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Trial Begins For Suspected Serial Killer Accused Of Targeting And Murdering At Least 18 Elderly People
Jurors listened to a taped deposition of survivor Mary Annis Bartel as the murder trial of Billy Chemirmir opened.
Jurors listened to disturbing details of Billy Chemirmir’s alleged modus operandi of stalking and smothering elderly women to death as the trial for the suspected Texas serial killer kicked off this week.
Chemirmir, 48, is now on trial for capital murder for the smothering death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. Her 2018 slaying is one of 18 capital murder charges, all involving elderly women, that Chemirmir has been indicted on. Investigators have also linked him to six additional deaths between 2016 and 2018, the Dallas News reported last year, citing medical examiner reports and civil court filings.
The trial began Monday with jurors listening to a taped deposition with one of the suspected killer's alleged survivors. In the recording, Mary Annis Bartel explained that she knew she was in trouble as soon as she opened her door and saw Chemirmir.
"My eyes were just fixated on these green rubber gloves that I saw. ... I knew instantly when I saw those two green rubber gloves, number one, I should not have opened the door, number two, my life was in grave danger," she said, according to the Associated Press.
She alleged that he used “all his weight” when he put a pillow into her face. She lost consciousness during the smothering attack and when she came to, some of her most precious jewelry — including her wedding band and diamond engagement ring — was gone.
What Chemirmir did to her is exactly what he did to numerous elderly women around Dallas and its suburbs, prosecutors allege.
Chemirmir was first eyed as a possible attacker in 2018 when he was suspected of trying to smother a 91-year-old woman to death, The Star-Telegram in Fort Worth reported at the time. Before police arrested him in connection with that alleged incident, they allegedly caught him throwing a jewelry box into a dumpster, according to a 2018 press release from the Dallas Police Department. That jewelry box led them to the body of Harris; her lipstick was smeared on the pillow used to kill her.
Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin noted in Monday’s opening statements that both Harris and Chemirmir had been checking out at the same time at a Walmart store the day of her murder.
“This is a case about stalking, smothering and stealing,” Fitzmartin told the jury.
After the discovery of Harris' body, investigators searched Chemirmir's apartment and allegedly found jewelry, cell phones, and other belongings of other victims. Prosecutors say he targeted many North Texas senior living residents while either working as health care staff or impersonating maintenance personnel at the facilities. Many of the deaths were initially listed as due to natural causes.
The defense did not make an opening statement on Monday. Chemirmir’s lawyer Phillip Hayes told the Dallas News last year that he feels the evidence against his client is circumstantial.
“It seems like every unexplained death they come up with, they’re pinning on him,” Hayes said at the time “If you look at all of it, it doesn’t stand up.”
Chemirmir has pleaded not guilty to Harris’ murder. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted of her killing.