DALLAS — Mary Bartel realized she’d made a decision that might cost her her life the moment she saw a man wearing green rubber gloves at her door.

She should have asked who knocked before opening the door March 19, 2018, she told lawyers in a taped deposition. But the 91-year-old woman lived in Preston Place Retirement Community in Plano and figured her neighbors were hard of hearing just as she was, she said.

“I knew instantly when I saw those two green rubber gloves that, number one, I shouldn’t have opened the door, and number two, that my life was in grave danger,” Bartel testified.

The recording was played for jurors Monday at the start of a capital murder trial for Billy Chemirmir, a man police say could be among Texas’ most prolific serial killers.

Chemirmir quietly smothered elderly women, making their deaths look unsuspicious, while taking off with their jewelry, according to police and prosecutors in Dallas and Collin counties.

Investigators blame Chemirmir for at least 18 deaths between 2016 and 2018. He faces another trial in Dallas County and was indicted in five deaths and two attacks in Collin County.

Chemirmir has been indicted on 18 counts of capital murder. In all, he has been linked in police records, civil lawsuits, and medical examiner reports in at least two dozen deaths.

The victim at the center of Chemirmir’s first capital murder trial is not Bartel, who survived the attack and died of natural causes two years later. He is standing trial this week for the death of Lu Thi Harris, an 81-year-old immigrant from Vietnam, who investigators say was fatally smothered one day after the attack on Bartel.

Testimony is expected to continue throughout this week.

“To tell you about Ms. Harris and what she went through, I’m going to back up,” lead prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin said.

Prosecutors are expected to weave together three women’s stories to prove Chemirmir killed Harris.

In his opening statement, Fitzmartin told jurors he also would talk about Mary Brooks, who was killed in January 2018 in Richardson.

Prosecutors are generally barred from talking about other crimes a defendant is accused of while the jury is still tasked with determining the person’s guilt or innocence. But the law allows prosecutors to enter evidence of other crimes if it is needed to prove a person uses the same method each time.

Fitzmartin said Chemirmir’s cellphone records place him near Harris, Bartel and Brooks when they were attacked.

“This case is about stalking, smothering and stealing,” Fitzmartin told jurors before presenting his case.

Chemirmir and his defense team have maintained he is innocent but chose not to make an opening argument Monday. His lead defense lawyer, Phillip Hayes, was absent on the first day of testimony.

Hayes was arrested Nov. 5 on a charge of soliciting prostitution in October during one of his trials in East Texas, and he did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Kobby Warren, one of Chemirmir’s other lawyers, would not comment on whether Hayes would participate in the trial. Hayes previously told The News he wouldn’t comment, so as to not jeopardize Chemirmir’s case.

If convicted, Chemirmir faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. He appeared in court Monday wearing a black suit, a zebra-print tie, glasses and a mask in compliance with courthouse protocols for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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