Accused Serial Killer Billy Chemirmir Faces 3 More Charges; Murder Cases Climb to 17

A man who police say posed as a maintenance worker to gain access to victims is now indicted in 17 capital murder cases

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Billy Chemirmir, a man accused of smothering more than a dozen women living in North Texas retirement homes and robbing them of their jewelry, has been indicted on three additional charges of capital murder, bringing the total to 17.

Chemirmir, who turned 48 on Tuesday, is now facing capital murder charges for the deaths of 82-year-old Joyce Abramowitz, 86-year-old Margaret White and 90-year-old Doris Wasserman. All three lived at The Tradition-Prestonwood, a senior living complex in Dallas.

A Dallas County grand jury returned the indictments Tuesday.

Like in previous cases, all three women were believed to have been suffocated with a pillow or choked to death prior to being robbed, though the exact nature of their death is unknown. Investigators said Chemirmir posed as a maintenance worker to gain access to the women's apartments and later sold or pawned their jewelry.

Abramowitz died in July 2016, White in August 2016 and Wasserman in December 2017.

Last summer, the family of Abramowitz and White joined four other families whose loved ones died in a three-month span in a lawsuit against the Dallas senior living center claiming it failed when it came to security and repeatedly allowed a serial killer to enter the property. The lawsuit says Abramowitz’s unit was burglarized in April of 2016, she was found dead three months later.

In December 2019, Wasserman's family filed a separate lawsuit against The Tradition-Prestonwood Assisted Living and Memory Care, saying she did not die from natural causes and that the facility failed to provide adequate security for residents. The lawsuit says after Wasserman's death, $8,500 worth of jewelry was determined to be missing from her apartment.

The Tradition-Prestonwood said in a statement last year that it “regards all our residents as family” and that it relied on Dallas police investigators and the Dallas County Medical Examiner who initially ruled the deaths as natural causes.

“Those rulings stood for more than 27 months,” the statement says. “The Tradition-Prestonwood has cooperated with all the authorities and will continue to do so.”

Many of the deaths now attributed to Chemirmir were initially listed as natural causes with the deaths often not investigated because there was no suspicion of foul play.

However, after a woman who lived at Preston Place in Plano survived an attack in March 2018, Chemirmir was identified as a suspect and arrested. Information from that investigation ultimately led to detectives investigating him for multiple deaths as they began reviewing hundreds of natural death cases to identify any other potential victims.

In July 2019, NBC 5 spoke with the families of Juanita Purdy, Leah Corken and Glenna Day, all women who lived on the fourth floor of The Tradition-Prestonwood in Dallas and all whose families believed they were victims of Chemirmir after they suddenly died during a three-month span in 2016. The families filed a lawsuit then claiming the senior living community failed when it came to security and repeatedly allowed a serial killer to enter the property.

In February 2020, the families of two other women, Ann Conklin and Miriam Nelson, who are also suspected victims of Chemirmir, filed a separate lawsuit saying the Preston Place Retirement Community put their family members at risk by putting profits over people and by not taking the "necessary steps" to protect their loved ones.

Preston Place has previously refused to comment on ongoing litigation.

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 her late mother, Miriam Nelson, two days before her death in 2016.

"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 in an interview with NBC 5 in February 2020.

As soon as he left, Miriam said she reported the suspicious man to management, then her daughter Karen, 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.

Jennie Bassett said she discovered the body of her mother, Ann Conklin, on the floor of her apartment just days after the death of Miriam Nelson.

As of Wednesday, Chemirmir was still being held in the Dallas County Jail with bail set at $11.6 million. That amount may be raised with the additional indictments. A Kenyan immigrant, Chemirmir also has an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold as he is in the country illegally.

To date, Chemirmir has been indicted on 17 capital murder charges for the deaths of Leah Corken, 83, Juanita Purdy, 82, Mary Brooks, 88, Minnie Campbell, 84, Ann Conklin, 82, Rosemary Curtis, 75, Norma French, 85, Doris Gleason, 92, Lu Thi Harris, 81, Carolyn MacPhee, 81, Miriam Nelson, 81, Phyllis Payne, 91, Phoebe Perry, 94, Martha Williams, 80, Joyce Abramowitz, 82, Margaret White, 86 and Doris Wasserman, 90.

He has also been linked through medical examiner reports and civil case filings in seven other deaths, bringing the total to 24 deaths in North Texas, according to The Dallas Morning News.

A capital murder charge in Texas carries one of two punishments, either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2019, the office of Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot filed paperwork indicating they intended to seek the death penalty in the case of Lu Thi Harris, who died March 20, 2018.

In the past, Chemirmir's attorney has told NBC 5 his client maintains he's innocent of the charges.

In December 2019, state Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, filed HB 723, which would require officials to notify next of kin when a death certificate is amended. At least one family member told The Dallas Morning News she had no idea authorities suspected her mother was murdered and that her death certificate was amended to "undetermined" until a list of potential victims was made public.

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