A serial killer accused of murdering close to two dozen women was killed by a prison cellmate, weeks after a District Attorney refused to seek a death penalty for the criminal.
Billy Chemirmir, 50, was sentenced to a life sentence last year for killing two women. He was found dead in his prison cell in rural East Texas on Tuesday, said Hannah Haney, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), according to AP. Mr. Chemirmir was killed by his cellmate, who is also serving prison for murder.
Ms. Haney did not reveal the name of the cellmate or what led to the death. Though convicted of two murders, Mr. Chemirmir is accused of killing 22 older women over a two-year period to steal their jewelry and valuables.
Mr. Chemirmir’s death comes after Collin County Criminal District Attorney Greg Willis said last month that he would not seek the death penalty for the man.
“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,” Mr. Willis said in an Aug. 24 statement.
In a Sept. 20 interview with TV station WFAA, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot talked about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Chemirmir’s death.
“My understanding is that he got into an argument of some sort, said something inappropriate to his cellmate, and the cellmate killed him, beat him to death,” he said.
Mr. Chemirmir said “something of a sexual nature and inappropriate is my understanding. And it was directed towards the inmate's children or child. So, that's what triggered all of this.”
Mr. Creuzot said he isn’t surprised that Mr. Chemirmir got killed in prison as he always thought that this was a possibility for somebody “with his background.”
The assailant “somehow opened the door, and dragged him (Chemirmir) into the hallway, and there were other prisoners who saw it, and nobody intervened or [...] called for help. And basically, he was there for about 15 or 20 minutes before anybody of authority could figure out what had happened, and he was there, and they tried to revive him, and he died.”
When asked how he felt about Mr. Chemirmir’s death, the DA replied that the murderer “got what he deserved.”
“With these types of crimes, I think there's a heightened risk that they can be attacked and killed. And I always recognize that. I didn't think something like this would happen so quickly. But, you know, he put himself there, and he said what he said as I understand it, and he got the response he got.”
Though Mr. Chemirmir was indicted for “20 or so deaths,” the reality was that he “could have killed more people than that.”
The CrimesMany of the deaths alleged to have been committed by Mr. Chemirmir were initially often attributed to natural causes, even as relatives of the victims raised alarm about the missing jewelry.
After a 91-year-old woman survived Mr. Chemirmir’s attack, he came under the police radar. The woman told officers that a man had forced his way into the apartment and tried to smother her and steal her jewelry.
Mr. Chemirmir was found the following day in a parking lot at his apartment holding jewelry and cash. The documents in the jewelry box led the police to an 81-year-old victim who was dead in her bedroom. After he was arrested, charges against Mr. Chemirmir kept on growing.
Speaking to Fox5, a spokesperson from TDCJ said that the Office of Inspector General will handle the investigation into Mr. Chemirmir’s death.
"First, they'll do a criminal investigation to see if they have enough evidence to charge their suspect,” Toby Shook, a criminal defense attorney, told the outlet.
There is a special prosecution unit that handles such types of cases, he added. “They'll do an investigation to see if there was any breakdown to how they were monitored.”
Phillip Hayes, Mr. Chemirmir’s attorney, called his client’s death “just a horrible tragedy,” insisting that “nobody deserves to be killed at any point, especially when you are in a place you’re being held against your will,” according to AP.
However, some of the family members of those Mr. Chemirmir is accused of killing expressed relief at his death. “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,” said a family member of an alleged 92-year-old victim.
In his interview, Mr. Creuzot said that families of Mr. Chemirmir’s alleged victims would “probably think” the murderer got what he deserved.
“There were some who didn't want to seek death and some who did. I spoke to one this morning and there was just silence. I don't think she knew what to say or how to feel. And I'm sure that's gonna be true of a lot of them.”