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Texas killer suspected in over 20 deaths is killed in prison, officials say

Chemirmir, 50, was serving life in prison without parole after he was twice found guilty of capital murder by Dallas County juries.

DALLAS — Convicted North Texas killer Billy Chemirmir, who was suspected in over 20 murders, was killed in a state prison Tuesday morning, officials confirmed to WFAA.

Chemirmir, 50, was serving life in prison without parole after he was twice found guilty of capital murder by Dallas County juries. He was accused of killing 20 other women in Dallas and Collin counties and still faced charges in those cases.

The Dallas County District Attorney's office confirmed they were notified by Texas prison officials that Chemirmir was killed Tuesday morning. State prison officials confirmed that Chemirmir was found dead in his cell early Tuesday and his cellmate, who was serving on a murder charge out of Harris County, was "identified as the assailant."

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot told WFAA that Chemirmir was killed after apparently making inappropriate comments sexual in nature towards his cellmate's children. According to Creuzot, the cellmate allegedly beat Chemirmir, dragged him out of his cell and killed him while other inmates watched. No one intervened and Chemirmir may have been stabbed with a pen, Creuzot said.

Watch Creuzot's full interview with WFAA below:

"Even though they are on lockdown, apparently [the cellmate] somehow opened the door and dragged [Chemirmir] into the hallway and there were other prisoners who saw it and not one intervened and no one called for help," Creuzot told WFAA. "He was basically there for 15 to 20 minutes before anybody with authority could figure out what happened. When they got there, they tried to revive him, but he died."

Officials did not release his cellmate's name and initially said the cellmate was from Dallas County, but they later corrected their information to Harris County.

Chemirmir was being housed in the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, about two hours southeast of Dallas, according to online records.

Chemirmir attorney Phillip Hayes confirmed his client's death in a statement to WFAA: "Despite how you feel about him, no one deserves to be murdered in prison."

Chemirmir was convicted in April 2022 of capital murder in the smothering death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris. He received the same punishment after being convicted of killing 87-year-old Mary Brooks.

It was Mary Annis Bartel's survival of a March 2018 attack that set Chemirmir's arrest in motion. Bartel, 91 at the time, told police that a man had forced his way into her apartment at an independent living community for seniors, tried to smother her with a pillow and took her jewelry.

Before Bartel died in 2020, she described the attack in a taped interview that was played at Chemirmir's previous trials. She said the minute she opened her door and saw a man wearing green rubber gloves, she knew she was in “grave danger.”

Police said they found Chemirmir the next day in the parking lot of his apartment complex. He was holding jewelry and cash, and he had just thrown away a large red jewelry box. Documents in the box led them to the home of Harris, who was found dead in her bedroom, lipstick smeared on her pillow.

Most of Chemirmir's alleged victims lived in apartments at independent living communities for older people. The women he’s accused of killing in private homes include the widow of a man he had cared for while working as an at-home caregiver.

At a press conference Tuesday, family members of the victims Chemirmir was charged with killing gathered to share their reactions.

"Perhaps this is a form of justice," said Shannon Dion, the daughter of victim Doris Gleason. "My mother died in fear. This man did not have a peaceful passing. There's some relief in feeling that he didn't get off easily."

Loren Smith, the daughter of victim Phyllis Payne, described a sense of relief.

"We certainly don't condone murder, but one of the things that we said was, 'Ah, it's over,'" Smith said.

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