A Dallas County grand jury took less than 30 minutes to hand accused senior living serial killer Billy Chemirmir his second capital murder conviction on Friday. The decision came in a trial related to the 2018 death of an 87-year-old woman in her independent living community.
The trial over the death of Mary Brooks had begun on Monday. In his closing arguments Friday, Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot said that Chemirmir, who continues to proclaim his innocence, “made a living off of killing people to steal their jewelry,” NBC-DFW reported.
“This is a conscious, dedicated effort to stalk, surveil, steal, kill and sell,” Creuzot said.
Chemirmir already was sentenced to life in prison without a chance at parole in April in the smothering death of Lu Thi Harris, 81, of Dallas. The first trial over Harriis’ death had ended in a mistrial in November. He also received a life sentence for Brooks’ death. Prosecutors did not pursue the death penalty in either case.
Following Friday’s verdict, Creuzot said during a news conference that his office would dismiss the remaining 11 capital murder cases against Chemirmir in Dallas County, saying that Chemirmir will “die in the penitentiary.” Collin County prosecutors have not indicated whether they will try Chemirmir on nine murder cases linked to him in the neighboring county.
Chemirmir is thought to be linked to at least 24 deaths — mostly of female residents of senior living communities — that took place in Texas between April 2016 and March 2018. Authorities said he posed as a maintenance worker to gain access to residences and then smothered the older adults before stealing their valuables. Many of the deaths were attributed to natural causes until one woman survived and helped police with their investigation.
He first was arrested in March 2018 after an attack on Mary Annis Bartel in her independent living apartment at Preston Place retirement community in Plano, TX. Police reportedly found jewelry and other valuables belonging to alleged victims in Chemirmir’s possession, and his cell phone records reportedly placed him in the vicinity of the alleged victims when they died.
In the Brooks trial, it was reported that prosecutors shared surveillance video that showed a vehicle matching Chemirmir’s description leaving the parking lot just after Brooks left, heading in the same direction. Brooks was found dead on the floor of her Dallas condominium with grocery bags from a recent shopping trip on the countertop. Authorities initially believed she died of natural causes, but her family reported that a safe and jewelry were missing after her death.
Senior living operators face lawsuits over resident deaths
Five wrongful death cases against one senior living operator are continuing to wind their way through the courts.
The 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed a trial court ruling on Aug. 5, sending five wrongful death cases against Prestonwood Tradition LP, which operates the Tradition-Prestonwood senior living community in Dallas, back to arbitration.
The cases involve the 2016 deaths of former residents Joyce Abramowitz, Leah Corken, Glenna Day, Juanita Purdy and Solomon Spring. The lawsuits accuse the company of allowing Chemimir to trespass on the property and kill eight residents.
The family of one of Chemirmir’s suspected victims settled a lawsuit against Edgemere another Dallas senior living community in 2019. Preston Place in Plano, TX, where seven of the suspected murders occurred, also faced lawsuits.
Along with lawsuits claiming that operators did not do enough to protect residents, a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers previously introduced several bills in response to the series of suspected murders thought to be tied to Chemirmir. So far, only one has been signed into law — SB 1132, filed by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) regulating precious metal dealers, including cash-for-gold and pawn shops, where Chemirmir sold the stolen jewelry.