Crime

Accused DFW serial killer tied to 19th death; family sues assisted living facility 

Suspected serial killer in DFW accused of killing 12 women

Suspected serial killer Billy Chemirmir is accused of killing 12 elderly women in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
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Suspected serial killer Billy Chemirmir is accused of killing 12 elderly women in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

A suspected serial killer was able to kill at least nine people in a Dallas retirement home because the facility failed to keep residents safe and withheld information from police, the family of the ninth alleged victim says in a lawsuit.

With the latest lawsuit, Billy Chemirmir has now been accused of killing 19 people across DFW. He has maintained that he is innocent.

He was first accused of killing an 81-year-old woman in Dallas last year and was indicted on 11 additional capital murder charges in Dallas and Collin counties in May. Chemirmir also is charged with attempting to kill two other women in Frisco and Plano. Seven other deaths have been linked to Chemirmir in lawsuits.

Nine of Chemirmir’s alleged victims lived in the same facility: The Tradition-Prestonwood in Dallas. Eight of the deaths occurred within a three-month period. A previous series of lawsuits under lawyer Trey Crawford linked Chemirmir to six deaths in the facility.

On Monday, the Star-Telegram received a copy of a lawsuit alleging a ninth victim — Doris Wasserman — was killed at the facility. The suit has not yet been officially filed.

“For over a year, Chemirmir repeatedly accessed premises to murder and rob at least nine elderly residents in broad daylight — including Doris Wasserman — with impunity,” said the family’s lawyer, Quentin Brogdon.

Chemirmir has only been officially charged with two of the nine deaths inside The Tradition, according to report from Dallas police. However, police told family members that cell phone tracking data placed Chemirmir at the facility at the time of each death, Crawford’s and Brogdon’s lawsuits say.

The Tradition-Prestonwood did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a previous statement, the facility said, “Each of our residents is family to us. We are committed to cooperating with the authorities. It’s not appropriate to speculate on what legal proceedings may be underway. We can only stress that the safety of our residents is a top priority every day.”

Timeline of deaths at The Tradition

The following is a timeline of deaths at The Tradition, according to lawsuits filed by each family. Six of the families are represented by Crawford.

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Accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir

On July 20, 2016, Joyce Abramowitz was found dead in her apartment at The Tradition. Three months prior, several thousand dollars worth of her jewelry went missing.

Abramowitz’s family was shocked at her death and asked The Tradition if they should get an autopsy done. The facility assured them “this kind of thing” happens all the time. Later that day, the family discovered jewelry was missing from Abramowitz’s safe, the family’s lawsuit says.

Eleven days later, Juanita Purdy was found dead in her fourth-floor apartment. Purdy’s daughter realized $28,000 worth of her mother’s jewelry was missing and reported the burglary to The Tradition, a suit says.

On Aug. 19, 2016, Leah Corken was found face-down on her floor, dead, the day after going shopping with her daughter. Her daughter noticed her mother’s wedding ring was missing and told the facility she was concerned about the strange position her mother was found in, the Corkens’ suit says.

Ten days later, Margaret White was found dead on the floor of her fourth-floor apartment. She was missing her emergency key fob and her wedding ring, according to the suit filed by her family.

On Oct. 2, 2016, Solomon Spring, another fourth-floor resident, was found dead in his bedroom, surrounded by blood. Police investigated Spring’s death, but The Tradition officials did not tell them about the other recent deaths or burglaries, according to his family’s suit. Crime scene photos analyzed later showed maintenance tools at the sink even though Spring had not requested any maintenance. Police have said Chemirmir sometimes posed as a maintenance worker.

Six days later, Norma French was found dead and with jewelry missing from her room. The Tradition told French’s family they thought the paramedics were involved in the theft, prompting police to start investigating the first responders. Police later determined no paramedics took jewelry from the facility, the French family’s suit says.

On Oct. 16, 2016, and for the third weekend in a row, another fourth-floor resident was found dead. Glenna Day had gone dancing the night before and was found with her emergency pendant around her neck. She had been asked by a friend to restore a prized painting, and her family found it strange that Day was found in bed still wearing her painting smock, and that she had left her paints out on the patio, the Day family’s suit says.

According to the suit, Day had told her daughter weeks before that she was thinking about moving because many of her friends in the facility had suddenly died.

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Billy Chemirmir is charged with killing Doris Gleason, 92, in her Dallas apartment at the Tradition-Prestonwood retirement community in October 2016. Courtesy of Doris Gleason's family

On Oct. 30, 2016, Doris Gleason was found dead. She was missing a necklace that she never took off, Gleason’s daughter, Shannon Dion, told the Star-Telegram in a previous interview.

Lastly, on Dec. 23, 2017, 90-year-old Doris Wasserman was found dead.

‘Profits over safety’

Two days before Christmas in 2017, Doris Wasserman’s son found her dead in her apartment at The Tradition-Prestonwood.

Hours before, Wasserman was spending time with her grandson and his wife in her room and appeared to be in good spirits and health. She called her son and made plans for him to pick her up for dinner that evening.

When his mother did not return his repeated calls, Stephen Wasserman went to her apartment and found her in her bed, dead.

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Doris Wasserman died on Dec. 23, 2017, at The Tradition-Prestonwood in Dallas. Her family says she was murdered by a suspected serial killer, Billy Chemirmir. Provided Quentin Brogdon

Murder indictments against Chemirmir say he smothered most of his victims with pillows before stealing jewelry and other valuables from their rooms. He posed as a maintenance worker or caregiver at numerous facilities such as The Tradition-Prestonwood and the Edgemere senior living center in Dallas, according to police and lawsuits.

Brogdon, the Wassermans’ lawyer, said The Tradition betrayed its residents by failing to keep them safe and by not disclosing to police or families the suspicious activity that went on for a year and a half.

“We believe that The Tradition put profits over the safety of its residents. To say that this family is devastated and feels betrayed by The Tradition would be a gross understatement,” Brogdon said. “Doris Wasserman and her family entrusted Ms. Wasserman’s safety into the hands of The Tradition because of The Tradition’s promises about safety and security — promises that were made but never kept.”

Because The Tradition officials did not tell police or families what was going on, Chemirmir was able to keep killing people at their facility and others in the Metroplex, Brogdon said.

Additionally, Chemirmir had been escorted off the premises by faculty before his arrest in March 2018 but after the nine deaths, and facility officials conducted an internal investigation into him. However, they did not tell police about the investigation or Chemirmir being found on the property, the lawsuits say.

In December, after Chemirmir had been arrested and charged with murder, a family member of a victim asked Executive Director Jeff Wells if Chemirmir had ever been on the property, and Wells said he had not, according to the suits.

“This lawsuit is being filed to hold The Tradition legally accountable for the foreseeable criminal acts of Chemirmir, a vicious predator who was emboldened, enabled and empowered by The Tradition,” he said.

The Tradition-Prestonwood is owned by Tradition Senior Living, which has two facilities in Dallas, opened a third location in Houston in 2018 and is planning to open another in April 2020, according to their website.

Other deaths connected to Chemirmir

Chemirmir was arrested on March 20, 2018. He has been indicted in the deaths of the following women:

Phyllis Payne, 91, died in May 2016. After breaking into Payne’s apartment and suffocating her, Chemirmir stole jewelry and silver that he sold at a pawn shop, according to a lawsuit against Edgemere brought by Payne’s children. Payne’s children said in the suit, which was settled in September, that the facility had lax security.

Phoebe Perry, 94, who died on June 5, 2016, was a kind soul who gave her heart to homeless animals across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, friends told the Star-Telegram in a previous interview.

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Phoebe Perry donated 30 acres of land to the SPCA of Texas in McKinney 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. Yffy Yossifor Star-Telegram

Norma French, 85, and Doris Gleason, 92, both killed at the Tradition-Prestonwood in October 2016.

Rosemary Curtis, 76, who died on Jan. 19, 2018.

Mary Brooks, 87, who died on Jan. 31, 2018.

Lu Thi Harris, 81, who police found dead on March 20, 2018, after they saw Chemirmir dump her jewelry box in a trash bin in Dallas, police said.

In Collin County, he has been indicted in the deaths of five women in Plano:

Minnie Campbell, 84, who died on Oct. 31, 2017, and whose funeral service was in Tampa, Florida.

Carolyn MacPhee, 81, who died on Dec. 31, 2017, and was born in Spokane, Washington.

Martha Williams, 80, who died in March 2018. She taught science in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, both in the classroom and on public television, according to her obituary.

Miriam Nelson, 81, who died on March 9, 2018. Born and raised in Waco, Nelson later attended Decatur Baptist College, where she met her future husband.

Ann Conklin, 82, who died on March 18, 2018, was an avid traveler who managed to visit every continent, including a trip to Antarctica prior to her second husband’s death, her obituary said.

At a press conference in March 2018, Plano police said authorities were combing through more than 750 unattended senior deaths dating back to at least 2010 that weren’t previously investigated to determine if Chemirmir was involved.

Chemirmir has lived in the Dallas area for more than a decade, but court records note that he is a citizen of Kenya. Immigration authorities have placed a jail hold on him.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.
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