A Texas judge declared a mistrial in the first murder charge against the man who killed at least 18 elderly women in the Dallas area over a two-year span. However, prosecutors vowed to continue to pursue other convictions against the so-called “Senior Living Serial Killer.”
Judge Raquel Jones issued the ruling when a jury deadlocked after deliberating since Thursday afternoon in the capital murder case charging Billy Chemirmir with killing 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said he was committed to retrying the case and bringing another one against the 48-year-old. “Our commitment was to get two convictions, and that does not change,” Creuzot told The Dallas Morning News.
In a series of notes to the court Friday, the 12 jurors said they were “hopelessly deadlocked 11 to one” over the case. It was not clear what verdict the majority of jurors supported. Jones initially resisted declaring a mistrial, repeatedly ordering the jury to continue deliberation.
While prosecutors prepare for a retrial, Chemirmir remains in the Dallas County Jail, awaiting trial in several other pending cases.
Chemirmir has been indicted on 18 counts of capital murder in Dallas and Collin counties but is thought to be linked to at least 24 deaths that took place between April 2016 and March 2018 in Texas, mostly of female residents of senior living communities. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and still is being investigated for hundreds of other unsolved deaths or attacks.
Chemirmir’s attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses or presenting evidence, and he didn’t testify. They dismissed the evidence against their client as “quantity over quality” and asserted that prosecutors had not proved Chemirmir’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Following the mistrial, defense attorney Kobby Warren said his client maintains his innocence and disputed the idea of the trial being derailed by a “rogue juror.”
“It was all circumstantial,” he said of the case again Chemirmir.
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 determination to get a different outcome the next time around.
“We are devastated at the outcome of this trial,” said Loren Adair-Smith, the daughter of Phyllis Payne. “We are sickened that we have to come back and hear the same evidence again.”
Investigators believe Chemirmir posed as a maintenance worker for more than a year to gain access to residents’ living quarters and then suffocated them and stole jewelry and other items to sell at area pawn shops. Most of the deaths initially were ruled to have been from natural causes until one potential victim survived and described her attack to police.
Lawsuits filed against some of the senior living communities where Chemirmir’s alleged victims lived maintain that operators did not do enough to protect residents.
A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers introduced bills in response to the series of suspected murders thought to be tied to Chemirmir.
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