Suspected Serial Killer Billy Chemirmir Faces Two More Charges, Capital Murder Cases Climb to 14

A man who police say posed as a maintenance worker to gain access to victims is now indicted in 14 capital murder cases

NBC 5 News

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 two additional charges of capital murder.

Chemirmir, 47, is now facing capital murder charges for the deaths of 83-year-old Leah Corken and 82-year-old Juanita Purdy, two women who lived at The Tradition-Prestonwood in Dallas and died suddenly in the summer of 2016.

Like in previous cases, both 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.

In the case of Purdy, her daughter told NBC 5 in a July 2019 interview that about $28,000 worth of jewelry was missing after her death. Corken's family told NBC 5 she was found without her wedding ring on, something her daughter said was highly unusual.

A Dallas County grand jury returned the true bill indictments Tuesday.

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 Purdy, 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.

Earlier this month, 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.

"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 noon Tuesday, Chemirmir was still being held in the Dallas County Jail on 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.

As of Tuesday morning, Chemirmir has been indicted on 14 capital murder charges for the deaths of 83-year-old Leah Corken, 82-year-old Juanita Purdy, 88-year-old Mary Brooks, 84-year-old Minnie Campbell, 82-year-old Ann Conklin, 75-year-old Rosemary Curtis, 85-year-old Norma French, 92-year-old Doris Gleason, 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris, 81-year-old Carolyn MacPhee, 81-year-old Miriam Nelson, 91-year-old Phyllis Payne, 94-year-old Phoebe Perry and 80-year-old Martha Williams. He is suspected of, but not yet indicted in, the deaths of 82-year-old Joyce Abramowitz, 87-year-old Glenna Day, 89-year-old Solomon Spring, 90-year-old Doris Wasserman and 86-year-old Margaret White.

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.

NBC 5's Katy Blakey and Don Peritz Jr. contributed to this report.

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