Families of Murder Victims Accuse Retirement Community of Negligence: Lawsuit

Billy Chemirmir posed as a home healthcare worker and is accused of killing 12, possibly more

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Police say a suspected serial killer tormented North Texas senior living communities for months.

Two grieving families have now filed lawsuits, which said those communities put profits over people, ignored warning signs and endangered the lives of the people they promised to protect.

For two years the families of Ann Conklin, 82, and Miriam Nelson, 81, have been haunted by their loved ones' deaths.

“She was my best friend,” said Karen Harris of her mother Miriam Nelson. “We did everything together.”

“You always felt like you were so important to her and she wanted to know everything about you,” recalled Jennie Bassett about her mother Ann Conklin.

According to prosecutors, both women were murdered by suspected serial killer Billy Chemirmir, just days apart in March 2018. Investigators said Chemirmir posed as a maintenance man to gain access to their apartments at Preston Place in Plano, then killed them to steal jewelry.

“For me it’s been a nightmare that I want to wake up out of and I just can’t,” Bassett said.

The families of Conklin and Nelson have now filed lawsuits against the Preston Place Retirement Community stating the facility was negligent and failed to take “necessary steps” to protect their loved ones.

Karen Harris and her husband, Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Cliff Harris, said the senior living community ignored troubling activity and said Billy Chemirmir visited their late mother two days before her death.

“This man entered wearing rubber gloves, nicely dressed and said he was there to check for a leak and she was immediately on guard because he was not any of the maintenance men that she knew,” Harris said.

As soon as he left, Miriam said she reported the suspicious man to management, then her daughter, yet her family said that information was never shared with residents or police.

Karen Harris said it was only after her mother’s death that they learned other residents had reported Chemirmir trespassing on the property in the months prior, but that information was not shared by management.

“It’s just accountability,” son-in-law Cliff Harris said. “To know something was going on, that’s the problem I have, and then not make any changes. You’ve got to protect them, watch them, take care of them and they didn’t do it.”

Bassett said she discovered her mother’s body on the floor of her apartment just days after the death of Miriam Nelson.

She said her mother had revealed in conversations weeks prior she’d heard chatter about stolen jewelry among residents, but dismissed it, believing Preston Place would have alerted them to any concerning information.

“I said, ‘Oh no, if there was we would be told, we would be warned and we weren’t,'” Bassett said.

Bassett and her husband filed a similar lawsuit that stated the complex sold itself on tight security, yet said gates and surveillance cameras were woefully inadequate.

Bonded by grief, the two families shared their story to keep the memory of their mothers alive.

“I want everyone to go home and hug their mom, because I can’t,” Bassett said. “There was so much wrong in this and it was so preventable.”

They said they hoped their story would spark changes across an industry entrusted with the care of loved ones.

“Don’t assume these properties are safe,” Harris said. “Don’t make the assumption that we did.”

In a statement to NBC 5, attorney Trey Crawford of Crawford, Wishnew & Lang said:

"The owners and operators of Preston Place prioritized the profits of their private equity investors over the lives of the elderly residents they undertook to protect. As a result, seven elderly women were murdered and robbed in a period of less than five months. These lawsuits are being brought by the families of Miriam Nelson and Ann Conklin to hold Preston Place accountable for their conscious disregard for the health and safety of their residents and to effectuate change in the way they do business going forward."

NBC 5 reached out to Preston Place management for comment. They sent the following statement.

“Because civil litigation has now been filed, it would not be appropriate to discuss this matter. It is important to remember that Billy Chemirmir is the person law enforcement agencies believe is responsible for these horrible crimes. He has been in the Dallas County Jail since his arrest in March 2018 awaiting trial on multiple murder charges in multiple North Texas jurisdictions. We have assisted police and prosecutors with their investigation and will continue to provide information and support as requested. In addition, we continue to offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to every family affected by these senseless acts.”

Plano police said another woman at Preston Place survived an attack by Billy Chemirmir, and it was information from that investigation that ultimately led to officers arresting him and investigating him for multiple deaths. Since his arrest, multiple agencies have reopened cases to see if he is responsible for more deaths.

Chemirmir is awaiting trial on 12 capital murder charges across Dallas and Collin counties. He maintains his innocence and remains in jail on a $11.6 million bond.

Contact Us