The trial of accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir, indicted on 18 capital murder charges, most of them related to deaths at Dallas-area senior living communities, is set for Nov. 12.
As McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, police believe Chemirmir posed as a maintenance worker for more than a year to gain access to residents’ living quarters and then suffocated them and stole jewelry and other items to sell at 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 is charged with 18 counts of capital murder and is alleged to be tied to at least 24 deaths of older adults, most of them senior living residents.
Lawsuits filed against some of the senior living communities where Chemirmir’s alleged victims lived maintain that operators did not do enough to protect residents.
A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers introduced a group of bills in response to the series of suspected murders in the state thought to be tied to Chemirmir.
In May, House Bill 723 — also known as Marilyn’s Law for alleged victim Marilyn Bixler — was passed by the Texas Legislature and will go into effect Sept. 1. The law requires next-of-kin to be notified when the cause-of-death on a death certificate is amended. Bixler died in December 2017 at the Parkview in Frisco retirement community.
SB 1133, filed by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), and HB 3144 filed by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), are designed to create a voluntary safety standards certification program for independent living communities. Those standards would address handling and notifying residents of crimes and “unusual accidents” within communities, registering visitors and conducting employee criminal background checks.
HB 3095, filed by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton), is meant to hold independent living communities liable for damages for failing to implement safety policies or procedures. The bill also would assess fines to incentivize these settings to conduct employee criminal background checks and report criminal activity to law enforcement.
Both the Texas Health Care Association and the Texas Assisted Living Association have told McKnight’s Senior Living that the language within the bills exempts assisted living communities and nursing facilities. The majority of Chemirmir’s alleged victims lived in independent living communities for older adults, which are the type of community covered under the proposed legislation.
Other bills that are the direct result of the residents’ deaths include SB 1132, which was signed in June by the governor, and HB 3123 filed by Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas), which call for more unannounced inspections by the agency that regulates the laws on inventory control, seller information and time between purchase and destruction at cash-for-gold and pawn shops.
In June, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot announced he would not seek the death penalty for Chemirmir, who pleaded not guilty to the charges. In a statement, the district attorney said he met with the victim’s families and indicated he would request two jury trials with the goal of securing two back-to-back life sentences without the possibility of parole.