Dateline   |  February 11, 2013

'Fallen', Part 7

Investigators take a second look at the death of the pastor’s first wife.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

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>>> back to our story now, no one likes to think a pastor, a man of god might be a murderer, but this pastor had a past that included a least one affair and a wife who died suspiciously. detectives didn't just think he might be a killer. they were convinced of it. here's dennis murphy .

>> investigators were digging into a.b. schirmer's past looking for the detail to help them build a murder case against the disgraced pastor. of course, betty warrant the only wife a.b. 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 told me she had passed away from cancer.

>> his first wife died of cancer?

>> yes.

>> other family members heard it differently. they believed 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 jewel 's death was suspicious in any way.

>> kathy knew the story better than most. a good friend of jewel 's, she was in the pews for most of the a.b.'s tenure at the bethany united methodist church in lebanon, pennsylvania.

>> how did the congregation receive him?

>> great. great. they loved him and he was reinstated over and over again.

>> and a.b. and jewel 's daughters remember their parents being devoted not only to the church, but to each other.

>> did you see affections, holding hands.

>> yes.

>> and soft voice? caressing?

>> yes.

>> and their dad adored them. julie and amy remember he was the one he'd get them to school.

>> he didn't do it for you. he'd touch me and run.

>> and run.

>> yet, beyond their devoted dad, maybe there was a side to a.b. that his daughters and even most of the church members didn't see. kathy 's husband and a.b. were bowling buddies.

>> he often would come home and say what a horrible temper he had.

>> really?

>> the reverend a.b. schirmer.

>> he would kick the aisle where the balls would come back if he bowled badly.

>> it wasn't just the supposed flashes of temper that caught the eyes of a.b.'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 and that would make the guys upset because it would make them later to go home.

>> so the men had a different perspective on a.b.

>> yes. 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 at church, kathy noticed a.b. seemed overly attentive to female members of the congregation. in the months leading up to jewel 's death, he said there was one woman in particular that parishioners were whispering about.

>> there was one female in the church that you would see him with in the corner talking while jewel was taking care of everything else in the church.

>> meanwhile, as kathy saw it, her best friend jewel was frozen out of the pastor's affection.

>> i never saw anything affectionate from him to jewel . i don't think i ever saw them 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, jewel 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 a.b., but when the time came he announced he wasn't going. a.b. had a wedding to officiate.

>> did that break her heart a little bit when he said i'm not going.

>> pretty much. 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, i will.

>> during jewel 's favorite song in the broadway show she remembers jewel calling a.b. so he could listen, but she couldn't reach him.

>> she called to tell him this is the song and i wanted you to be her. he didn't answer. it was later in the evening and she asked me, do you think that if he did have a wedding 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 what you thought you were starting to think yourself were going on with a.b.?

>> i did not. i didn't want to hurt her.

>> but the whole issue of a.b.'s 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. a.b. told the emts he discovered her when he came back from running. jewel 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 gauze. you really couldn't have known it was her.

>> her daughters kept vigil at their mother's bedside.

>> it was horrific. it was terribly shocking.

>> i guess you knew it wasn't going to be a good outcome.

>> yeah. we pretty much got that feeling. i still prayed for miracles, but yeah, i had that feeling.

>> there would be no miraculous recovery for the wife and mother. jewel 's injuries were insurmountable. julie remembers 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 a.b. 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, betty. kathy met her just one time.

>> she was jogging with him and i was thinking, wow! maybe she's good for him because jewel 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 a.b.'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 jewel schirmer's death?

>> what i found out was very shocking. they told us 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 was very surprising for a minister.

>> what would the story of the autopsy reveal about how jewel schirmer died?

>>> coming up --

>> 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