Dallas, TX – A Texas jury deadlocked after 11 hours of deliberation late last week, resulting in a mistrial in the case of an alleged serial killer accused of murdering at least 18 elderly victims.
Billy Chemirmir, 48, has been linked through medical examiner reports, police records, and civil lawsuits to at least 24 deaths that occurred between 2016 and 2018, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Chemirmir has been indicted on 18 counts of capital murder in Collin County and Dallas County so far.
The case that resulted in a mistrial on Nov. 19 involved the murder of just one of the victims, 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris, The Dallas Moring News reported.
Harris was found suffocated to death in her bed in her Dallas residence on March 20, 2018, the New York Post previously reported.
Harris’ body was found after 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel told Plano police that a man had forced his way into her home and tried to suffocate her with a pillow, the Associated Press reported.
“Go to bed. Don’t fight me,” the man told her, according to court documents.
Once she lost consciousness, the suspect stole her jewelry box and took off.
Paramedics were able to revive Bartel, who told police about the missing valuables.
Investigators were able to identify Chemirmir using a license plate, and began following him days later.
That’s when they spotted the alleged serial killer dumping a jewelry box into a trash bin.
But the box he tried to dispose of didn’t belong to Bartel – it belonged to Harris.
When they went to Harris’ home, they discovered she had been smothered to death, the New York Post reported.
Investigators combed through as many as 750 unsolved deaths to determine whether or not Chemirmir had any connection to the victims.
Prosecutors ultimately charged him in 18 cases.
All but one of his alleged victims was female.
Chemirmir’s attorneys did not present any evidence during the trial, nor did they call any witnesses, according to the Associated Press.
Defense attorney Kobby Warren said the alleged serial killer maintains his innocence, and argued the evidence against him “was all circumstantial.”
According to the Associated Press, Chemirmir immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya and became a permanent resident in 2007.
Bartel passed away last year, but the jury was able to listen to her taped deposition during the trial, the Associated Press reported.
She said she knew her life was in danger when she opened her front door and saw a man outside wearing gloves.
“My eyes were just fixated on these green rubber gloves that I saw. … I knew instantly when I saw those two green rubber gloves, number one, I should not have opened the door, number two, my life was in grave danger,” Bartel said on the video, according to the Associated Press.
She said Chemirmir easily overpowered her when she tried to shut her door.
He then forced his way inside, ordered her to lie on the bed and not to fight, and put a pillow over her face, “using all his weight to keep me from breathing,” Bartel recounted.
Prosecutors alleged Chemirmir used a local Walmart store as his “hunting grounds,” and that he followed at least two of his victims home after encountering them there, the Associated Press reported.
Chemirmir’s attorneys asked State District Judge Raquel “Rocky” Jones to declare a mistrial multiple times as the jury sent the court notes about the deadlocked deliberations, but Jones initially told them to keep working towards an agreement, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The jurors said in one of the messages that a single juror refused to “deliberate from her vote,” according to the paper.
Jones ultimately issued an Allen charge, often referred to as a “dynamite charge,” in an effort to push through to a verdict, The Dallas Morning News reported.
He sternly instructed the jury to “not violate your conscience but continue deliberations,” according to the paper.
Less than 90 minutes later, the jurors sent a fourth note advising they remained at an impasse, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Jones subsequently declared a mistrial.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot immediately vowed to retry the case.
“I’ve always said we will try him twice. We will get two convictions, and we will not stop until we get two convictions on Mr. Chemirmir,” Creuzot told KDFW.
The prosecutor said he does not believe the lack of DNA evidence or fingerprints should lead jurors to conclude Chemirmir is innocent.
“Circumstantial evidence cases can be stronger than eyewitness cases,” Creuzot told KDFW. “The problem is the media. And when I say media, I don’t mean the press. But I mean movies, books, etc. have made some people think that circumstantial evidence equals weak evidence. And that’s not true at all.”
Chemirmir still faces additional capital murder charges in Collin County and Dallas County for 17 of his other alleged victims, The Dallas Morning News reported.
He will remain incarcerated while the other cases are pending, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Creuzot said he expects the retrial in the murder of Harris could take place in early 2022, KDFW reported.
Family members of the victims gathered on the 10th floor of the courthouse to watch the trial after COVID-19 rules barred them from being in the actual courtroom, The Dallas Morning News.
Ellen French House, the daughter of murder victim Norma French, said they “are all devastated” by the outcome of the proceedings.
“We’re shocked, we’re saddened, we’re sick,” added Cheryl Pangburn, daughter of Marilyn Bixler, who was killed at the Parkview Frisco senior-living community in 2017.
Loren Adair-Smith, daughter of victim Phyllis Payne, said she and other family members are “sickened that we have to come back here and hear the same evidence again,” the Associated Press reported.
French House said she’s holding out hope that the jury convicts Chemirmir the next time around.
“We are encouraged that the prosecutors will try this case again and we are confident that the jury will convict,” she told KXAS.