Posted on July 5, 2024

The Many Murders of Billy Chemirmir

Anastasia Katz, American Renaissance, July 5, 2024

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Pillowcase Murders (2024), directed by Randy Ferrell, Texas Crew Productions.

Pillowcase Murders is a three-part documentary currently streaming on Paramount + that tells the story of Billy Chemirmir, a black man who murdered more than 20 elderly white people in the Dallas, Texas, area from 2016 to 2018. His murders all followed the same pattern: He would stalk a victim, get her (all but one were female) to open her front door, get inside the home, and smother his victim with a pillow. Then he would steal any jewelry he could find.

Often on the same day as the murder, he would take the jewelry to a pawn shop to have it appraised, and then he would turn down the pawn shop’s offer. Knowing the value of the jewelry, he would either sell it online or sell it to one of several jewelry stores he frequented. Detective Jon Hoffman of the Plano Police Department said Mr. Chemirmir passed himself off as someone who bought and sold jewelry for a living and would use the money from his thefts “to support an image of a high roller.” He frequented five African clubs in Texas, buying drinks and giving $20 tips, spending $200-$300 daily.

There may be as many as 28 victims, a few of whom survived, ranging in age from 79 to 94. As noted above, all but one of the victims were women, and with the exception of one Asian woman, the victims were all white. A list of all known victims is provided below. The documentary and this review cover most but not all of the victims.

The documentary is not easy to watch. Apart from the gruesome subject matter and crime scene photos, it can be hard to follow because of the large number of victims discussed, the many people interviewed, and its tendency to jump back and forth in time. The filmmakers interviewed relatives of the murder victims, their neighbors, law enforcement, security guards, and lawyers connected to the case.

Billy Chemirmir had three murder trials, but about two-thirds of the documentary focuses on a civil suit brought by victims’ families against the senior living communities the victims lived in. The families claim that these communities did not provide adequate security to prevent Mr. Chemirmir from gaining access to their loved ones, and that they tried to cover up the murders. The documentary therefore spends a disproportionate amount of time blaming white owners of independent living communities for the deaths, rather than the black man who actually committed the crimes. Pillowcase Murders gives only the plaintiffs’ side of the civil suit.

Billy Chemirmir

Billy Chemirmir

Trey Crawford, the lawyer representing 13 of these families, said of the murderer: “Billy Chemirmir is without a doubt the most prolific serial killer in Texas, if not the US.” (The most prolific serial killer in US history is actually another black man, Samuel Little, who confessed to murdering 93 people.)

Billy Chemirmir was from a small town in Kenya. His father, a village leader, had three wives and 28 children. His sister had a home healthcare business in the United States; she helped him to immigrate in 2003 and find work as a caregiver for the elderly. Mr. Chemirmir was a legal resident with a green card when he committed the murders. This is a case of chain migration with deadly consequences.

Mr. Chemirmir had a record before he started killing people. He was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated in 2010 and was given 18 months of probation. He had another DWI in 2011 but failed to appear in court, so a warrant for his arrest was issued. In July 2012, he was arrested for domestic abuse and assault on his girlfriend, Margaret Ayiera, also a Kenyan who worked as a caregiver.

Miss Ayiera described the incident. One day, preparing to leave for home, her boyfriend was drunk but insisted on driving and grabbed the car keys from her. He drove home erratically. “He went into the kitchen and got a pan. He hit me and stepped on me, and took a knife. That’s when I dialed 911. He took a knife and cut all the chairs that were in the house,” Miss Ayiera said, crying. “He told me, ‘Don’t talk to me like that. A woman will never talk to me like that. I can even cut your throat.’”

Nevertheless, Miss Ayiera stayed in the relationship and had a child with Mr. Chemirmir, although he had wanted her to get an abortion. After she refused the abortion, he left her but returned when their son was six months old.


Billy Chemirmir killed his first known victim in 2016. Dr. Catherine Sinclair, 87, lived in a community for senior citizens in Dallas called Edgemere. He targeted four such communities, killing multiple residents at each. The documentary is often critical of the security at these communities, but Edgemere is notable for having a diligent security staff.

Josh Aleman, a former Edgemere security guard, said that in February 2016, Billy Chemirmir began working under the alias “Benjamin Koitaba” as an independent aide for a resident at Edgemere. On April 8, a housekeeper found Dr. Sinclair unresponsive. Responding to her apartment, Mr. Aleman found her cold and called 911. The victim’s niece and nephew also went to the apartment, where they found blood on their aunt’s sheets. They also noted that her safe, which contained jewelry and collectible coins, was missing. Insisting on an autopsy, the family was told she had died of natural causes, but they were never given a copy of the autopsy report.

Catherine Sinclair’s nephew always felt her death was suspicious. After Mr. Chemirmir’s arrest two years later, he hired attorney Trey Crawford, who obtained the autopsy report. It showed Catherine Sinclair had burst blood vessels around the eyes, which can be a sign of strangulation. She also had an abrasion on the left cheek and “green discoloration of the abdomen,” which could have been caused by a killer holding her down with his knee.

On April 18, ten days after Dr. Sinclair was found dead, Mr. Aleman received a call from a resident who said a black man wearing a maroon shirt and pants had just come to her apartment, claiming to be with maintenance. Mr. Aleman checked the surveillance cameras and, seeing Billy Chemirmir in the building in maroon medical scrubs, called the police. The police escorted Mr. Chemirmir to his car and told him Edgemere had banned him from the property and not to come back.

On May 15, when another Edgemere resident, retired 91-year-old interior designer Phyllis Payne, did not show up for breakfast, security guard Amber Hill went to check on her. Entering the apartment, Miss Hill found Mrs. Payne lying in bed, “peaceful as can be, it looked like she was just sleeping.”

Notified of her mother’s death, Mrs. Payne’s daughter, Loren Adair Smith, noticed that her mother’s fine jewelry, which she kept in a coffee can in the refrigerator, was missing. Miss Smith said, “The really hard thing to think about is that he had to ask her, ‘Show me where your good jewelry is.’ . . . She was four-foot-eleven and 99 pounds. This defenseless, sweet woman. To learn that her last moments on earth were horror, it’s just more than you can bear.”

On June 5, another Edgemere resident, Phoebe Perry, 94, was found slumped beside a chair, dead, next to a blood-stained pillow. Her jewelry was also missing.

With three women dead, all with jewelry missing, Mr. Aleman and Miss Hill became suspicious that the women were murdered. Checking the electronic door logs, Mr. Aleman found video of Billy Chemirmir near the dead women’s apartments, having snuck in by following employees at shift change. He was carrying a manilla envelope each time.

Mr. Aleman and the maintenance crew, determined to catch a presumed killer, surrounded Mr. Chemirmir the next time he entered the complex. “My boss puts him in a headlock,” Mr. Aleman said, “and we take him to this conference room. I call the police.”

Opening the manilla envelope Mr. Chemirmir had been carrying, the police found an unloaded handgun and a telescopic magnet, which he could have been using to determine which jewelry was valuable since precious metals are not attracted to a magnet. The police were slow to put all of the evidence together, however, and still thought the women had died from natural causes. They did charge Billy Chemirmir with criminal trespass, for which he was sentenced to 70 days in jail.

Released from jail, the suspected killer again began loitering around Edgemere. When Mr. Aleman again called the police, they questioned Mr. Chemirmir but released him when he explained he had been working nearby.

“I felt like I was alone,” Mr. Aleman said, “The only one that could see this.”

Nevertheless, thanks to Josh Aleman, that was the last of the Edgemere murders, but Billy Chemirmir’s killing spree had just begun.


Billy Chemirmir now began murdering people at another independent living complex in Dallas, Tradition-Prestonwood. He killed a total of nine residents there, including his only male victim. The deaths at Tradition were all attributed to natural causes at first, but some family members were suspicious of foul play.

The first victim was Joyce Abramowitz, 87, who was found dead on July 18, 2016.

Next, Juanita Purdy, 83, was discovered dead, but Tradition staff told her skeptical daughter she had died “peacefully in her sleep.”

On August 19, Leah Corken, 83, was found face-down on the floor, with the bottoms of her bare feet facing up. Her daughter found her position and mussed hair and makeup suspicious and asked a staff member about them. She was told, “That’s just how people die.” Without performing an autopsy, the medical examiner issued a death certificate declaring that Mrs. Corken had died from “cardiovascular disease.”

A few days later, on August 28, a friend and neighbor of Mrs. Corken, Margaret White, 87, was also found dead.

Then, on October 2, a Tradition resident, Solomon Spring, 89, was found bloodied on the floor of his bedroom with his head against the door. Both his wedding ring and wristwatch were missing.

In spite of the violent scene, the fact that Mr. Spring had suffered broken ribs, an injured eye and skull, and a large amount of blood loss, the medical examiner blamed his death on a fall. With the manner of death thus declared “accidental,” the case was closed. Two years later, the police studied tracking data from Billy Chemirmir’s phone and found he had been near Mr. Spring’s home three hours before his death.

On October 9, 2016, a week after Solomon Spring was killed, Norma French was found dead, her wedding ring missing and with a blood stain on her carpet. Yet her death was also declared to have been from natural causes.

On October 16, Glenna Day, 87, was discovered lying on her bed, deceased. Her daughter thought it strange that her mother, who was a painter, would have lain down in her dirty smock and without washing the paint from her hands.

Then, on October 30, Doris Gleason, 92, was found dead on the floor of her apartment. A necklace she wore every day and other jewelry were missing. Police found no sign of forced entry and theorized that the jewelry had been stolen by someone who wandered in after Mrs. Gleason had died.

On November 13, 2016, a suspicious black male was reported having been seen on Tradition’s fourth floor, falsely claiming he was there to check for pipe leaks. Police advised the facility to “tighten security.”

But, on December 23, Doris Wasserman, 90, another Tradition resident, was found dead. Google tracking data would later place Billy Chemirmir at the Tradition during Wasserman’s time of death, but still the police could not connect the dots.

Doris Gleason’s son-in-law said, “The Dallas Police were investigating these deaths as one-offs; they weren’t looking for a serial killer.” Meanwhile, Mrs. Gleason’s daughter tried unsuccessfully to interest a reporter in the mysterious cluster of deaths.

Parkview in Frisco

In September 2017, Mr. Chemirmir moved onto Parkview in Frisco, a community for seniors in Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. There, he first killed 82-year-old Helen Lee, who was found on September 3.

Then, on September 17, Mrs. Lee’s best friend, Marilyn Bixler, 90, was found murdered in her Parkview apartment, her body lying between a couch and coffee table.

Kay Lawson, 93, survived an attack on October 29. A black man she had seen in the hallway forced his way into her apartment, knocked her down, dragged her into the living room, and tried to suffocate her with a pillow. She played dead, both then and later, when he returned looking for a piece of jewelry he had dropped. When he had finally left, Mrs. Lawson called police, who sent the pillow for testing. It contained the DNA of a black man, but they could not find a match.

Caregiver Dawn Lewey may have prevented other killings at Parkview by scaring Billy Chemirmir off. She testified in a deposition that at one point, she had seen a “well-dressed, dark-skinned gentleman” in the building, apparently without having signed in. When questioned, he said he was there “to see Maria.” Miss Lewey told him he was in the wrong part of the building, and he left. She saw him twice more and called the police after the third time, but he had disappeared by the time they arrived.

The Lawson attack was the last of the known incidents in 2017. Early the next year, however, on January 21, Mr. Chemirmir was back at it, murdering an elderly woman who lived alone in a Dallas-area condo, Mary Brooks, 87.

Preston Place

Soon thereafter, in March, the serial killer began a series of attacks on elderly women at Preston Place, a senior living complex in Plano, Texas. These eight attacks finally gave police the breaks they needed to identify and catch the murderer.

Preston Place Senior Living, which advertised itself as “a cruise without a ship,” had originally been a regular apartment complex. There were no hallways; each apartment’s front door opened to the outside. The parking lot’s security gate did not always work. There were only a few surveillance cameras, and some of those were broken.

On March 7, 2018, Martha Williams, 80, was found dead on the floor of her Preston Place apartment. Her family told police her jewelry was missing.

On March 9, 2018, Miriam Nelson, 81, another Preston Place resident, was found dead in bed. Officer Jennifer Chapman of the Plano Police Department investigated Nelson’s death as a murder, due to a suspicious black man having visited the apartment two days before. Officer Chapman sent out a bulletin to her fellow officers.

On March 19, Ann Conklin, age 82, was found dead. Finally, that same day, 91-year-old Mary Bartel was found unconscious in her apartment, unresponsive but still breathing. She told police a black man had broken in and tried to smother her with a pillow. Her wedding ring was missing.

The arrest

Police arrested Billy Chemirmir on March 20, 2018, in the parking lot of his Dallas apartment. When arrested, he was clutching jewelry and money. The arresting officers checked a dumpster into which he had been seen discarding an item. There they found a red jewelry box containing an old military tag inscribed with the name Harris. Also discovered were some immigration documents in the name of Lu Thi Vang. Alerted to a possible new victim, Dallas officers found Lu Thi Harris, an 81-year-old Asian woman, dead on the floor of her Dallas home. Red lipstick was smeared on her pillowcase.

Police then searched the home of Margaret Ayiera, Mr. Chemirmir’s former girlfriend, as well as his own home, where they found a Kenyan passport in the name of his alias, Benjamin Koitaba, blue rubber gloves, several cell phones, and a stock of stolen jewelry

Mr. Chemirmir was held on a one-million-dollar bond at the Dallas County jail.

The murder trials

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed black man who seemed sincere in wanting to prosecute Mr. Chemirmir, first sorted through the cases to identify those that had the best chance of succeeding in court. Because many of the murders had originally been reported as natural deaths, those cases had no autopsies. Mr. Creuzot reasoned, “If a medical examiner can’t say it was homicide, it would be unwise to try that case when you have other cases.”

Dallas County and Collin County both had cases against the suspect. They agreed that he would first be tried in Dallas County, because the Lu Thi Harris case had the best evidence.

The trial began on November 17, 2021. The judge was a black woman, Raqual “Rocky” Jones. Mr. Chemirmir’s defense attorney was a black man. The documentary makes no mention of the racial makeup of the jury and did not cover the defense’s strategy.

Because of Covid restrictions, the victims’ families were not allowed in the courtroom and had to watch the trial on closed-circuit TV from a waiting room. Mary Bartel testified remotely about being attacked. DA Creuzot showed the jury Miss Harris’s pillowcase, with the lipstick smudge. Other evidence included security camera footage that showed the defendant stalking Miss Harris while she shopped at a Walmart store and cell phone coordinates that placed him at her house. Surveillance video from the Diamond & Gold Exchange showed Mr. Chemirmir selling the victim’s jewelry. The Exchange provided documents listing all the jewelry purchased from Mr. Chemirmir, and the sale dates matched the murders. There was a total of 55 sales, netting the murderer $91,350.

Although the victims’ families were expecting a quick verdict, the jury deliberated for more than six hours. They eventually sent back a note saying they could not change the mind of one woman on the jury, so that Judge Jones was forced to declare a mistrial. The families were devastated. This meant they would have to sit through another trial, hearing the same evidence.

Billy Chemirmir appeared as a guest on the Unforbidden Truth podcast after the mistrial. He declared, “I am innocent. I’m not the killer; I’m not the murderer. My sister and my niece own senior livings. Why hasn’t anybody been killed, any jewelry stolen in those senior livings? I could have gone there. That would have been the easiest place.”

When the podcast host confronted him about the jewelry that was stolen, Mr. Chemirmir said, “Those jewelries, I bought them from different people. That’s not their jewelry. They may say it looks like their jewelry, but it’s not theirs.”

He told the host, “I’m not going to go to prison” and laughed.

DA Creuzot was determined otherwise: “I said, as many trials as it takes, one way or the other, he’s going to die in prison.”

The second trial began on Monday, April 22, 2022. This time around, DA Creuzot was more careful with jury selection. “The jury selection, in any case, it makes or breaks, in my mind. In this retrial, the most important thing for the jury was understanding. . . that circumstantial evidence does not equal weak evidence. . . . We only have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, we don’t have to prove it a certain way.” With Covid restrictions lifted, family of victims were allowed into the courtroom. The defendant did not look at them.

This time, a guilty verdict was returned in a half hour. Mr. Chemirmir was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Although Texas has the death penalty, which it uses more than any other state, it was not considered in this case, for unexplained reasons. DA Creuzot was said originally to have intended to pursue a death penalty, but then reconsidered, never publicly explaining why. One theory is that he hoped thereby to keep the costs of the trial down.

The third trial, for the murder of Mary Brooks, began on October 3, 2022.

Mary Brooks, 87, did not live in a senior community. She was originally thought to have died of natural causes after returning home from Walmart. When she was found dead in her home, the eggs and frozen waffles she had bought were still on her kitchen counter. Security footage from Walmart showed Mr. Chemirmir’s car following her car out of the Walmart parking lot. His phone data indicated that he had been at her house. DNA evidence from his blood was found at the crime scene.

The jury returned a guilty verdict in less than an hour. Billy Chemirmir was given a second life sentence with no chance of parole. DA Creuzot declared he was “very happy and pleased and relieved” with the second guilty verdict. “I promised two convictions, and I kept that promise. Mr. Chemirmir will die in the penitentiary.”

Collin County’s district attorney, Greg Willis, a white man, announced in August 2023 that he would not pursue a death penalty: “Billy Chemirmir is an evil person who preyed upon our most vulnerable citizens. Although he is certainly deserving of a death sentence, my decision today is informed by the fact that he has already been tried three times in another county and he will never be a free man again.”

Some of the victims’ families were relieved, too, but a number of them were angry and disappointed when their loved ones’ cases were dismissed. Here’s one example of their responses: Doris Gleason’s daughter said, “I understand legally, financially, economically, that’s the correct thing to do, but we have felt dismissed all though this process! At least we were given, thankfully, the opportunity to make victim impact statements.”

The judge did allow the families to give victim impact statements. On October 15, 2022, many of them  brought large photos of their loved ones to the courtroom along with messages for the convicted killer. The latter ranged from “Don’t be a coward. Ask for forgiveness and confess your sins” to “Rot in hell, you piece of sh*t.”

Billy Chemirmir’s death

Less than a year later, on September 19, 2023, Billy Chemirmir was killed in prison. He made a sexual remark about his black cellmate’s children, so the cellmate, also a convicted murderer, beat him to death. A relative of one of Mr. Chemirmir’s victims commented, “I know we got our street justice, but I feel let down by the system.”

Civil suits

Unable to obtain satisfaction through the criminal justice system, many of the victims’ families pursued civil litigation against the independent living facilities where their loved ones had been murdered. In doing so, they pivoted their animosity away from the murderer and onto the white owners of those facilities.

Trey Crawford filed civil lawsuits against Tradition-Prestonwood and Preston Place. Edgemere agreed to a settlement and offered condolences and apologies to the families. They hired new management and installed 400 security cameras. Parkview in Frisco also settled.

The lawyer wondered, “Why does everyone not know about Billy Chemirmir? As many people as he killed — I mean, we all know about Ted Bundy. We all know about Jeffrey Dahmer. Why was this spree not on everyone’s lips?”

No one shown in Pillowcase Murders suggests that this was because of race. Instead, they blame ageism.

Billy Chemirmir never explained why he killed, so we don’t know how much of a factor racial animus was, but he had no known black victims. Whites are not the majority in either Dallas, Plano, or Frisco. Dallas is, in fact, 24 percent black — double the national average. There certainly could have been black residents at the senior communities and black shoppers at the Walmart where he stalked his victims. He seems to have preferred victims from other racial groups than his own.

Billy Chemirmir’s known victims

(In alphabetic order. All are white women unless otherwise noted.)

Joyce Abramowitz, age 87. Killed July 18, 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Mary Bartel, age 91 (at the time). Injured but survived attempted murder, on March 19, 2018, at Preston Place.

Marilyn Bixler, age 90. Killed September 17, 2017, at Parkview in Frisco.

Mary Brooks, age 87. Killed January 21, 2018, in her single-family home.

Minnie Campbell, age 83. Killed on October 31, 2017, at Preston Place.

Ann Conklin, age 82. Killed March 19, 2018, at Preston Place.

Leah Corken, age 83. Killed August 19, 2016, at Prestonwood.

Rosemary Curtis, age 76. Killed January 19, 2018, in her single-family home.

Glenna Day, age 87. Killed October 16, 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Diane Delahunty, age 79. Killed December 3, 2017, at Preston Place.

Mamie Dell Miya, age unknown. Killed December 8, 2017, at Preston Place.

Norma French, age 87, Killed October 9, 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Doris Gleason, age 92. Killed October 30 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Lu Thi Harris, age 81. Killed March 20, 2018, in her single-family home. The only Asian victim.

Kay Lawson, age 93 (at the time). Survived attempted murder, with injuries, on October 29, 2017, at Parkview in Frisco.

Helen Lee, age 82. Killed September 3, 2017, at Parkview in Frisco.

Carolyn MacPhee, age 81. Killed December 31, 2017, in her single-family home.

Miriam Nelson, age 81. Killed March 9, 2018, at Preston Place.

Phyllis Payne, age 91. Killed May 15, 2016, at Edgemere.

Phoebe Perry, age 94. Killed June 5, 2016, at Edgemere.

Juanita Purdy, age 83. Killed July 31, 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Pauline Sanford, age 96 (at the time). Survived encounter with no injuries in 2018 at Preston Place.

Dr. Catherine Sinclair, age 87. Killed April 8, 2016, at Edgemere.

Solomon “Sol” Spring, age 89. Killed on October 2, 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood #440. The only male victim.

Margaret White, age 87. Killed August 28, 2016, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Doris Wasserman, age 90. Killed December 23, 2017, at Tradition-Prestonwood.

Martha Williams, age 80. Killed March 7. 2018 at Preston Place.

Unnamed Victim, age unknown, killed at Preston Place.