Victim of suspected serial killer a ‘gentle soul’ who helped animals, friend says

Phoebe Perry was a kind soul who gave her heart to homeless animals across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, friends said.

In 1997, she helped the SPCA of Texas in McKinney acquire 30 acres to build the Russell H. Perry Animal Care Center — named after her husband. Now, visitors at the adoption center see Phoebe Perry’s name on the building.

“It is almost impossible to give you an estimate on how much she did for animals,” SPCA spokeswoman Maura Davies said. “I can attempt to estimate they helped tens of thousands of animals lead better lives. Maybe even hundreds of thousands.”

Perry was one of 12 women who police believe were murdered by suspected serial killer Billy Chemirmir. Perry, 94, died on June 5, 2016. Chemirmir, first arrested in another woman’s death last year, was indicted this week on 11 additional counts of capital murder, including Perry’s case. Police say Chemirmir had a pattern of posing as a caregiver or maintenance worker while robbing and killing elderly women.

Along with being a benefactor for the center in McKinney, Perry sat on the SPCA of Texas’ board of directors.

“That entire location, everything we’ve been able to do is a testament to her life and her husband’s life,” Davies said.

Davies began working at the SPCA of Texas in the early 2000s and became friends with Perry.

“I wish I had been able to know her more,” Davies said. “She was a gentle soul. She was an exceptionally kind woman. She had a very quiet voice, but she could command the presence of a room full of people. She had tremendous visions for how the SPCA of Texas could help animals.”

The center in McKinney is unique in that it’s the only SPCA center in the area that has enough land to house horses, donkeys, sheep, pigs and other livestock animals. Currently, 25 horses are at the facility.

Perry was also the driving force behind the SPCA getting an animal cruelty rescue ambulance — which operated in the back of a Jeep.

“Her heart for animals was exceptionally big,” Davies said. “Every time I was around her, I was struck by how kind and gentle a soul she was. She was just a bright light and a wonderful loving lady. It’s so beyond heartbreaking. She left a lasting legacy.”

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.