Billy Chemirmir pulled into a Walmart parking lot on the morning of Jan. 30, 2018, selected a spot with a view of the handicapped spaces and waited for his victim, prosecutors told jurors Monday at his capital murder trial.
Dallas County prosecutors are seeking to prove that Chemirmir hunted elderly women, following them from a Far North Dallas Walmart to their homes, where he smothered them. Their deaths looked natural and, prosecutors say, he made off with their precious heirlooms.
Security camera footage from the Walmart at the corner of Coit and Arapaho roads, played for jurors Monday, showed 87-year-old Mary Brooks park in a handicapped spot about 10:50 a.m. Nearly an hour later, she carted her groceries out and drove out of the parking lot. A silver Nissan Altima followed.
This week, Chemirmir is standing trial in the death of Brooks, who also went by Sue. This is his third trial. The first ended in a mistrial last year when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. He was then convicted of capital murder in April for the smothering death of 81-year-old Lu Thi Harris in Dallas. Chemirmir has been indicted on 22 capital murder charges in Dallas and Collin counties. Police said he could be among Texas’ most prolific serial killers. He also targeted victims in senior living communities, police said.
“If you hang on with me throughout this week ... you will understand in your deliberations that there’s only one true answer to this question: Is he guilty of capital murder?” prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin said. “Your answer will be overwhelmingly ‘Yes.’”
On the day of Brooks’ death, video shows Chemirmir arriving in the parking lot about an hour before her. He comes and goes from the store several times before Brooks exits wearing the same blue coat and red scarf she wore when she died.
Chemirmir has denied killing anyone. His defense attorneys did not make opening statements at the start of trial. Chemirmir, who wore a gray suit in court, leaned back in his chair during the trial to watch the surveillance videos from Walmart play on a screen to his left.
The trial is expected to last a week. Chemirmir faces another automatic life sentence if convicted because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot promised the families that prosecutors would try Chemirmir in two deaths. Collin County prosecutors have said they are waiting on the Dallas cases before proceeding. Family members have said they hope Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis seeks a death sentence.
No surprise visits
Brooks’ oldest daughter, Ann Brooks, testified that it was unusual for her mom not to answer her phone calls on Jan. 30, 2018. The elder Brooks routinely spoke with her daughters daily. But Ann Brooks didn’t worry at first. She figured her mother was with her book club or visiting other friends. Her mother planned to buy baby clothes to make packages for new mothers at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where she previously worked as assistant head of dietetics, Ann Brooks said.
But by nightfall on Jan. 31, 2018, Ann Brooks was concerned. Away in California for her husband’s work, she decided to call her son, who lived near his grandmother in Richardson.
Mary Brooks owned her condo, as well as the one where her grandson lived with his wife. She bought the homes after selling the family house following her husband’s death in 2007.
David Cuddihee testified that his grandmother could have rented out the condo but generously invited the couple to live there rent-free since he and his wife recently reenrolled in college and were expecting their first child.
Cuddihee said he enjoyed living close to his grandmother. She and his wife got along well, and they often dined together at each other’s homes.
But she had one steadfast rule: No surprise visits. So Cuddihee was frustrated when his mother insisted he check on his grandmother about 10 p.m.
There were suspicious signs when he approached the home. A small gate Mary Brooks usually closed around dinnertime was open, he said. He could see the light from her office was still on. And her front door was unlocked.
Cuddihee found his grandmother lying on the living room floor. He stooped down next to her and rolled her over. Her body let out a stench that he thought might be a breath. He called 911.
First responders arrived and confirmed she was dead. Cuddihee called his mother, who boarded an overnight flight to Dallas.
Though Mary Brooks’ death was initially thought to be from natural causes, Richardson police took note of unpacked Walmart bags throughout the apartment.
A box of frozen blueberry waffles was left on the stovetop and a carton of eggs was on the kitchen counter. Two Walmart receipts were on her bed, showing she had visited the store the morning before.
As her family began to clear out the condo, Ann Brooks said they discovered jewelry was missing.
Mary Brooks’ wedding ring was nowhere to be found. Nor was her own mother’s wedding ring, which Mary Brooks cherished.
And then there was a special coral necklace. Mary Brooks and her husband, Quentin, didn’t have a lot of money while their kids grew up, Ann Brooks said. Family vacations were usually camping trips. After they paid off their house, Mary and Quentin Brooks visited Hawaii, where he bought her a two-tone pink coral necklace with gold between the beads, Ann Brooks said.
Her kids playfully vied for the coral necklace, Ann Brooks said. Whenever one of them did a chore for their mom, they’d joke that it was in exchange for the necklace in her will. The grandchildren eventually joined in on the running joke, Ann Brooks said.
“We just thought it was the prettiest thing,” Ann Brooks said.
It wasn’t until about two months later that Richardson police suspected Mary Brooks had been killed.
A trail of victims
To understand how police came to suspect Brooks was murdered, prosecutors plan to tell jurors about attacks on three other women: Mary Bartel, who survived an attack on March 19, 2018, at Preston Place Retirement Community in Plano; Harris, who Chemirmir killed on March 20, 2018, in her Dallas home while the police were homing in on him for the attack on Bartel; and Martha Williams, who was killed on March 4, 2018, in Preston Place Retirement Community.
In both trials for Harris’ death, jurors heard about Bartel’s survival and Harris’ death.
Police discovered Walmart security camera footage showed Harris and Chemirmir in the same parking lot the day of Harris’ death. Chemirmir appears to have followed Harris out of the parking lot, prosecutors previously argued, just like they say he followed Brooks.
The previous juries did not hear testimony about Williams. Critical evidence was discovered in Williams’ home and Chemirmir’s car, Fitzmartin told jurors.
Williams’ daughter found a pillow in her home with an odd stain, Fitzmartin said. Blue surgical-type gloves were in the glove compartment in his car. Chemirmir’s DNA could not be excluded from the analysis on those items, Fitzmartin said. But a match for Williams’ DNA was found on the gloves in his car, Fitzmartin said.
“After he leaves Martha Williams, he also leaves a piece of him behind,” Fitzmartin said.
Correction, 11:01 a.m., Oct. 6: An earlier version of this article misstated where gloves were discovered. They were found in Billy Chemirmir’s car.