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.
Testimony for the day has ended. The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. It will appear in the player above once it begins.
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.
Day three of testimony in the capital murder trial of accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir ended with the jury learning about the death of another woman Chemirmir is charged with killing.
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.
Though the trial deals with the death of Harris, prosecutors told the jury during opening statements they would show Chemirmir stalked his victims before smothering them for jewelry.
Witnesses were called Wednesday to detail the death of Mary Sue Brooks, 88, who was found dead inside her Richardson condo on Jan. 31, 2018. Her daughter testified a safe was missing from the home along with most of Brooks' jewelry.
Prosecutors played surveillance video from a Walmart showing Brooks leaving the parking lot at the same time as Billy Chemirmir's Nissan Altima. The video was taken the day before the family found Brooks dead.
It's the same WalMart where prosecutors say he stalked Lu Harris.
Earlier in the day prosecutors played video showing Harris and Chemirmir checking out at Walmart near Coit and Arapaho at about 3:30 p.m. on March 20, 2018. Harris was found dead a few hours later.
The court also heard Billy Chemirmir's voice for the first time.
Prosecutors played a video of now retired Dallas police detective Brian Tabor interviewing Chemirmir on the night of his arrest where he denied killing anyone.
Chemirmir said he bought and sold jewelry for a living, but had previously worked as a caregiver for older people at Caring Companion, an in-home care agency. Chemirmir said he often sold jewelry and antiques on apps like OfferUp.
Police testified earlier this week that jewelry, a jewelry box, and dozens of $2 bills belonging to Lu Harris were found in Chemirmir's possession the night of his arrest.
When asked how Chemirmir ended up with those items, he told detectives he purchased the jewelry and box from a man earlier that night and the dozens of $2 bills came from a man in Fort Worth earlier in the week. He said he did not know either of the men's names.
Chemirmir repeatedly denied killing or robbing anyone.
"I'm going to jail for something I did not do," Chemirmir said.
The jury also watched Plano police detectives interview Chemirmir about an attack on 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel at Preston Place retirement community.
Chemirmir admitted to visiting the property in the past and selling a ring online belonging to Bartel, but denied ever talking to or entering a resident's area.
Wednesday morning began with attorneys arguing over if Chemirmir should wear a face mask in court. Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin argued his witnesses might not be able to identify Chemirmir. He offered to provide a clear face shield.
Chemirmir's attorneys objected to the clear face shield as well as requests by prosecutors that he briefly remove his mask so that his face can be seen while witnesses are on the stand.
“I think it's prejudicial to force him to do that and we’re going to object to it,” said Chemirmir's attorney Kobby Warren.
The judge briefly left the courtroom and did not make her decision public.
Harris' son-in-law testified Tuesday that she was a generous person who loved giving people $2 bills. “My mother-in-law was a hoot. She was very fun to be around,” Richard Rinehart said.
Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018 after 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel survived an attack at her apartment in an independent living community for seniors in Plano. She died in 2020.
Jurors on Monday listened to Bartel in a taped deposition where she said she knew she was in “grave danger” after opening her door to a man wearing green rubber gloves. Bartel described a pillow being smashed into her face and her attacker “using all his weight to keep me from breathing.”
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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.
Evidence presented Monday showed that Chemirmir was also in possession of numerous $2 bills at the time.
Rinehart testified on Tuesday said that the jewelry box found in the trash belonged to his mother-in-law, as did numerous pieces of jewelry that officers found as they arrested Chemirmir.
Police have also said that a set of keys found with Chemirmir when he was arrested opened the front doors of Harris’ home.
Lu Thi Harris
Richard Rinehart said his mother-in-law, Lu Thi Harris, who he called Kim, was born on a Chinese island. When she was a young girl, prior to World War II, her family moved to what is now Vietnam. He said she grew up in Saigon, which is now Ho Chi Minh City, and eventually owned a restaurant and bar there.
The restaurant was located across the street from an oil company where the man who became her second husband, William Harris, worked.
“When the demise of Saigon was imminent, she had already married Mr. Harris and he was called out to Hong Kong by his company but he had arranged paperwork for her and she actually got out of Saigon on a helicopter on the American Embassy to an aircraft carrier on the South China Sea,” Rinehart said.
Rinehart said that after leaving Vietnam, the couple lived in Tanzania before William Harris retired and they moved to Dallas. William Harris died in 2008.
Rinehart said his wife, Loan Rinehart, died of cancer in 2013. He said one of Lu Thi Harris’ sons still runs her restaurant in Vietnam.
Hundreds of Deaths To Be Reviewed
Following 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.
Prosecutor Glen 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.
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.
Billy Chemirmir Trial
On Tuesday, the medical examiner who performed Harris’ autopsy testified that while she had small broken blood vessels and some bruising, he had to rely on investigative information to determine the cause of death.
Travis Danielsen, who worked for the Dallas County medical examiner’s at the time of Harris’ death, said he determined her cause of death to be smothering and manner of death to be a homicide.
He said that without information from the investigation, the death would have been ruled undetermined or natural.
“In asphyxial deaths, as a medical examiner, we rely most heavily, I believe, on the investigative information,” he 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.