The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 9, 2013

State in brief 1/10/2013

Associated Press

Blood evidence key in ex-pastor’s trial

STROUDSBURG – When Arthur Schirmer moved out of the parsonage after his abrupt resignation as pastor of Reeders United Methodist Church, he emptied the ranch home of nearly all its contents.

It’s what he left behind that prosecutors hope will convict him of murder.

Jurors at Schirmer’s homicide trial in the Poconos on Wednesday viewed crime-scene photos and video depicting blood stains on the concrete floor of the one-car garage where, prosecutors allege, the 64-year-old former clergyman clubbed his second wife on the head with a metal object in 2008.

Schirmer is charged separately in the 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel.

Troopers walked jurors through the blood evidence Wednesday, displaying photos that showed a vivid blue glow on areas of the garage floor where they had applied luminol, a chemical agent used to reveal blood stains invisible to the naked eye. Authorities said that Schirmer tried to clean up the mess after bludgeoning Betty Schirmer.

The defense maintains she died in a car crash. Prosecutors allege Schirmer staged it to conceal his crime.

Guilty plea in child’s drain cleaner death

PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia man has been sentenced to 171⁄2 to 35 years in prison for killing a toddler he was babysitting by rubbing drain cleaner on him.

Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Pace pleaded guilty Wednesday to third-degree murder in the February 2010 death of 20-month-old Suliaman Kirkland.

Prosecutors said Pace sprinkled Drano crystals on a washcloth and rubbed it onto the child’s skin because the boy was “fussing in the tub.”

The toddler suffered severe burns and died in a hospital five days later.

Attempted rapist sentenced for prison threats

UNIONTOWN – A man already serving up to 20 years in prison for attempted rape had four more years tacked onto his sentence for sending letters threatening to kill the victim, judge and district attorney and to blow up the Fayette County courthouse where he pleaded guilty.

Thirty-four-year-old Robert Ray Shaner, formerly of Mount Braddock, was sentenced after pleading guilty Monday.

Shaner acknowledged sending the letters in August 2011 to now-retired Fayette County Judge Ralph Warman and District Attorney Jack Heneks from a state prison in Luzerne County.

Shaner had previously claimed he’s innocent and pleaded guilty to the knifepoint rape attempt only because he was taking seizure medication, and contends he’s a homosexual incapable of trying to rape a woman.

His total combined sentence is now 7 years, 4 months to 24 years in prison.

Student, 16, accused of bringing gun to school

ALLENTOWN – A 16-year-old boy is accused of bringing a loaded gun to his high school in eastern Pennsylvania.

Allentown police said the student at William Allen High School was arrested Tuesday after entering the building with the handgun.

Superintendent Russell Mayo said the teen was stopped by school security officers.

Police declined to identify the student, citing his age. He was arrested on firearms charges and committed to juvenile detention.



Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.