Elderly Woman's Affinity For $2 Bills May Help Tie Alleged Mass Murderer to Her Death

Prosecutors presented several $2 bills as potentially significant evidence in the trial of Billy Chemirmir on Tuesday as he stands accused of killing 18 elderly women in the Dallas area over the last two years.

Richard Rinehart, the son-in-law of one of Chemirmir's 18 alleged victims testified that his mother-in-law Lu Thi Harris loved to give the bills out as gifts, according to The Associated Press.

Police found the bills in Chemirmir's possession after Harris's death along with what Rinehart testified was several pieces of her jewelry, plus a set of keys that unlocked the front door of Harris' house.

Chemirmir, 48, was arrested in March 2018 after a near victim, 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel, survived when he attacked in her apartment which was part of an independent living community in Plano, Texas.

The day after Bartel was attacked, police tracked Chemirmir to his apartment where they found documents and a jewelry box that led them to Harris, who they found dead in her home.

Multiple victims were seen in security footage with a car owned by Chemirmir near their own outside a Walmart. He would allegedly force his way into their homes or pose as a handyman to gain entry.

Chemirmir faces life in prison with no parole if convicted of Harris' murder, along with several others he is charged with.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Bill Chemirmir, Murder, Dallas
Defense attorney Kobby Warren, left, talks with private investigator Tonia Silva as an image of Lu Thi Harris is shown to the court during the murder trial of Billy Chemirmir, right, at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Chemirmir faces life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder in the death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. Dallas Morning News via Associated Press/Tom Fox

Harris ran a restaurant in Vietnam before leaving on a helicopter as Saigon fell and was a generous person who loved giving people $2 bills, her son-in-law testified Tuesday.

"My mother-in-law was a hoot. She was very fun to be around," Rinehart said.

Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin has said that Harris and Chemirmir had been checking out at the same time at a Walmart store.

Rinehart said that Harris, who he called Kim, was born on a Chinese island. When she was a young girl, prior to World War II, her family moved to what is now Vietnam. He said she grew up in Saigon, which is now Ho Chi Minh City, and eventually owned a restaurant and bar there.

The restaurant was located across the street from an oil company where the man who became her second husband, William Harris, worked.

"When the demise of Saigon was imminent, she had already married Mr. Harris and he was called out to Hong Kong by his company but he had arranged paperwork for her and she actually got out of Saigon on a helicopter on the American Embassy to an aircraft carrier on the South China Sea," Rinehart said.

Rinehart said that after leaving Vietnam, the couple lived in Tanzania before William Harris retired and they moved to Dallas. William Harris died in 2008.

Rinehart said his wife, Loan Rinehart, died of cancer in 2013. He said one of Lu Thi Harris' sons still runs her restaurant in Vietnam.

Following Chemirmir's arrest, authorities announced they would review hundreds of deaths, signaling the possibility that a serial killer had been stalking older people. Over the following years, the number of people Chemirmir was accused of killing grew.

Fitzmartin said jurors would also be hearing about the killing of 87-year-old Mary Brooks, who was found dead in her Richardson home in January 2018. Chemirmir has been charged in her death.

He said that Brooks' death had originally been called a natural death, but after an investigation following the arrest of Chemirmir, the medical examiner changed the cause of death to homicide.

Fitzmartin said that the day before Brooks was found dead, she was at a Walmart, the same Walmart that Harris was at before her death later in the year. Fitzmartin said that a vehicle model known to be driven by Chemirmir was parked next to Brooks' vehicle.

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."

Most of the victims were killed at independent living communities for older people. 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.

The defense did not make an opening statement. Chemirmir's attorney has called the evidence against Chemirmir circumstantial. Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.