Retrial to begin in Texas for man charged with killing 18

Apr 24, 2022, 7:11 AM | Updated: 7:38 am
FILE - Defendant Billy Chemirmir lowers his mask as a state witness is asked to identify him during...

FILE - Defendant Billy Chemirmir lowers his mask as a state witness is asked to identify him during his murder trial at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Nov. 17, 2021. The retrial of the man charged with killing 18 older women in the Dallas area over a two-year span is set to begin Monday, April 25, 2022 after the first jury to hear a case against him deadlocked. Chemirmir faces life in prison without parole if he's convicted of capital murder in the smothering of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool, File)

(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool, File)

DALLAS (AP) — The retrial of a man charged with killing 18 older women in the Dallas area over a two-year span is set to begin Monday, after the first jury to hear a case against him deadlocked.

Billy Chemirmir, 49, faces life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of capital murder in the smothering of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. Prosecutors have said he followed the widow home from Walmart, killed her, and stole her jewelry and cash.

Chemirmir faces capital murder charges in all 18 of the women’s deaths — 13 in Dallas County and five in nearby Collin County. However, he’s currently only scheduled to stand trial in the death of Harris. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, who isn’t seeking the death penalty for Harris’ killing, has said he plans to try Chemirmir for at least one more death, though he hasn’t said whose.

Chemirmir has maintained that he’s innocent.

Loren Adair Smith, whose 91-year-old mother, Phyllis Payne, is among those Chemirmir is charged with killing, said she was shocked by the mistrial in November and plans to attend the retrial.

“We want justice and we want closure, and we want him to not be able to hurt anyone again,” Smith said.

Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018 after 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel said a man forced his way into her apartment at an independent living community for older people and held a pillow over her face. Bartel, who survived the attack, later discovered she was missing jewelry.

According to police, when officers tracked Chemirmir to his nearby apartment following that attack, he was holding jewelry and cash. Documents in a large red jewelry box that police say he had just thrown away led them to a home, where Harris was dead in her bedroom, lipstick smeared on her pillow.

The number of people Chemirmir was accused of killing grew after his arrest, with most of the families of his alleged victims only learning months or years after their loved one’s death that authorities believed they had been killed.

Most of the people Chemirmir is accused of killing were found dead in their apartments at independent living communities for older people, where he allegedly forced his way in or posed as a handyman. He’s also accused of killing women in private homes, including the widow of a man he had cared for in his job as an at-home caregiver.

Though Chemirmir was only tried in November for Harris’ death, jurors were also told about the attack on Bartel and the killing of 87-year-old Mary Brooks, who was found dead in her home about six weeks before Chemirmir’s arrest.

Chemirmir told police in a video-recorded interview that was played at his trial that he made money by buying and selling jewelry and had also worked as an at-home caregiver and as a security guard.

Chemirmir’s attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses or presenting evidence. They dismissed the evidence against their client as “quantity over quality” and asserted that prosecutors hadn’t proved Chemirmir’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin disputed that assertion. He said he proved that Chemirmir and Harris were at a Walmart at the same time, that two-and-a-half hours later he was in possession of her property and that she had been smothered.

Creuzot told The Dallas Morning News: “Circumstantial evidence can sometimes be stronger than eye-witness testimony. So, in a case like this, it’s very important that the jury and every individual juror understands that.”

Toby Shook, a former Dallas County prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney, said he expects that during the retrial, prosecutors might “change up their preparation or presentation of some of their witnesses in order to make their case clearer to the jury.”

“It was surprising that a hung jury resulted in that the state had the advantage of putting on several offenses for the jury to consider and that’s a powerful weapon the state has in a case like this,” said Shook, who isn’t involved in the case.

Smith said her family assumed that her mother’s death six years ago in her apartment in an independent living center was from natural causes, though it came as a shock because she was still so active. She said that while packing up her mother’s things, they discovered missing jewelry and filed a police report but assumed the items had been taken by someone after her death.

Smith said a police detective called two years later to say investigators believed her mother had been killed. She said that after so many years, a conviction would bring closure and “a great feeling that justice has prevailed.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Today in History: July 2, Amelia Earhart disappears

Today in History Today is Saturday, July 2, the 183rd day of 2022. There are 182 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On July 2, 1937, aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to make the first round-the-world flight along the equator. On this date: […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Baby’s father charged in slaying of stroller-pushing NYC mom

NEW YORK (AP) — The ex-boyfriend of a New York City woman shot dead Wednesday as she pushed their infant daughter in a stroller has been arrested and charged with killing her, police said Friday. Slain mother Azsia Johnson’s family identified suspect Isaac Argro as the baby’s father and said he routinely abused Johnson, beating […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge: Sheriff must post bail after anti-harassment order

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The sheriff of Pierce County, Washington, was ordered to post $100,000 bail while he awaits trial on false-reporting charges related to his controversial confrontation last year with a Black newspaper carrier. Judge Jeffrey Jahns on Friday imposed the bail — 10 times the amount requested by prosecutors — during a hearing […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Lights illuminate a coal mine at twilight, Jan. 13, 2022, in Kemmerer, Wyo. With the nearby ...
Associated Press

Court leaves dwindling paths for Biden’s climate mission

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 500 days into his presidency, Joe Biden’s hope for saving the Earth from the most devastating effects of climate change may not quite be dead. But it’s not far from it. A Supreme Court ruling Thursday not only limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollution by power […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Sheriff: People getting out of Texas trailer were work crew

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A group of people who were spotted getting in and out of a parked semitrailer in San Antonio were part of a work crew, not a human-smuggling operation, authorities said Friday. Authorities checked the vehicle after someone alerted a deputy constable to it, just days after 53 migrants died when they […]
22 hours ago
Lauren Wright, a Navy spouse whose family was sickened by jet fuel in their tap water, shows her su...
Associated Press

Distrust remains after Navy report on tainted Hawaii water

HONOLULU (AP) — Lauren Wright continues to be leery of the water coming out of the taps in her family’s U.S. Navy home in Hawaii, saying she doesn’t trust that it’s safe. Wright, her sailor husband and their three children ages 8 to 17 were among the thousands of people who were sickened late last […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Retrial to begin in Texas for man charged with killing 18