Dateline   |  February 11, 2013

'Fallen', Part 10

The former pastor stands trial for the murder of his second wife, Betty.

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

>>> the prosecutor had no doubt the pastor a.b. schirmer was a dangerous character. type of guy who will do whatever he wants to do, and he has. 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.

>> you're four square behind your dad. people shouldn't miss that, is that right?

>> that is correct.

>> you 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 a.b. schirmer and decide whether he was a murderer. a lot of the prosecutor's case was circumstantial. there was 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. 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 was a deck of cards turned over and played out.

>> right.

>> while the prosecutor would describe to the jury the crushing blows that he believed killed both wives, this trial would focus mostly on betty . there would be a separate trial for jewel later. all in all, it was tough testimony for betty 's family to listen to without going to pieces.

>> just couldn't stop crying. how -- how long did she sit and suffer in pain?

>> the prosecutor asked the jurors to use their common sense about a.b.'s version of events. he played them these computer animations of the car crash as reconstructed by experts. remember, a.b. 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.

>> sail through the guardrail.

>> correct.

>> the prosecutor said the accident reconstruction proved the passenger 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 passenger who had attacked his wife somewhere else. a bogus wreck would also explain his strange behavior in the car. no call to 911. no attempt to aid his injured wife and there was his inappropriate behavior at the hospital, the prosecutor said, like this remark to the nurse.

>> the defendant says what a pretty woman bets was and then he makes the bizarre statement, and she hadda i nice ass , too.

>> the prosecutor declared that the reverend met anyone's test of a sinner on a frequent basis. his computer was weighed down with searches for porn according to a prosecution witness. one person testified 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 womanwomanizing, the emotional entanglement with his assistant and it all added up to a crumbling marriage and a.b. respond the only way he knew how.

>> there's an underlying violence within him that's well mask 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 and beaten to the point of brain death , unconsciousness. he dresses her. he carries her and she's only about a hundred pounds and out the back door, out of the back door of the garage.

>> what happened next, the prosecutor says became increasingly clear when investigators pulled the pt cruiser , the type of car he had. they parked the car in place and marked pink dots where blood was found and later investigators created this diagram. it has a trail of blood to the car's passenger side.

>> he walks her around the passenger side, sets her down, opens the door. puts her in the sxar he backs out and he backs out and concocts his little crash.

>> after seven days of testimony it was finally the pastor's defense attorney 's turn to present his case.

>> he's innocent. you think he didn't do it.

>> he told him sometimes accidents just happen and some of the prosecution's forensic analysis wasn't based on sound science . it didn't even match the prosecution's version of events.

>> if there was so much bleeding that betty schirmer was bludgeoned in this car, there should have been blood sprayed across the windshield.

>> betty 's head injuries were inconsistent with 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. there is no explanation for that by the commonwealth.

>> as for the blood on betty 's passenger seat , the defense maintains it wasn't blood from a beating before she got in the car as the prosecution charged.

>> when you hear the testimony from the emts who extricated betty , was there a point in time when her head was over the seat and active bleeding.

>> they a sailed the pros kugz's defense. the if he had cleaned up, the pastor would have done a much better job upon. would he really had left blood drops in the garage for the world to see.

>> you could have cleaned these up if you wanted to clean these up. they weren't cleaned up.

>> what's more, the prosecution's expert his exaggerated the amount of blood found on the garage floor.

>> they took luminol photos that were out of focus.

>> misrepresented what they had.

>> the defense attorney argued they'd been too quick to discount the explanation about betty getting a scratch from the woodpile. it didn't matter that the woodpile investigated was sitting on a pile after betty 's death. they were simply looking in the wrong stack of wood.

>> mr. schirmer told them to look in the wood line. if you look at the background of his own photoey you can see the woodpile in the tree line .

>> a.b.'s own daughters told the jury how it was their father's work as a reverend that accounted for his demeanor will that day.

>> he'd been a pastor to many people who had 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 of a.b. smiling while he cooked scramble just after days was gone, it was evidence, the lawyers argued after betty 's death.

>> that was a snapshot. that's not a total picture of the whole time. it's taken out of context.

>> in fact, betty and a.b.'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.

>> no.

>> but remember that post-it note that a.b. had written to betty ,a apologizing for pain he'd caused her and hoping she could soon soar free. while the prosecutors said the post-it showed the marriage was on the brink, and the defense said they were the words of a caring husband, one that knew that his job prevented her from seeing her family.

>> a.b.'s description of why he put that in there was simply i wanted to express to her that i had caused her hardship and pain by having this job in reeders. you are so far away from your children, your grandchildren.

>> bottom line argued the defense attorney , a.b. loved his wife and had no reason to want her dead.

>> i argue that there was no motive. made no sense.

>> we're talking about a ton of money from insurance?

>> there's no life insurance .

>> and the only thing a.b. was guilty of, his lawyers said were some all too human mistakes, but that in his opinion, was not a motive for murder.

>> he did a lot of things that weren't appropriate in the case, it doesn't make him a murderer.

>> he'll do the walk of shame, but it doesn't make him a killer.

>> perhaps the best person to convince the jury of that, was a.b. schirmer himself. he did what defendants don't do in criminal cases is took chair in his own defense. he had the last opportunity he'd had to preach. he admitted to being a sirn, having an affair, but he denied killing his wife. his daughters watched.

>> how do you think he told his story?

>> i think he did well. he was sincere.

>> he was truthful.

>> betty 's son, nate novak was less convinced.

>> i was full of anger. i -- 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 evolved.

>>> coming up, the verdict, but first, the prosecution offers one final clue to prove the pastor was a killer.

>> it was something that mr.