DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In her 83 years, Leah Corken wandered the world, but her heart stayed put.

“They looked so in love,” said Mary Jo Jennings, admiring a picture of her parents dancing with their eyes locked on each other.

After Corken’s husband died, she moved to Dallas to be closer to her daughter.

“And she was just full of life,” said Jennings.

Then on August 19, 2016, she suddenly died.

A medical examiner said it was natural causes.

“So you take their word for it. And, then I found her ring missing,” said Jennings.

A police report for Corken’s missing wedding ring helped investigators years later connect her death to a string of at least 18 murders involving elderly women whose jewelry had been stolen.

Her death certificate now shows she died of “homicidal violence including smothering.”

“Murder never enters your mind. I mean, that’s just like the most crazy thing in the world. But it all made sense. And so I called the detective on the case and he said, yes, your mom was most definitely one of the victims,” said Jennings.

Five years after Leah’s death, alleged serial killer Billy Chemirmir heads to trial next week for the first time.

Billy Kipkorir Chemirmir (credit: Dallas County Sheriff’s Department)

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, special precautions are in place.

“This is where the spectators would sit, but now this is where the 12 jurors will sit,” said Judge Rocky Jones, who will preside over Chemirmir’s trial.

To help keep everyone healthy and safe from COVID-19, the judge says court will be off limits to the public.

That includes the families of the defendant and of the alleged victims.

“Because what we don’t want is to be the overseer and say, okay, family member, you can come in. Family member you can’t,” said Judge Jones.

Live everyone else, families will be able to watch livestreams from the court’s camera and one provided by local media.

“We can’t go to the trial. We can’t look at him,” said Jennings. “I don’t know. I just want to see this man who murdered my mom.”

Victims’ families say they also wanted to see and be seen by the jury.

“They need to see how… how angry and mortifying… how many, how MANY people he affected,” she said. “Can you imagine looking at 18 people whose mom or dad was murdered?”

Retired Judge Michael Snipes says the reactions, or mere presence, of family members in court is something jurors notice.

“They want to know who cares about this case. Do the families of the defendant care? Do the families of the victims care? Because if they care it makes the jury care,” he said.

Judge Jones says she understands.

“But I also believe that as long as the jurors have the opportunity to hear all the evidence and testimony that is what’s going to have the biggest impact,” she said.

But for those who already struggle with feeling powerless to make a difference, it’s one more hurdle toward finding piece.

“I couldn’t protect her,” Jennings said, wiping away tears.