A grand jury on Tuesday handed down three new capital murder indictments against Billy Chemirmir, already charged with 17 counts of capital murder and two counts of attempted capital murder of older adults, most of them senior living residents, in two Texas counties.
The action comes just days after a Texas legislator filed the state’s first bill in response to the string of suspected murders, which occurred in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Texas state Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed HB 723 on Dec. 3 after victims’ families pressed state legislators for increased regulation of senior living communities following the deaths of residents and the theft of their belongings.
Chemirmir is thought to be linked to at least nine other deaths in civil suits, bringing the total number of deaths to which he may be linked to at least 24. He is still being investigated for hundreds of other unsolved deaths or attacks, mostly against female residents of senior living communities.
Many of the deaths initially were ruled to be from natural causes. Families didn’t learn the true cause of death of their loved ones until Chemirmir’s arrest in 2018. HB 723 requires officials to notify next of kin when a death certificate is amended.
As McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, police believe Chemirmir posed as a maintenance worker for more than a year to gain access to older adults’ living quarters and then suffocated them and stole jewelry and other items to sell at Dallas-area pawn shops. Most of the deaths initially were ruled to have been from natural causes until one potential victim survived and described the attack to police.
Chemirmir, who has been in the Dallas County Jail since his arrest in March 2018, could face the death penalty. He denies the charges and is awaiting trial in 2021.
Lawsuits have been filed against the communities where the residents died, including Preston Place Retirement Community in Plano, TX, where seven of the suspected murders occurred. Other lawsuits are pending against The Tradition-Prestonwood, also where the three women represented by the most recent charges — Joyce Abramowitz, Doris Wasserman and Margaret White — lived.
Abramowitz died in July 2016, White died in August 2016 and Wasserman died in December 2017.
The Tradition-Prestonwood said in a statement to the Dallas Morning News that it “regards all our residents as family” and said that investigators initially thought the deaths were due to natural causes.
“Those rulings stood for more than 27 months,” the operator said. “The Tradition-Prestonwood has cooperated with all the authorities and will continue to do so.”
The family of one of Chemirmir’s suspected victims settled a lawsuit against Edgemere in September 2018. All of the lawsuits allege that the senior living communities where the alleged victims lived did not do enough to protect them.