How did the son of a senior colonial chief end up a serial killer in the US?
Residents of Kabunyony Village in Eldama Ravine, where suspected murderer Billy Chemirmir hails from, say they don't know.
What they do remember, however, is a man who was an introvert and mostly kept to himself.
Mr Chemirmir, a Kenyan held by the US police for allegedly killing more than 22 grannies at care homes for the elderly, is facing the death penalty in Dallas, Texas, for the crimes.
He has been charged with the capital murder of 14 of these senior citizens.
According to Dallas police, the string of murders date back a few years and were committed at various care homes.
In trying to come to terms with his crimes, some are trying to look into his background during his time in Kenya for some insight into his actions.
Mr Chemirmir is a son of a senior colonial chief, the late Joel Chemirmir, who was very famous in the area in his heyday, representing the larger Lembus Location.
The colonial administrator is said to have married three wives and later relocated to Kamundu farm in Solai, Nakuru County, several years ago where the accused and his siblings grew up.
Mr Chemirmir, 47, moved to US in the late 90s after his eldest sisters secured a visa for him and two other siblings. He later became a US citizen.
When the Nation toured the densely populated Kabunyony estate, Billy’s birthplace, a kilometre from Eldama Ravine town on Tuesday morning, the home was under the care of distant relatives who were adamant that they would not divulge any information about him.
Close neighbours who were at a nearby shopping centre spoke in low tones and treated every vehicle heading towards the home with great suspicion.
They shrugged off our inquiry on details concerning the suspected serial killer.
A dilapidated structure, which served as the late Chemirmir’s office during colonial times, is now overgrown with vegetation and stands desolate near Kabunyony trading centre.
“I knew his father, who worked as a senior chief for several years before he relocated to Solai in Nakuru County. The Chemirmir family is famous courtesy of the administrator. But we fail to understand why the son ended up killing grannies, if this is true anyway, because his father was a very good man who lived well with people,” said a neighbour who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation.
A source close to the family told the Nation that Billy was raised in Solai and schooled in Nakuru County where he completed his primary and secondary school education.
He was the eighth born child in a family of nine children sired by the retired chief and his second wife. His father and mother died close to 20 years ago.
“He relocated to Eldama Ravine in his mid-20 years where he came to live with his maternal grandmother in Kabunyony Village. He was a very quiet, generous man who kept to himself,” said the source.
“He liked taking bitter alcohol drinks at Bondeni estate, at the town centre of Eldama Ravine. He did not stay for long before relocating to the US with his three brothers, but it is through his generosity that he became famous and a darling to many revellers in the town,” the source said.
It is said that Billy stayed with his maternal grandmother shortly before he got engaged to a woman and stayed in Bondeni estate until he relocated to the US in the early 1990s.
They had one child who is now a teenager.
According to the source, Billy and his brothers over-indulged in alcohol while staying at the shanty Bondeni estate.
This forced their two elder sisters in the US, who were operating a nursing home for the elderly, to secure a visa for the trio.
The nursing home was co-owned by two sisters.
“I remember then that two of his brothers succeeded in going to the US and Billy went a year after. They went to work at their sisters’ nursing home and I presume that is where he learnt the skills of working in care homes for the elderly,” she said.
However, it is said that he broke ties with his sisters some years later and opted to offer his services to the elderly at their homes.
“I am still perturbed to learn through the media that Billy has been named a serial killer by police in US. He was a very quiet man to an extent that when people quarrelled, he would walk away so as not to be caught in the wrong,” said the source.
The source said Billy’s elder sister, who organised their relocation to the US, died of a long illness in 2009.
One of his brothers also died in the US in 2018, two weeks before Billy was arrested by police in Dallas on suspicion of killing Ms Lu Thi Harris who was found dead in her home.
A pillow found near her body had make-up smeared on it, indicating she had been smothered.
Chemirmir -- who was being monitored by police in connection with another crime -- had been seen tossing a jewelry box into a dumpster.
The name on the box led them to Ms Harris' body and he was arrested soon after.
It is also reported that his youngest sibling was deported to Kenya in 2010 over alleged drunkenness and careless driving.
The source noted that the crimes facing their kin in Dallas have caused a rift within the extended family, with some claiming that it has tarnished the family’s name.