Trial Set to Start for Man Accused of Posing as Handyman to Rob, Kill 18 Senior Residents

The trial of a Texas man accused of posing as a handyman to rob and kill seniors is due to take place on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Billy Chemirmir, 48, is charged with robbing and killing 18 seniors. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment without parole. The prosecution has decided not to apply for the death penalty.

Chemirmir allegedly pretended to be a craftsman or broke into apartments to gain entry. Most of the victims lived in separate shared apartments for the elderly.

One of the victims, Leah Corken, 83, was found on the living room floor of her apartment in 2016. There were makeup stains on her bedroom pillow and her wedding ring was missing.

“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know,” said MJ Jennings, Corken’s daughter. “I didn’t know it was murder.”

Families across Dallas have had similar stories of missing jewelry and puzzling deaths of their elderly but otherwise healthy loved ones.

In March 2018, 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel survived after a man broke into her apartment and told her “don’t fight me” when he tried to suffocate her with a pillow and left with jewelry. Chemirmir was arrested the next day.

At a press conference after Chemirmir’s arrest, then Plano Police Chief Greg Rushin admitted a tendency to assume that the death of an elderly person is natural.

“There is no in-depth investigation … It would be very easy to cover up a crime,” said Rushin.

More coverage from the Associated Press can be found below.

MJ Jennings views a photo of her mother Leah Corken as she sits at her home in Dallas on Wednesday November 3, 2021. Corken was one of 18 women in the Dallas area charged with capital murder and suspected of multiple other deaths. Most of the deaths occurred in upscale independent shared apartments for the elderly, where Chemirmir was accused of breaking into apartments or posing as a handyman and, in some cases, was even caught trespassing.
LM Otero / AP Photo

Chemirmir’s attorney did not respond to the AP’s request to comment on the story, but has previously labeled the evidence against Chemirmir as circumstantial. Chemirmir, who immigrated to the United States from Kenya, became a legal permanent resident in 2007.

Eight of the people he is charged with lived lived at The Tradition-Prestonwood, and he has been linked to the death of a ninth resident in a lawsuit.

Just days before Glenna Day, 87, was found dead there in October 2016, she told friends something was wrong.

“They asked how things were going. She said, ‘Well, I think I should move because my friends are dying,'” said her daughter Sherril Kerr, who added that the death caused her mother to see her doctor to go for a check up.

When Day was killed, the accomplished artist had been working to restore a friend’s painting and had just been dancing in a senior citizen center.

Chemirmir was charged with two deaths earlier this year in another Dallas retiree community – The Edgemere – and linked to a third via an autopsy report.

The Tradition deaths began after his release from prison in July. According to lawsuits against The Tradition, Chemirmir was escorted from the site in late 2016 and asked not to return. A November 2016 police report said the suspect – who is not named but whose description matches Chemirmir’s – was seen there several times and said he was looking for pipe leaks.

Chemirmir is accused of killing three of her roommates on Preston Place in Plano in the two weeks leading up to the attack on Bartel.

When the victims ‘children began to find each other, they founded Secure Our Seniors’ Safety. The group advocated new Texas law requiring medical assessors to notify families when a relative’s death certificate is changed and to require spot checks by officials in gold shops.

They say more work needs to be done, including more transparency in independent shared flats. In legal proceedings, the families accused the institutions of not having the advertised security.

“We didn’t know evil was roaming the hallways,” said Shannon Dion, whose mother was killed at The Tradition and who is the group’s president.

The tradition said in a statement that it relied on investigations by police and medical experts. Preston Place said it had settled the lawsuit but did not want to comment on the details. Edgemere did not respond to requests for comment.

When Scott MacPhee read an article about Chemirmir’s arrest, the death of his 82-year-old mother at their Plano home made sense. Carolyn MacPhee was found in her bedroom on New Year’s Eve 2017, a little over eight months after her husband died. Her glasses were bloody, a door and handkerchiefs in the bathroom. Two diamond rings she always wore were missing.

“I read the story that goes, ‘Well, holy crap, that connects all the dots,'” he said.

Robert MacPhee said police suspected her mother had a nosebleed and died of an aneurysm, so the family did not perform an autopsy. It turned out that Chemirmir, under the pseudonym Koitaba, had looked after her father, who had Parkinson’s disease, at home.

About nine months after Chemirmir’s arrest, Jennings learned that authorities believed her mother had been murdered.

“All of a sudden, all of the things I saw in this room that day … all made sense,” she said.

Jennings said Corken lived around the world and moved to The Tradition from Florida to be close to her.

“She was my best friend, she really was,” Jennings said.

Dallas, Texas, murder, Billy Chemirmir
FILE – This undated photo courtesy of the Dallas County, Texas Sheriff’s Office shows Billy Chemirmir. Chemirmir is due to be tried on Monday, November 15, 2021 for the death of one of 18 women accused of killing in Texas over a period of two years.
Dallas County Sheriff’s Office / AP Photo

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