A suspected serial killer accused of smothering and robbing 12 elderly women in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex had a pattern of posing as a healthcare worker or maintenance man at senior living facilities, according to an attorney who represents a victim’s family.
Billy Chemirmir is charged with killing Doris Gleason, 92, in her Dallas apartment at Prestonwood Tradition retirement community in October 2016. According to court records, Chemirmir sneaked onto the premises and suffocated Gleason.
Gleason’s daughter, Shannon Dion, is suing the facility where her mother was killed. Dion’s lawyer, Richard Arnold, said Chemirmir had a history of sneaking into the retirement community.
“It’s bizarre. The guy is going to become thought of as a very significant serial killer,” Arnold said.
Dion realized something was suspicious about her mother’s death when she saw a gold necklace her mother constantly wore was missing.
“The trauma to the children of people like this is they were trying to take care of their parents in a safe place, and they wound up being brutally murdered,” Arnold said.
Arnold said Chemirmir attacked seven other people at Prestonwood and at least one other lawsuit was filed against the facility alleging negligence.
“These are all elderly people and unsuspecting and they let him in,” he said. “It was a horrible situation.”
In the suit, Dion said the facility failed to provide security that would have kept her mother safe.
In a statement, Prestonwood said, “Each of our residents is family to us. We are committed to cooperating with the authorities. It’s not appropriate to speculate on what legal proceedings may be underway. We can only stress that the safety of our residents is a top priority every day.”
Arnold said the Dallas County medical examiner started to re-examine all unaccompanied senior deaths from the past few years where jewelry had been reported missing. From there, they narrowed down the cases by cellphone data and tracking where the jewelry had been sold. Chemirmir pawned Doris Gleason’s jewelry and other stolen items, according to the lawsuit.
More victims, new indictments
Chemirmir, 46, has been indicted on seven counts of murder in Dallas County. Officials with the district attorney’s office confirmed Thursday that he’s also been indicted in five capital murder cases in Collin County. Chemirmir also is charged with two attempted murders in Collin County.
The women killed in Dallas County were Gleason; Lu Thi Harris, 81; Phyllis Payne, 91; Norma French, 85; Phoebe Perry, 94; Rosemary Curtis, 76; and Mary Brooks, 87.
The names of the five victims in the Collin County murder cases haven’t been publicly released.
Chemirmir maintains his innocence, his attorney said Thursday.
Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018, charged with the murder of Harris. He was also indicted in two attempted murder cases last year. The rest of the indictments were handed up this week.
According to the indictments, Chemirmir robbed the seven Dallas women and smothered them with pillows between May 2016 and March 2018.
Chemirmir had been known to use the name “Benjamin Koitaba” when finding work. A woman who said she worked with him in Dallas told the Star-Telegram that Chemirmir used his cousin’s name and Social Security number when applying for jobs and that he had worked as a caregiver for a home care agency.
Plano Chief of Police Gregory Rushin said at a news conference last year that Chemirmir used his healthcare experience to his “advantage in targeting and exploiting seniors.” However, Chemirmir isn’t a licensed nurse in Texas or anywhere in the U.S., according to records. Rushin also said Chemirmir would impersonate maintenance personnel at a retirement community in Dallas.
Arrest leads to wider investigation
Police had been following Chemirmir in the investigation of a 91-year-old woman who was assaulted in her apartment in Plano.
Officers who were watching Chemirmir on March 20, 2018, saw him dump a jewelry box in a trash bin at his Dallas apartment complex. Police arrested Chemirmir, and items in the jewelry box led officers to Harris’ home, where she was found dead in her bedroom.
At a press conference in March 2018, Plano police said North Texas authorities were combing through more than 750 unattended senior deaths dating back to at least 2010 that weren’t previously investigated to determine if Chemirmir was involved.
“He told the [Plano] victim, ‘go to bed and don’t fight me,’ ” Rushin said at a news conference in March 2018. “She complied and the suspect put a pillow over her face, causing her to lose consciousness, and he then stole her jewelery.”
While Chemirmir was in custody at Dallas County Jail, Frisco police served a warrant against him on a charge of attempted murder in another case — the assault of a 93-year-old woman.
The Frisco victim was assaulted in October 2017 at Parkview Elderly Assisted Living on Stonebrook Parkway, according to court documents obtained by Star-Telegram media partner WFAA. The woman told police that a man who claimed to be a maintenance worker knocked on her door and asked if she needed any work done.
When she said no, “the suspect then forcibly entered her assisted living apartment, knocked her from her walker and to the ground, then placed a pillow over her nose and mouth in an attempt to muffle her screams and smother her,” an affidavit said.
The woman started praying, “believing she was about to die,” and the man took her jewelry box and left, according to the documents. The victim activated an emergency alert button that notified authorities.
Watermark Retirement Communities told WFAA that Chemirmir was never an employee of the Parkview assisted living home.
“In late 2017 we reported this individual to the authorities for an intrusion into our community,” the company said in a statement last year. “We are thankful he has been apprehended. We are cooperating fully with the authorities to assist them in any way possible. We are deeply saddened by the actions of this individual and our hearts go out to the affected communities, their residents and family members.”
Search records show that investigators found a trove of women’s jewelry, cellphones and medical scrubs in Chemirmir’s apartment after Harris’ death, WFAA reported.
Chemirmir has lived in the Dallas area for more than a decade, but court records note that he is a citizen of Kenya. Immigration authorities have placed a jail hold on him.
His bail has been set at more than $9 million.
Star-Telegram reporter Mitch Mitchell contributed to this article.
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