to be cremated, my sister, but did not agree with it.


Back in the Poconos, the state police had been pulled in to help Detective Wagner with the case. The team took a second look at the PT Cruiser speed that night. The pastor had told the responding officer he was traveling between 50 and 55 miles per hour when the crash occurred. But in one of the accident photos, investigators noticed something odd.


When they looked at the changeover, they saw that almost all the quarters remain neatly in place, the impact of some minor, that they didn't go flying out all over the place.


So they were just where they'd been. Correct.


And an expert in crash reconstruction looked at the case, concluded that the PT Cruiser speed at the point of impact was maybe half of what Schirmer had claimed at the time he collided with that guardrail. It was less than twenty five miles an hour. This was a lowish speed accident, correct.


Investigators now believe the pastor had staged the accident to cover up the killing of his wife. So five months after Betty's death, one set of investigators asked the pastor to come down to the state police barracks for a talk while a separate team of officers and crime scene techs headed for the parsonage to have a look around at the place where Abby had lived with Betty. He wanted to hear what he had to say for sure, but as important was putting him on the roof and knowing where he was.


Correct. We didn't want to compromise anything by him finding out that we were there and searching the parsonage.


The cops were about to blow the case wide open.


Who do you think is a very sick, sick man? Do you think his killer. Turns out there's one person who doesn't think the pastor is a killer. His opinion may count for a lot.


The forensic pathologist said that his injuries are what he would expect to see in a motor vehicle collision. Absher, he was the hymn singing pastor who would preach from the pulpit about good and evil. Now, investigators wondered if he was the hypocrite of all hypocrites. It's hard to believe that somebody in that position would commit violent crimes such as this.


In December 2008, about a month after investigators began reviewing Bettys death, they asked the husband, Abe Schirmer, to meet with them at the state police barracks. He thought he was going to answer questions about the suicide in his church office just two months before investigators had other ideas to get two operations going on.


You're bringing Schirmer in for a sit down, correct. Meanwhile, you're going to go in a crime tech kind of way to look and see what's happened at the prison. Yes.


While Abby was in an interrogation room, Detective James Wagner and a team of crime scene technicians swept into the parsonage at Readers United Methodist Church. Video cameras rolling. They were looking for any evidence that Betty had been attacked before she got into the car. Abby had moved out about a month before, but they were concerned that he could still get access to the parsonage. They placed the kitchen, the bedrooms, scoured every inch of the parsonage basement and found nothing incriminating.


But what they discovered in the garage, they say, was jaw dropping. I walked in the back door of the garage. It was unlocked, and I immediately noticed some blood drops near the post right above the stairwell. And I was shocked. I could not believe it. And not just one or two blood drops, Wagner could see clusters of blood visible to the naked eye. And it looked to him as though someone had been trying to clean it up.


I could see evidence of washed blood. How did it show itself?


It looked diluted. It looked, you know, faded from water or clean up efforts.


And investigators sprayed the garage with luminol, a chemical that glows when it interacts with blood. They said a ghostly trail of blood appeared leading from the back door to where the car would have been parked. Detective Wagner could almost see the crime happening in front of him.


You could see he already injured being brought in through that garage door, being brought in that garage door and physically loaded and put into that passenger seat.


But just because there was blood on the garage floor didn't mean it was necessarily. Betty's state trooper, Phil Barletta was also at the scene. Of course, now you have to find out whose blood it is you're seeing, yes, and the blood is documented and then collected for DNA testing and it comes back from the lab as Betty Schirmer. It's all her blood.


But even before they had that lab confirmation, the investigators at the parsonage called the troopers interviewing Schirmer, the pastor, to tell them of their breakthrough discovery.


As he's sitting across from detectives, you're phoning in and saying, we got blood out here. Yes. He first denies that Betty ever bled in the garage, that Betty ever bled anywhere in the parsonage. But when confronted about this blood in the garage, he comes up with a story about how she cut herself moving wood. Shurmur told police he had helped him move a pile of firewood out of the garage. He said the stack collapsed and they both scraped themselves, Betty, so badly that she needed a bandage.


And sure enough, the investigators did, in fact, find a pile of wood outside on church grounds.


Forensic troopers are meticulously going through it, looking for potential blood evidence. What they find at the bottom of this pile was a stack of newspapers and the newspapers were dated September 2008. So help me on that. Why is the newspaper important? Because Betty died on July 15th, 2008. And it's impossible for Betty to have helped him move this firewood, Betty was dead at the time that that wood was deposited in that location. Investigators believe they had caught the pastor in an outright lie.


And there was one more incriminating statement Abby made during the interrogation, according to the detective, something so small Schirmer possibly didn't even notice.


He subconsciously threw out the statement of putting her in the car. He used that term. I put her in the car, which is what I believe he did. He put her bleeding body into that car. Investigators told Schirmer he was free to go. They were done with him for now after seven hours of interrogation.


The by then former pastor was apparently rattled and he tried to get Betty sisters, Tina and Sandy on the phone to alert them that the killers would be calling the call to Sandy, went to voicemail and great me.


Thank you.


We called him back and we said, Abby, you can't leave a message like this, for heaven's sakes. I said, you got to meet us.


They met with a B the same day. Did you ask him then? Did you kill our sister? As soon as we sat down, he asked if we wanted coffee or anything, and he said, Sandy, I did not kill your sister.


Detective Wagner called Betty sisters the day after the interrogation and was surprised to find out that Abby had already contacted them.


I just thought that was very interesting, that he was already playing that manipulation game and beating us to the punch, so to speak.


Abby thought the detective was certainly acting as though he had something to hide.


But as convinced as investigators were that Abby had staged the car accident to cover up the real cause of his death, there were still huge holes in their case.


So now you have a theory that Betty was killed here on the grounds of the church. Did you have a weapon? Did you know where? We did not. I had no idea where it took place or what instrument might have been utilized to cause those injuries.


And there was a huge setback when investigators brought Betty's hospital records to a medical examiner for review. The forensic pathologist said that his injuries are what he would expect to see in a motor vehicle collision, a motor vehicle accident, just as the pastor said.


An investigative stumbling block. But there was another lead for the detective still to explore. And to do that, they'd have to go back in time back to another woman, in another person, another wife of Abby Sherman. It was eerie what they would find. Another wife and another suspicious accident, there were rumors, all kinds of rumors about her death. Hey, it's Justin and Erin from the Generation Y where we explore hundreds of unsolved murders and conspiracy theories.


This week we're talking about the murder of Hannah Hill. Some people considered it a wrongful conviction, but we always like to follow the evidence and not narratives. So listen to new episodes of Generation Y or an Apple podcast, Spotify or The Wonder. You join 100 plus in the Wonder app to listen ad free. If you're feeling a little lost or overwhelmed right now, I can relate, and that's why I can't recommend our sponsor better help enough. They'll assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist and you can start communicating with them in less than 48 hours.


This is not a crisis line and it's not self-help. It's professional counseling done securely online. One of the best things about better help is that you can log into your account any time and send a message to your counselor. You'll get timely and thoughtful responses. Plus, you can even schedule weekly video or phone sessions. There's a broad range of expertise available and they're recruiting additional counselors in all 50 states. So you're sure to find a great match to get 10 percent off your first month visit.


Better help dotcom slash DL. NBC join the over one million people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional at better dot com slash Dell NBC Better help Dotcom slash Dell NBC.


Investigators were digging into Abby Schumer's past, looking for that breakthrough detail to help them build a murder case against the disgraced pastor. Of course, Betty wasn't the only wife Abby had lost his first wife of 30 years. Jewel had also died. There were rumors, all kinds of rumors about her death.


The pastor had told some of Betty's family that his first wife had died after an illness.


He had told me that she had passed away from cancer. His first wife died of cancer.


Yes, but other family members heard it differently. They believe Jewel had died after tumbling down a flight of basement stairs. I didn't know what had happened down there, and I needed to find out whether Jewell's death was suspicious in any way.


Kathy Siegrist knew the story better than most. A good friend of Jules, she was in the pews for most of Abby's tenure at the Bethany United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.


How the congregation receive her. Great, great. They loved him. They left him and he was reinstated over and over again.


And Abbie and Julie's daughters remember their parents being devoted not only to the church, but to each other.


Did you see little affections holding a hand? Yes. Soft voice, a caress here and there. Yes. Yes, definitely.


And their dad adored Julie and Amy. Remember how he was the one who got them off to school in the morning?


He would come in and say, any are you going to get up and be like, OK, he didn't do that for you. He kind of touched me and run and ran.


And yet, beyond their devoted dad, maybe there was a side to be that his daughters and even most of the church members didn't see. Kathy Siegrist husband and Abbey were bowling buddies.


He often would come home and say what a horrible temper he had. Really, the Reverend Abby Sherman, he said he would kick the aisle where the balls come back if he bowled badly.


And it wasn't just the reverend supposed flashes of temper at the bowling alley that caught the eyes of Abby's buddies, Kathy says his constant flirting with women slowed the game down when it was his turn to bowl.


He wasn't there and they'd have to wait around. That would make the guys upset because it made them later to go home. So the men had a different perspective on maybe. Oh, yes.


Well, my father, too, was there and he would say things are fishy, something doesn't feel right.


Referring to what as you look back with a B and they'd see him with more than one woman there that was fishy and even a church.


Kathy noticed Abe seemed overly attentive to female members of the congregation in the months leading up to Jewel's death. She said there was one woman in particular parishioners were whispering about at that point, one female in the church that you would see him with in a corner talking while Jill was taking care of everything else in the church.


Meanwhile, as Kathy saw, her best friend, Jewel, was frozen out of the pastor's affection. I never saw anything affectionate from him to Joe. I don't think I ever saw him kiss. He never hugged her. I don't know if I ever saw him hold her hand, actually. One disappointment towered over the others for months, Kathy says Jewell had been looking forward to a big 30th wedding anniversary treat a trip to New York City to see the Phantom of the Opera.


She'd bought tickets to surprise Aebi, but when the time came, he announced that he wasn't going. Abby had a wedding to officiate, too.


That broke her heart a little bit when he said, I'm not really, I think pretty much she called me up and she said, I can kick and scream all I want and he's not going to care and he's not going to come. So will you come with me? Sure. Well. During Jewelz favorite song in the Broadway show, Cathy remembers Jewel calling a baby so he could listen in, but she couldn't reach.


She tried to call him to see where he was and to tell him, this is the song and this is, you know, I wanted you to be here. He didn't answer. And it was later in the evening and she asked me, do you think that if he did have a wedding and was invited to the dinner afterwards, that he would be home by now? And I just agreed with her? Yes, I would think he would be.


Was the mouse playing while the cat was away? Kathy had her suspicions. Did you ever talk to Jewel about the things that you were starting to think yourself were going on with Abbie?


I did not. I did not. I didn't want to hurt her. But the whole issue of a suspected cheating soon became moot. Not long after that trip to New York City, Jewel was found sprawled at the bottom of the basement steps in the parsonage, a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her leg. Abe told the EMTs he discovered her when he came back from running. Joe was taken to the E.R. with multiple fractures to her skull.


Kathy immediately went to the hospital. How did she look? Terrible. Her head was huge and it was all wrapped up with God's. You really couldn't have known it was her. Her daughters kept vigil at their mother's bedside. It was horrific. Was terribly shocking, and I guess you knew there wasn't going to be a good outcome. Yeah, pretty much got that feeling. I still prayed for miracles and I had that feeling there would be no miraculous recovery.


For the 51 year old wife and mother. Jewel's injuries were insurmountable. Julie and Amy remember their father falling apart as the decision was made to turn off the life support machines.


He and I walked outside and I remember it was a sunny day and he said it was a beautiful day, but it was not a beautiful day. And he wanted his wife back for some reason. That just really sticks out in my mind, because I think the way it was, the way it was said he was just so sad. Jewel was buried and mourned by the congregation Sundays at the church were never quite the same for Kathy without Jewel behind the organ, she and her sister told Abe a few weeks on how much they missed her.


We talked about how sad it is that she's not there and we miss all the music and everything that she did. And his statement to us was, well, you're just going to have to get over it.


And the reverend apparently took his own advice. Two years later, he decided it was time to move on a new chapter of his life with a new parish in the Poconos and a new wife that Kathy met her just one time. She was jogging with him.


And I was thinking, wow, maybe she's good for him because Joel didn't like to jog and he found someone that has his likes. But as I walked away, I thought, wow, already.


Yet the rumors about Abe's first marriage, the freak fall down the stairs didn't mean much to Detective Wagner until he called his counterparts down in Lebanon with a question. Had anyone there ever inquired about Jules Schumer's death? What I found out was very shocking.


They told me that the case was left still pending and undetermined with no outcome. And the closer he looked, the more he started to see some chilling parallels with Betty's death. What do you think you've got here? This is very surprising for a minister. What would the story of the autopsy reveal about how Jewel Schirmer died? They didn't rule it an accident. They didn't rule it homicide. They ruled it, as we don't know. But perhaps there was one person who didn't.


The Reverend Schirmer, second wife, Betty, had succumbed to multiple head injuries in 2008, and investigators were curious to learn that so had his first wife, Jewel, in 1999. Do you have a pattern of behavior? Yes. Of wives who turn up suspiciously dead? Yes. Assistant District Attorney Mike Mancuso found the old Jewel Schirmer case troubling. Something about the story just didn't add up.


It's weird that this woman Jewel, would, according to her son, vacuum these steps twice a week, every week for 14 years, one step at a time, nice and slow.


And then she not only fall, but suffer 14 different impacts to the head on her way down, according to the authorities, two hours away in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where Jewell died, an autopsy had been performed a decade before, after she was said to have tumbled down a set of basement stairs. The forensic pathologist was Dr. Wayne Ross. You did the original autopsy. I did.


What was your opinion about what had happened to her traumatic brain injury?


Dr. Ross's report told the prosecutor that even back then, there had been doubts. The jewels injuries, the massive trauma to her head were consistent with the story of a fall. Jewel's manner of death had been listed as undetermined. They didn't rule it an accident. They didn't rule it homicide. They ruled it, as we don't know. In fact, the pathologist had been so concerned about his findings that he had suggested authorities take a closer look. But that never happened.


A local coroner mistakenly, as it turned out, told police that Jewell had fallen down the stairs after suffering a heart attack or was a heart attack.


They decided to close the investigation. A decade later, that old case was suddenly very relevant. And later in the investigation, prosecutor would make an interesting move. He'd asked Dr. Ross, the pathologist who'd performed Julie's autopsy, to analyze both Jewell and Betty Chamas records. There wasn't much for Dr. Ross to work with. Unlike Jewell, Betty hadn't been autopsy, but CAT scan images of her brain had been taken at the hospital. The pathologist would be definitive in his conclusions.


The injuries noted to Betty Schirmer are wholly inconsistent with this low speed traffic accident, which no airbags deploy and which Mr. Schirmer had absolutely no injuries at all.


Dr. Ross said there were two wounds on the right side of Betty's head that could not have been caused in that car accident. An opinion that became even stronger when he examined computerized 3D models, a Betti skull. These two images here are huge. Dr. Ross was convinced Betty had been murdered and brutally so, she got fractures in the right side of her skull.


And directly underneath that, she has swelling and bleeding to her brain. That's a lot of force going through there.


And what kind of murder weapon would the killer have used? Dr. Ross had an idea.


It was my opinion that she had been struck multiple times on her head with a long cylindrical object, with a lot of weight to it, a crowbar or something. And he was swinging for the fences, essentially, and hit her hard at least twice in this area and caused that damage.


And the real stunner for the pathologist, the injury was eerily reminiscent of that other Schirmer case he'd seen so long ago.


I mean, it's self evident. There's two lacerations here. Oh, my goodness. He looks exactly like Joel Schirmer.


Dr. Ross compared the two wives injuries.


Side by side, when you compare the two of them, the similarities are striking. Similarities are to the right side of the head on both Joel and Betty. In terms of the lacerations, it's all happening right here.


It's all in both women. It's all happening right side of the head, both women in death.


The doctor thought they could have been twins.


And investigators also found what they believe were other similarities between the two cases, signs they thought of a cleaner scrub bloodstains in the person at garage in the Poconos and a story of scrub blood stains at the foot of the basement stairs and Jewelz case back in 1999, detectives learned and Jules brother had been so alarmed by the sight of his sister in the ICU that he went over to the parsonage to see just what had happened. He thought the blood had been cleaned up.


It confronts Schirmer what happened to all the blood? And Schirmer says the EMTs stayed behind and cleaned it up. And he said, that's that's bull. I ran ambulance. I know that that didn't happen. And trauma doesn't respond.


Investigators thought the other big similarity in the two deaths were the rumors in both about AWB's behavior with other women.


Your opinion is that Jewel, the wife, was aware him, his infidelities and painfully aware. And the prosecutor thought divorce could have been a problem for the pastor. I think it would have been maybe a stain on his reputation, you know, and he was very conscious of his how he appeared to others, because, remember, he's up on high. He's counseling you. He's everybody's person that is looked up to. So he certainly wouldn't have wanted that.


And when detectives looked at the pastor's computer, they saw that he had a secret life. Was it part of a motive for murder, a reason to get rid of not one, but two wives? A strange pastime for a pastor. He was addicted to pornography, obsessed with sex, obsessed with. He stood before his congregation as a man of the cloth and Betty's devoted husband, but behind closed parsonage doors. Authorities believed A had been keeping some dark and tawdry secrets.


You have a wolf in sheep's clothing.


For more than a year, a team of investigators had been working to build a case against the former pastor Abitur. Darryl Cox was still singing with the reverend out on the gospel circuit and said his friend didn't understand why he was being targeted by investigators. He would tell me they're investigating Betty's death. He told me he didn't know why. He said there's nothing there. They won't find anything. There's nothing to find. But investigators thought they were finding plenty.


By now, they were trying to connect the dots between the death of his second wife, Betty, and his first wife, Jewel, and zeroing in on a motive for murder after they examined the hard drive on the reverend's computer.


Obsessed with sex, obsessed with it, thousands of porn sites more than playmate nude pictures ran the gamut and all kinds of other perverse behavior.


And seasoned investigator filled Varnedoe said the sheer volume of Web searches was telling he was addicted to pornography, as evidenced by his computers addicted to the chase of sexuality.


And as they dug deeper, they found e-mails indicating to them that Abby's sexual targets were not virtual, but sometimes very real female church members. Kathy Siegrist would tell investigators about Abby suspected affairs during his first marriage to Jewel and detective Wagner says there was proof Abby had run around on Betty, too.


He was counseling women who were very vulnerable for many different reasons, maybe troubled marriage, alcohol abuse, something of that nature and he would basically counsel is way right into their bedrooms.


Investigator Wendy Safaa says she could see the trail of women extending back for decades.


There's never a period in this man's life where he's not got some woman on the hook. We look back into the 70s and into the 80s, and it's a constant you know, you can see the pattern repeating itself over and over again.


But even if the pastor was a chronic philanderer, as investigators thought, why was that a reason for killing his wives? It seemed to them he'd been cheating on them for years.


Why resort to murder? Investigators speculated something must have changed. Whatever it was, there was a sense Betty was a troubled woman.


Just before the car accident a month or two before her death, there was a noticeable lack of outgoing with the church that they took note of.


And remember this Post-it note the pastor had attached to Betty's last birthday card, the one her son Nate had come upon as he looked through a box of keepsakes, the one that said he was sorry for all the pain he had caused her, but soon she could soar free. How do you read that? It could only mean in the context that there was an understanding that the marriage was at an end.


That was dateable to her last birthday, which was the end of June 2008, and she was ashes by July 17th.


But still, they had to wonder if they believe the pastor had staged a car crash in a dark rural road. And by now they did. Then why? Maybe they theorize the timing had to do with Cindy. Was Betty on to her husband's interest in his assistant? What if she asked the pastor for a potentially career crushing divorce?


He's wrapped up in the aura of the pulpit. He's a man of the cloth. He doesn't want to jeopardize it. And the breakup of his marriage, a divorce, anything nasty, fair, wise. He didn't want to tolerate that.


And the prosecutor thought Cindy's affections for the pastor were becoming maybe dangerously apparent, she was infatuated with the reverend just mentioning his name.


Big smile would come across her face.


And two days after Betty's car accident in the summer of 2008, Cindy sent her condolences to the pastor signing her email. Love you, the mushy Happy replied, I love you, too. Prosecutor Mancuso was also struck by this photo of Schirmer he says was taken the weekend of Betty's memorial service.


You don't see a man who's distraught and devastated, lost and alone. He's smiling. There's one photo in particular. We're cooking up a load of scrapple and he has a very self-assured look on his face, relaxed, at ease. But a few months later, things would get more complicated on that October night when Cindy's husband, Joe, shot himself at the pastor's desk, heartbroken that his wife was involved with the reverend, his suicide allowed Cindy and the pastor to finally be free together by going through the pastor's records.


Investigators were fast tracked what she saw as the couple's increasingly steamy relationship following Joe's death. It just it seemed to me too sudden. I don't understand how you were. Where did your grief like where was your grieving time? She said their credit card receipts revealed rendezvous in local hotels. They're having an intimate relationship. We also see then their hotel stays overnight, hotel stays, you know, things like that.


There were also smouldering emails to each other. Cindy wrote, Unimaginable is the only word that even comes close to describing last night. I have occupied this body for 40 something years. And trust me, this is not normal for me. And he wrote and very hungry for you. Your body is fantastic.


And Schirmer even confided in Cindy how happy he was now with her. He said his relationship with Betty had been missing something for the last two years. We did not have sex, he wrote. Betty's menopausal, not interested in sex.


They were not intimate. He was tired of her. She was no good anymore. So goodbye, Betty. Hello, Cynthia. That would be the timing.


Yes. And it was not only hello, Cindy, but hello, Samantha and her little brother, the children came to more than a year after Joe's suicide, Samantha remembers the pastor being there almost all the time. What was he like around the house? Very moody, very kept to himself.


Didn't want to, you know, really be bothered with my brother or I rose Samantha's and watching from afar was distressed by the thought of the pastor living with her dead brother's wife and children. He asked my brother's house and he can be with his son and he can sleep in his bed. The decisions he's making and his behaviors don't add up because you just don't do that. What? The new couple was making big plans. Later that summer in August 2010, Cindy and Abby announced their engagement.


Daughter Samantha was terrified. She called the police, frantic that her mother would become the third late Mrs. Abby Schirmer. Investigators agreed and decided they couldn't wait any longer to arrest the former pastor with what they saw as another potential woman at risk. They decided to make their move on September 13th, 2010. Detective Wagner knocked on the front door of Cindy's house.


Cindy Musante son came to the door and I asked him where Mr. Schirmer was, and he said he was in the kitchen. And as I started to approach into the kitchen area, he went out the back door and ran right in the trooper. Remainer Abby Schirmer did not resist. He was cuffed and read his rights, charged with the murder of his second wife, Betty. The deepest secrets of the Reverend Schirmer. We're about to be revealed to all.


He would stand trial in a case that would leave a small Pennsylvania town abuzz with its ungodly charges.


Prosecutors seem to have a strong case, but don't underestimate the defense.


He did a lot of things that weren't appropriate in the case. It doesn't make murder. The prosecutor had no doubt the pastor, Abby Sherman, was a dangerous character. I believe he's a sociopathic type of guy who will do whatever he wants to do.


And he has and I included murder in an imposing courthouse in the Pocono Mountains. Abby Sherman would stand trial for killing his wife, Betty. He pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and sitting behind him in the courtroom would be his daughters. They had no doubt that their dad was innocent. Your foursquare behind your dad. People shouldn't miss that. Is that right? That is correct. You've never had a whisper of a doubt?


No. It had been more than four years since Amy and Julie's stepmom, Betty Schirmer, had been found bleeding and unconscious in their dad's car.


Now, it was time for a jury to hear the evidence against Abby Schirmer and decide whether he was a murderer. A lot of the prosecutor's case was circumstantial. There was no murder weapon, no eyewitness, no confession to the crime.


But even though the case had its challenges, the prosecutor had won a key victory before the trial had even started. Now, the former pastor wasn't on trial for Jewel's death, but a judge ruled that the prosecutor could still tell the jury about it and point out the similarities between how she and Betty died.


Blunt force trauma to the head, brain damage, brain dead, injury patterns remarkably similar. It was from the same type of object, a long cylindrical object.


This is a deck of cards being turned over again and just replayed out. Right. While the prosecutor would describe for the jury the crushing blows he believed killed both wives, he'd been charged in both cases, this trial would focus mostly on Betty. All in all, it was tough testimony for Betty's family to listen to without going to pieces and stop crying. How how long did she sit and suffer in pain?


The prosecutor asked the jurors to use their common sense about Abby's version of events. He played them computer animations of the car crash as reconstructed by experts. Remember, Abe had told police he'd been traveling at around 50 miles an hour when the accident happened at 35 miles an hour. The car would completely travel right through the guardrail, through the guardrail, into the water.


The prosecutor said the accident reconstruction proved the pastor was driving slowly when the car struck the guardrail too slowly for Betty to have been fatally injured. More proof, he argued that the so-called accident had been staged by the pastor who'd attacked his wife somewhere else. A bogus wreck would also explain his strange behavior in the car. No call to 911 won, no attempt to aid his injured wife. And there was his inappropriate behavior at the hospital, the prosecutor said.


Like this remark to a nurse.


The defendant says, what a pretty woman that was. And then he makes the bizarre statement and she had a nice ass to the prosecutor declared that the reverend met anyone's test of a sinner on a frequent basis.


His computer was weighted down with searches for porn, according to a prosecution witness. One person testified that she'd had an ongoing affair of many years with him.


It was just a shock to me. One of them he actually was still sleeping with two weeks after he murdered my sister, the womanizing, the emotional entanglement with his church assistant.


It all added up to a crumbling marriage, the prosecutor told the jury.


And Abe, he said, responded the only way he knew how there's an underlying violence within him that's well masked, that comes out violence that had been mapped out in blood on the floor of the parsonage garage. According to the prosecutor, he had a theory about how the crime occurred. She was beaten in the house, beaten to the point of brain death, unconsciousness. He takes her, he dresses her, he carries her. She's only about 100 pounds out the back door, along the cemetery line and into the back door of the garage.


And what happened next, the prosecutor says, became increasingly clear when investigators pulled a PT Cruiser, the type of car the reverend had been driving into the garage. They parked the car in place and marked pink dots were blood had been found. Later, investigators created a diagram that showed a trail of blood leading right from the garage door to the car's passenger side. He walks her around the side of the car.


The passenger side sets her down, opens the door, puts her in the car. Then he backs out. He goes off and he concocts his little crash.


But after seven days of testimony, he was finally the pastor's defense attorneys turn to present his case. You think he didn't do it right? Brandon Rice told the jury that sometimes accidents just happen.


And he argued that some of the prosecution's forensic analysis wasn't based on sound science. The blood evidence in the car, he said, didn't even match the prosecution's version of events.


If there was so much bleeding that Betty Schirmer was loaded into this car after being bludgeoned with a crowbar, there should have been blood sprayed across the entire windshield of the defense's own.


Pathologist told the jury that Betty's head injuries were inconsistent with a blow from something like a crowbar and that Betty had suffered internal injuries unique to a car wreck.


There's this deep injury to the right lung that can only be caused in a car accident. This is from a chest, the right side of the chest, hitting a dashboard that there's no explanation for that by the Commonwealth. As for the blood on Betty's passenger seat, the defense maintained that it wasn't blood from a beating that occurred before she got in the car as the prosecution charged.


When you hear the testimony from the EMT who extricated Betty, there was a point in time when her head was clearly over that seat and there was a point in time when there was active bleeding. And the defense attorney assailed the prosecution's analysis of the blood in the garage. If Abe Schirmer had in fact, cleaned up after killing Betty, he argued pastor would have done a much better job. Would he really have left blood drops in the garage for the world to see?


You could have really clean this up if you want to clean this up. They weren't cleaned up. What's more, he said the prosecution's experts had exaggerated the amount of Bettie's blood found on the garage floor.


They took luminol photos that were out of focus, misrepresented to the jury what they had. Yes. And the defense attorney argued that investigators had been too quick to discount Abby's explanation about Betty getting a scratch from the woodpile. And he said it didn't matter that the woodpile examined by investigators was sitting on a newspaper dated after Betty's death. They were simply looking at the wrong stack of wood.


Mr. Schirmer told them to look in the wood line for the wood. They didn't do that. One of the troopers said that he did that. But if you look in the background of his own photo, you can see a woodpile in the tree line.


What's more, the defense attorney maintained that everyone was misconstruing Abe's behavior at Betty's bedside. Abbey's own daughters told the jury how it was their father's work as a reverend that accounted for his demeanor that day.


He'd been a pastor to many people who'd gone through tragedy. He is so good at understanding how to comfort other people.


They said their father was overcome.


We walked with him through the grief. We walked with him through it. We saw him. And remember that photo Abe smiling while he cooked scrapple just days after Betty was gone. It was far from being evidence, the lawyer argued, of his indifference to Betty's death. That's a snapshot. That's not a total picture of the whole time. No, it's taken out of context.


In fact, Betty and Abby's marriage was strong, argued the defense. The relationship seemed good and we were able to establish that there wasn't a problem.


There were no allegations of violence in that marriage.


Now, but remember that Post-it note that Abe had written to Betty apologizing for pain he caused her and hoping she could soon soar free, while the prosecutor said the poster showed that the marriage was on the brink. The defense attorney said they were rather the words of a caring husband, one who knew that his job was preventing his wife from seeing her family as much as she'd like.


Amy Schumer's description of why he put that in there simply. I wanted to express to her that I had caused her hardship and pain by having this job in readers. You're so far away from your children, your grandchildren, bottom line, argued the defense attorney.


Abe loved his wife and had no reason to want her dead. I argue that there was no motive, made no sense. We talking about a ton of money from insurance or something, or there's no life insurance.


And the only thing Abe was guilty of, his lawyer said, were some all too human mistakes. But that, in his opinion, was not a motive for murder.


And he did a lot of things that weren't appropriate in the case that doesn't make murder. You'll do the walk of shame, but it doesn't make him a killer. Is that the argument? Right.


And perhaps the best person to convince the jury of that was none other than Abe Schirmer himself.


He did what defendants don't often do in criminal cases, took the stand in his own defense, the pastor turned his chair to face the jury, perhaps the last opportunity he'd had to reach.


He admitted to being a sinner, having an affair, but he denied killing his wife. His daughters watched. How do you think he told a story?


I think he did well. My sincere, truthful. Betty's son, Nate Novak, was less convinced. I was full of anger. I knew he wasn't telling the truth. Truth, the finding of facts, that was the jury's job, the time was at hand to see what he thought. The verdict, but first, the prosecution offers one final clue to prove the pastor was a killer. It's something that Mr. Schirmer forgot, being a typical male.


And Schirmer even confided in Cindy how happy he was now with her. He said his relationship with Betty had been missing something for the last year.


In his closing argument, the prosecutor asked the jury to expose the sinister minister, that he's kind of like a predator and he'll look at people's vulnerabilities and and he'll manipulate them and he'll get in their good graces and he'll play with their heads.


And the prosecutor offered the jurors one final clue, he said, was a death blow to the pastor's story.


That's something that Mr. Schirmer forgot, being a typical male. Look closely at the photos of the accident scene. The prosecutors said his investigator, Wendy Surfies, had noticed something was missing, something Betty would have had with her. All right.


She's going to the hospital. What would she do? She gets dressed, grabs her purse. And I stopped and I said, what about the purse?


It was a crucial prop. The prosecutor argued that Abby had forgotten to throw in the car when he staged the car accident. But the defense attorney in his final statement told the jurors this was no fake scene.


He urged the jurors not to punish the reverend because of his self-confessed sins. Murder, he said, was not on that list.


They need to focus if they were dwelling on the forensics and not be brought into the idea that he's a bad person and therefore he did a bad thing.


Now, it would be up to a panel of strangers to decide the pastor's fate. Well, the jury deliberated. Betty and Jules children waited. Abby's stepson was convinced of his guilt.


The evidence is just there. It's overwhelming. But Abby's daughters were adamantly convinced of his innocence. They had lost their mother, Jewel. Would they now lose their father to what's happened to your family?


Do you say why do you have self-pity? Oh, I don't have self-pity. God is good. He's walked beside us through everything, regardless of what's happened.


Abby's fiancee, Cindy, waited anxiously to so did the prosecutor.


I never know what a jury is going to do. You always worry when a jury's out, right? Juries can your line of work, anything? Yes. Anything could happen. Absolutely.


After an hour and a half of deliberation, the jurors had reached a verdict, but his family took their seats in the courtroom raw, all huddled together in the in the seats. And we all had our heads down.


Then the verdict, guilty of first degree murder. We immediately hugged Sheila, shouted out and started crying. For Betty's family, the moment was bittersweet. Fresh waves of grief for Betty's loss and their brother in law about betrayal. So he was a stranger to all of you. This was the scene right from the beginning. You think now? Yeah, I do. Sitting at your Thanksgiving tables and stopping by and seeing the grandchildren was all a front. I think it was Sandy.


What did Amy Schumer do to your family? I think he physically broke our hearts and put a mom in help with that daughter and she really cared for that guy. And that has the turn out to be like this.


On the other side of the courtroom, Abby's daughters could not believe it.


It was another tragedy to hear that. I just I'm still I was just so sad. Just cried, devastated. I still hear it in my head replaying and the verdict, the verdict. And I don't agree with the decision right now, regardless of what any jury says.


And he never hurt.


Patty, how are you feeling right now? The pastor's fiancee, Cindy, had no comment for reporters after the verdict, no reaction at all. She was still standing by her man. She still loves him. Samantha Musante says her relationship with her mother is strange. Samantha, how do you conjure up a new mother daughter relationship? I love her. It's plain and simple. She's family. You know, she couldn't wrong me in every way possible. At the end of the day, she stole my mother.


You love her?


Yeah, but the parents Samantha is really living for these days is her late father. She says she dedicates every day to making him proud of everything I do is for him now.


You know, I hope he's proud of me in a sense of getting justice.


Yeah, going to everything, going to school, I'm being successful. Anything I wanted to do, he believed I could do it.


Samantha says she has found forgiveness for the man who could have become her new stepdad. But Betty son Nate wasn't there yet. I don't think I'll be able to say those words. Who is this guy? The sinister minister present himself as a pastor, a pillar of the community. But we all know now there were skeletons in the closet and things going on behind the scenes. Abby Schirmer was sentenced to life in prison without parole.


His defense attorney appealed the verdict, arguing, among other things, that the death of Abby's first wife, Jewel, should never have been allowed to be a part of Betty's trial.


I think the appeal of the first wife's circumstances surrounding the death until she really did prejudice the case.


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied his appeal. What do you have to say to Betty's family or yours?


But as the former pastor was being taken off to jail, the prosecutor says he told deputies he felt strangely calm and he couldn't understand why he felt so relaxed.


And I mean, I know why he felt so relaxed. You know, he's been carrying this thing with him for many years. You know, these days, the old bromide, the truth was on your very terrible secrets.


And he felt that that relief, forgiveness is the provenance of the church. Justice is the duty of the state. In 2014, Abby Sherman, the disgraced pastor, received an additional 20 to 40 years in prison for the murder of his first wife, Jewel. He pleaded no contest, but still insists he is innocent, saying he took the plea to spare his family the pain of a second trial. The Meet the Press Chuck Todd cast, it's an insider's take on politics, the twenty twenty election and more candid conversations with some of my favorite reporters about things we usually discuss off camera.


Listen for free wherever you get your podcast.