Billy Chemirmir is accused of smothering 18 elderly women and stealing their belongings
A mistrial has been declared in a capital murder trial of a man accused of smothering 18 elderly women to death in Texas and stealing their valuables after the jury sent four notes to the judge indicating it was deadlocked in an 11-1 vote.
Prosecutors vowed to retry accused killer Billy Chemirmir, 48, in the death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris after Judge Raquel Jones issued the ruling Friday in a Dallas, Texas courtroom.
Chemirmir was on trial for Harris’ killing but faces a total of 18 capital murder indictments for a string of deaths that happened between 2016 and 2018.
The Harris trial lasted four days, and jurors began deliberating the outcome Thursday afternoon with a lone holdout preventing a verdict.
It’s not clear whether the jury was inclined to convict or acquit Chemirmir, who remains jailed while awaiting trial on other charges.
Billy Chemirmir, 48, was on trial for the death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris earlier this week, but the judge declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict
Relatives of other victims decried the ruling Friday during a press conference outside the Frank Crowley Courts Building.
Ellen French House, whose mother Norma French was killed, said she was ‘devastated’ by the outcome.
‘This case represents my mother’s case and at least 24 other murders,’ she said. ‘We’re encouraged the prosecutors will try this case again and we’re confident the jury will convict.
‘We’re all devastated by this. We are in total shock.’
The jury heard how Lu Thi Harris, 81, was a generous Vietnamese immigrant who loved giving $2 bills to strangers
Cheryl Pangburn – whose mother Marilyn Bixler was found dead September 17, 2017 at a luxury senior’s home in Frisco – said she was stunned by the ruling.
‘We’re saddened, we’re sick,’ she said. ‘We extend our sympathy to Lu Thi Harris’ family that they didn’t get the justice they deserve for the murder of their mom.’
She said the trial was just one leg of a lifelong journey for relatives of the victims.
‘This was just another bump in the road, bring on the next one,’ she told reporters. ‘We’ve got multiple things to try him on. We’re along for the ride for however it takes.’
During this week’s trial, jurors heard how victim Harris was a generous Vietnamese immigrant who loved giving out $2 bills.
Her son-in-law Richard Rinehart shared anecdotes with the court about the elderly woman, who ran a restaurant in Vietnam before leaving on a helicopter as Saigon fell.
‘My mother-in-law was a hoot,’ Richard Rinehart told the jury. ‘She was very fun to be around.’
Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018 after 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel survived an attack in her apartment at an independent living community for seniors in Plano. She died in 2020.
Lu Thi Harris’ son-in-law Richard Rinehart, left, is shown her jewelry box by prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin as he answered questions on the witness stand
Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin shows a lipstick stained pillow they found near Harris’ body
Ellen French House, whose mother Norma French was killed, said she was ‘devastated’ by the come in the Harris case
Jurors listened Monday as Bartel said in a taped deposition that she knew she was in ‘grave danger’ as she opened 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.’
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 said he had just thrown away led them to a Dallas home, where Harris was dead in her bedroom, lipstick smeared on her pillow.
Many of the deaths now attributed to Chemirmir were first listed as deaths by natural causes as no foul play was suspected.
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.
He’ll remain at the Dallas County Jail until he is tried again.
TIMELINE OF DEATHS IN CHEMIRMIR CASE:
May 14, 2016: Billy Chemirmir allegedly murdered Phyllis Payne, 91, at Edgemere Senior Living
June 5, 2016: Allegedly murdered Phoebe Perry, 94
July 20, 2016: Allegedly murdered Joyce Abramowitz, 82
July 31, 2016: Allegedly murdered Juanita Purdy, 83 at The Tradition
August 19, 2016: Allegedly murdered Leah Corken, 83 at The Tradition
August 28, 2016: Allegedly smothered Margaret White, 86
October 2017: Attempted murder of a 93-year-old woman in Frisco
October 8, 2016: Death of Norma French, 85, at The Tradition
October 29, 2016: Death of Doris Gleason, 92, at The Tradition
October 31, 2017: Death of Minnie Campbell, 83, at Preston Place
September 17, 2017: Marilyn Bixler was found dead in Frisco
December 24, 2017: Allegedly killed Doris Wasserman, 90
December 31, 2017: Death of Carolyn MacPhee, 81,
January 17, 2018: Death of Rosemary Curtis, 76,
January 31, 2018: Death of Mary Brooks
March 2018: Attempted murder of a 91-year-old woman in Plano
March 4, 2018: Death of Martha Williams, 80, at Preston Place
March 20, 2018: Allegedly smothered first identified victim Lu Thi Harris, 81, on March 20, 2018, and is arrested