Elderly Woman Recounts Alleged Attack By Handyman Accused of Killing 18 Senior Citizens

The trial for Billy Chemirmir, a man charged with killing older women in the Dallas area, began on Monday.

The 48-year-old is being tried in the murder of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. The Associated Press reported that if convicted, he faces life in prison without parole. He is pleading not guilty to the charge.

Chemirmir was arrested in 2018 when 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel survived an attack at her apartment in a senior living community in Plano, Texas.

Though Bartel died last year, her deposition was taped earlier, allowing jurors to hear her statements.

"My eyes were just fixated on these green rubber gloves that I saw," Bartel said in the video. "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 she tried to push him away, but was overpowered.

"He said: 'Don't fight me, lie on the bed,'" said Bartel, who then lost consciousness as he attempted to smother her with a pillow.

When she woke, her wedding band, engagement ring and more were missing. She said she couldn't remember the details of the man who attacked her.

The next day, police tracked Chemirmir to his nearby home, where they found jewelry and cash. The discovery of a discarded jewelry box led police to Harris' home, where they found her dead, having been smothered by a pillow.

"This is a case about stalking, smothering and stealing," prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin told the jury in his opening statement.

The AP reported that the defense did not make an opening statement.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Billy Chemirmir, murder, trial
Billy Chemirmir's trial began November 15, for the deaths of one of 18 women he's accused of killing in Texas over a two-year span. Above, this undated photo provided by the Dallas County Sheriff's Office shows Chemirmir. File/Dallas County Sheriff's Office via AP

In opening statements, Fitzmartin said that earlier that day, Harris and Chemirmir had been checking out at the same time at a Walmart store.

After his 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.

Brooks' death, said Fitzmartin, 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.

"He follows her out of there, follows her to her house, kills her, steals from her," Fitzmartin said.

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.

Chemirmir's attorney has called the evidence against Chemirmir circumstantial.

Update 11/15/2021 5:10 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include quotes from Mary Bartel.

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