Judge Declares Mistrial in First Murder Case For Man Accused of Killing 18 Elderly Women

A Texas judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a man charged in the deaths of over a dozen older women.

Billy Chermirmir's trial in Dallas came to a standstill when the jury deadlocked after deliberations. Judge Raquel Jones issued the ruling as a result. Their notes to the court say they were "hopelessly deadlocked 11 to one" in the case, with the verdict the majority supported being unknown. Chermirmir was being tried in the death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris.

During the trial, the 48-year-old's attorneys said that the evidence presented showcased "quantity over quality," saying that prosecutors have not concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Chermirir committed the crime. Defense attorney Kobby Warren, who expects a retrial to commence, called the case and the events leading up to the mistrial ruling "circumstantial."

Chermirmir was arrested in 2018 after reports of a man forcing his way into an apartment located in an independent living community for seniors. Court documents say that after being apprehended, a large red jewelry box he had in his possession led to the home of Harris, who was found dead. Newsweek previously reported that he had numerous $2 bills in his possession, a type of currency that Harris's son-in-law Richard Rinehart said she loved to give as gifts.

As the investigation into Chermirmir continued, other unexplained senior deaths were investigated, leading to increased accusations against him. He is also accused of posing as a handyman or forcing his way into independent living apartments.

There is no word on when the new trial is expected to begin. The Dallas County District Attorney's office has not responded to requests for comment.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Billy Chermirmir
Defendant Billy Chemirmir listens to motions and language being discussed and sent to the jury after one juror is hanging up the deliberations in his capital murder trial at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, November 19, 2021. Chemirmir, 48, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder for smothering Lu Thi Harris, 81, and stealing her jewelry. He is accused of killing at least 18 women in Dallas and Collin counties. Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool

The mistrial raises questions about how prosecutors will proceed with the cases against Chemirmir.

Jones initially resisted declaring a mistrial, repeatedly ordering the jury to continue deliberation.

After the decision, family of the women Chemirmir is accused of killing spoke outside the courtroom, which they'd been prohibited from entering during the trial as a COVID-19 precaution. They expressed frustration with the mistrial, anger with the juror they saw as a hold out against conviction and hope for a different outcome in another case against Chemirmir.

Chemirmir's attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses or presenting evidence, and the 48-year-old didn't testify.

Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018 after 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel said a man forced his way into her apartment at an independent living community for seniors in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

For the families of most of the women he's been charged with killing, they learned months or years after their loved one's death that authorities believed they'd been killed. Those families had puzzled over the suddenness of their older but otherwise healthy and active loved ones' deaths, and in many cases, filed police reports when jewelry was found missing after their deaths.

Bartel died in 2020 but jurors heard from her during the trial through a taped deposition. She said she did not remember details of the appearance of the man who attacked her but said she knew she was in mortal danger the minute she opened her door.

"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.

She said that she tried to push the door shut but was overpowered. "He said: 'Don't fight me, lie on the bed,'" Bartel said.

Bartel described a pillow being smashed into her face and her attacker "using all his weight to keep me from breathing." Chemirmir was charged with attempted capital murder in the attack on Bartel.

Jurors saw surveillance video from a Walmart showing that Harris and Chemirmir were at the store at the same time, just hours before she was found dead.

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.

Jurors also heard about the killing of 87-year-old Mary Brooks, who was found dead in her Richardson home in January 2018. Hers was one of the 18 Chemirmir has been charged with.

Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin 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 Chemirmir also followed Brooks home from the same Walmart Harris was at before her death. Her daughter, Ann Brooks, testified that after her mother's death, her mother's safe was missing, as was most of her jewelry, including wedding rings and a coral necklace she always wore.

Chemirmir, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya, became a permanent U.S. resident in 2007.

Billy Chermirmir, trial, Mary Bartel
Billy Chemirmir is charged with killing 18 older women in Dallas and its suburbs over a two-year span. Above, a recorded video deposition by victim Mary Bartel is shown to jurors as she responds to questions from the prosecutor and defense attorney during the murder trial of Chemirmir, second from right, at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, November 15. Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool