The Perfect Scam Presents: A Special Report on the Texas Elder Murders is a four-part podcast miniseries hosted by award-winning journalist Bob Sullivan. In collaboration with AARP The Magazine, the miniseries takes a deep dive into this tragic tale of deceit, stolen identity and murder, as well as the ageism that permitted a killer to continue his spree for years. Billy Chemirmir may be the most prolific serial killer in Texas history, yet his name is not known to many because he targeted older women. Despite family members’ concerns about strange circumstances and missing jewelry, the deaths of otherwise healthy women at independent living facilities and private homes in North Texas went unexamined for nearly two years. Police, medical examiners and the facilities’ staff wrote off apparent homicides as “death by natural causes” and failed to investigate further. This podcast seeks to increase awareness of not only this important story but also the ageism that kept the murders from being discovered and the story from reaching a national audience.
Working in collaboration with AARP The Magazine’s editorial staff, the Perfect Scam podcast team strove to tell this story of fatal ageism in a way that it had not previously been covered in other media outlets. Within the existing framework of AARP’s already successful podcast, we published a four-part special miniseries with episodes of 30 to 40 minutes each. We followed the story for well over a year, with some stops and starts along the way — a mistrial and two subsequent convictions. We combed through hours of court testimony and court documents, and conducted original interviews with victims’ families and others close to the story. The podcast format allows listeners to hear the moving stories of victims’ families fighting for justice and working together to make a difference for the safety of all seniors. From the unique perspective of AARP, we focused on the central issue of ageism, which allowed Billy Chemirmir’s crimes to continue for far too long.
With millions of downloads since launching in 2018, The Perfect Scam reaches a wide audience of listeners across demographics, including AARP members and nonmembers. Harnessing this listener base, the Special Report on the Texas Elder Murders miniseries increased downloads during its run and brought new listeners to the podcast. Cross-promotion with AARP The Magazine’s article proved successful at driving traffic to the miniseries and vice versa. The miniseries increased awareness of a timely story that had not received nationwide coverage, and of the issues of ageism that it raised.