A man convicted of two murders and suspected of slaughtering at least two dozen other women was found dead in his Texas state prison cell early Tuesday.
Billy Chemirmir, 50, had been serving two life sentences without parole in the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony near Palestine when he was attacked. His cellmate, who has not been named, was identified as the assailant, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said. It’s unclear how Chemirmir died.
The TDCJ told NBC5 that the Office of Inspector General is investigating Chemirmir’s death. No further details were released.
In October 2022, Chemirmir was found guilty of capital murder in the death of 87-year-old Mary Brooks. His first murder trial for the slaying of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris ended in a mistrial in Dallas County.
Police have said Chemirmir preyed on older women, targeting them inside their homes or senior living centers where he would smother them with pillows and steal their jewelry and valuables.
Authorities initially believed Brooks had died of natural causes, even though family raised alarm bells that many of her favourite pieces of jewelry was missing. Her shopping bags were left on the counter, and a coral necklace and several diamond rings were gone, according to prosecutors.
It was only weeks later when Chemirmir was arrested for a separate attack that police began to suspect his involvement.
In that case, Mary Annis Bartel, 91, told police that a man had forced his way into her apartment at Parkview Elderly Assisted Living facility in Frisco, attempted to smother her with a pillow and stole her jewelry, the Associated Press reported.
Ms Bartel, who died in 2020, described in a taped police interview that Chemirmir had appeared suddenly as she opened her front door a man wearing green rubber gloves before forcing her to the ground and holding a pillow over her face.
Documents found in a box the murder suspect was attempting to dispose of led police to the home of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris, who was found dead in her bedroom, lipstick smeared on her pillow, the Associated Press reported.
As more unexplained deaths came to light, authorities in Texas said they were planning to review hundreds of deaths previously thought to have been due to natural causes.