Continuing Coverage: Watch full coverage of the capital murder trial of Billy Chemirmir all week on NBC 5 and the live stream from inside the courtroom in the video player above and on NBC 5's AppleTV, Roku, and Fire TV streaming platforms.
From time to time the camera may be directed at a court seal or stationary object if the court is in recess or if graphic evidence is being displayed.
Day 2 of the trial has concluded. The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
What to Know
- Billy Chemirmir is accused of killing 18 older women, smothering them with a pillow, and stealing their jewelry.
- The trial this week is is related to the death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris, who was found deceased in her bedroom in March 2018 with lipstick smeared on her pillow.
- Following Chemirmir's arrest in 2018, authorities were said to be reviewing hundreds of deaths.
Tuesday marked the second day of testimony in the trial of Billy Chemirmir, who is charged with killing 18 older North Texas women over a two-year span.
Chemirmir, 48, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder in the death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. His attorney entered a not guilty plea for him on Monday when the trial got underway.
Tuesday's testimony focused on the physical evidence in the case and the life of Harris.
"She was a fun person, very generous," her son-in-law Richard Rinehart told the jury.
"Most people hate their mother-in-law, my mother-in-law was a hoot," Rinehart said.
Rinehart told jurors about Harris' life before she moved to America.
A mother to three, Harris lived in Vietnam and opened a restaurant in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Her first husband died while fighting with the South Vietnamese Army.
She met her second husband, an American, while he worked for an overseas oil company in Vietnam.
The couple eventually retired and moved to Far North Dallas.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Rinehart confirmed a bright red jewelry box and jewelry uncovered in the arrest of Chemirmir belonged to Harris.
Prosecutors also presented the keys they say Chemirmir had in his possession that unlocked Harris' front door and the pillow, smeared with lipstick, they say he used as a murder weapon.
Testimony ended Tuesday with jurors hearing from the doctor who performed the autopsy on Harris.
Dr. Travis Danielsen testified how he determined Harris had been smothered. He also said without a police investigation, a homicide by smothering can go undetected.
That testimony is why families of the other alleged victims say their loved ones murder went years without being discovered. Responding officers initially suspected no foul play and determined they'd died from natural causes.
Some families are still fighting to get indictments in their parent's death and death certificates amended.
"We had to do so much of our own homework and investigation and it was hard to get anybody's attention," said Lindsey Roan, the daughter of Martha Williams, who died at Plano's Preston Place in March 2018.
Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018 following the attack on Mary Annis Bartel at her apartment in an independent living community for seniors in Plano. Bartel was 91 at the time of the attack and died in 2020.
In a taped deposition shown to jurors as Chemirmir's trial opened Monday, Bartel said she knew she was in “grave danger” the minute she opened her door.
“My eyes were just fixated on these green rubber gloves that I saw. ... I knew instantly when I saw those two green rubber gloves, number one, I should not have opened the door, number two, my life was in grave danger,” Mary Annis Bartel said on the video.
Bartel and her experience was the subject of an NBC 5 streaming series released last week, "Stranger at the Door."
Watch "Stranger at the Door," an NBC 5 streaming series. Watch the rest of the episodes on the NBC 5 app on Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Peacock.
She said that she tried to push the door shut but was overpowered. “He said: ‘Don’t fight me, lie on the bed,’” Bartel said.
Bartel described a pillow being smashed into her face and her attacker “using all his weight to keep me from breathing.”
Bartel, who lost consciousness during the attack and later discovered she was missing her wedding band, diamond engagement ring, and other jewelry, said she couldn’t remember details about the appearance of the man who attacked her.
When police tracked Chemirmir to his nearby apartment the next day, he was holding jewelry and cash. Documents in a large red jewelry box police say he had just thrown away led them to a Dallas home, where Harris was dead in her bedroom, lipstick smeared on her pillow.
In opening statements Monday, prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin said that earlier that day, Harris and Chemirmir had been checking out at the same time at a Walmart store.
“This is a case about stalking, smothering, and stealing,” Fitzmartin told the jury.
After Chemirmir's arrest, authorities announced they would review hundreds of deaths, signaling the possibility that a serial killer had been stalking older people. Over the following years, the number of people Chemirmir was accused of killing grew.
Fitzmartin said jurors would also be hearing about the killing of 87-year-old Mary Brooks, who was found dead in her Richardson home in January 2018. Chemirmir has been charged with her death.
He said that Brooks’ death had originally been called a natural death, but after an investigation following the arrest of Chemirmir, the medical examiner changed the cause of death to homicide.
Billy Chemirmir Trial
Fitzmartin said that the day before Brooks was found dead, she was at a Walmart, the same Walmart that Harris was at before her death later in the year. Fitzmartin said that a vehicle model known to be driven by Chemirmir was parked next to Brooks’ vehicle.
“He follows her out of there, he follows her to her house, kills her, steals from her,” Fitzmartin said.
Most of the victims were killed at independent living communities for older people, where Chemirmir allegedly forced his way into apartments 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.
The defense did not make an opening statement. Chemirmir’s attorney has called the evidence against Chemirmir circumstantial.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.