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The Robert Durst Case That Was Decades in the Making

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The Robert Durst Case That Was A long time within the Making

“VANISHES! Seek for stunning spouse of developer” screamed the headline in The New York Put up. That developer was Robert A. Durst, inheritor to an actual property empire whose towers helped form the Manhattan skyline. His spouse, a 29-year-old medical pupil, had disappeared the evening of Jan. 31, Mr. Durst advised the paper (in an interview organized by his buddy and publicist, Susan Berman), and he desperately wished to search out her.

Married in 1973, the couple partied at Studio 54, sailed the Mediterranean and traveled to Thailand. They cut up time between a lakeside cottage 50 miles north of Manhattan and a penthouse condo on Riverside Drive. However their relationship grew fraught, pals would later say, after Mr. Durst pressed his spouse to have an abortion.

5 days after her disappearance, Mr. Durst walked right into a police precinct station home to report her lacking. Household and pals instantly suspected him. “I believe he killed her,” Ms. Durst’s sister, Mary McCormack Hughes, recalled telling her husband after Mr. Durst referred to as to say that she was lacking. Her physique has by no means been discovered, and Mr. Durst insists that he doesn’t know what occurred to her.

The Durst household owned an unlimited assortment of workplace towers and different properties in Manhattan, and because the oldest son, Robert was the inheritor obvious. However by the Nineties, his habits — erratic hours, siphoning off firm cash, urinating in his brother’s trash bin — had misplaced him the favor of his father, Seymour, who selected Mr. Durst’s youthful brother to take over the enterprise in 1994.

The 2 brothers, solely 18 months aside, had by no means gotten alongside, particularly after their mom, Bernice, both fell or jumped from the roof of the household house in 1950, when Robert was 7. Devastated by his father’s alternative, Mr. Durst lower himself off from the household and commenced flitting amongst houses in New York, Texas and California. He didn’t attend his father’s funeral in 1995.


Mr. Durst advised police detectives that the final time he noticed his spouse was when he put her on a prepare to Manhattan after a dinner at their cottage in South Salem, N.Y. The preliminary seek for her within the Nineteen Eighties had centered on their Manhattan penthouse.

However in 1999, a State Police investigator obtained a tip — a foul one, it seems, but it surely made him begin wanting into the 17-year-old chilly case. He pored over previous police data and reinterviewed witnesses, then took the case to the Westchester County prosecutor.

The brand new investigation burst into headlines in November 2000. Mr. Durst shortly married a second time, gave his new bride management over his monetary affairs and rented a $300-a-month room in Galveston, Texas, whereas posing as a mute girl. He didn’t need to be Robert Durst anymore, he would later inform a prosecutor.

He additionally heard from Susan Berman, his former publicist. She was in determined monetary straits and requested for assist. Mr. Durst despatched her two checks for $25,000.


On Christmas Eve, not removed from the place the followers of Charles Manson had murdered Sharon Tate in 1969, residents of Benedict Canyon Drive noticed two canines working free. They belonged to Ms. Berman.

The police had been referred to as, they usually discovered her again door open. Inside the home, Ms. Berman was mendacity lifeless, shot at the back of the top, her terriers’ paw prints tracked via the pool of blood. There have been no indicators of compelled entry, and her purse sat untouched.

There have been different suspects in Ms. Berman’s loss of life: her supervisor, the landlady. However high of the record was whoever had written a observe, postmarked Dec. 23, to the Beverly Hills Police (misspelled “Beverley”). On a sheet of spiral pocket book paper, Ms. Berman’s deal with was printed in massive block letters, together with a single phrase: “cadaver.”


On Sept. 28, 2001, a person fishing together with his kids discovered a torso floating within the waters of Galveston Bay. Throughout a search, a police officer found a person’s legs and arms amid plastic rubbish luggage close by. The pinnacle was by no means discovered.

The luggage contained a canopy for a bow noticed, a receipt from a neighborhood ironmongery store, a drop material and a newspaper with the supply deal with of an condo home in Galveston. The sufferer, Morris Black, lived there. So, investigators would uncover, did Mr. Durst, disguised as a girl.

On trial two years later, Mr. Durst took the stand and claimed that the 2 males had been pleasant. However one night, he returned to his condo to search out Mr. Black, 71, wielding his gun. They struggled and fell. The gun went off. Fearing nobody would consider him due to his spouse’s long-ago disappearance, Mr. Durst stated, he sat in a pool of blood on the kitchen flooring, reducing up the physique.

The jury acquitted him of homicide.


The police in Los Angeles suspected Mr. Durst in Ms. Berman’s homicide. In 2002, whereas he awaited trial in Galveston, they obtained a pattern of his handwriting to check to the “cadaver” observe. However they didn’t have sufficient proof to cost him. As together with his spouse’s disappearance, the case went chilly.

Mr. Durst didn’t maintain quiet, although. He talked to the producers of a 2010 function movie, “All Good Issues,” which offered a evenly fictionalized model of his life, then agreed to sit down with them for greater than 20 hours of interviews. He additionally gave them entry to greater than 60 cartons of his personal papers, household mementos, bank card receipts, cellphone payments and authorized papers.

The filmmakers turned all of it right into a six-part HBO documentary that aired in 2015: “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Mr. Durst admitted to violence towards his first spouse. He admitted to mendacity to investigators. And most placing, maybe, was a 1999 letter the filmmakers discovered that Mr. Durst had written to Ms. Berman in Beverly Hills.

Like on the cadaver observe, the deal with was printed in massive block letters.

Like on the cadaver observe, “Beverley” was misspelled.

Within the final moments of the ultimate episode of the “The Jinx,” which aired on March 15, Mr. Durst is filmed strolling off to the toilet with a microphone nonetheless connected to his shirt.

“What the hell did I do?” he’s heard to say. “Killed all of them, in fact.”

His attorneys argue that it wasn’t a confession; the producers took two sentences he uttered at completely different factors within the rest room and spliced them collectively. However by the point these phrases aired, Mr. Durst was already in custody.

Twenty-four hours earlier than the ultimate broadcast, F.B.I. brokers detained Mr. Durst on a homicide warrant in New Orleans, the place he had booked a resort room below an alias. The authorities stated they believed that he was about to flee the nation.

John Lewin, a Los Angeles deputy district legal professional, flew to New Orleans and interrogated Mr. Durst the subsequent morning. In a three-hour evaluation of his life story, Mr. Durst complained that his brother wished to “take my birthright.” He conceded that he was “very, very, very, very controlling” of his first spouse. He described Ms. Berman as his “finest buddy.” And he had a placing interpretation of the cadaver observe.

“Whoever wrote that observe,” he stated, “needed to be concerned in Susan’s loss of life.”


Nineteen years to the day after Ms. Berman’s physique was discovered, Mr. Durst’s attorneys made a shocking concession in a Christmas Eve courtroom submitting: After denying for almost 20 years that he had written the cadaver observe, Mr. Durst now admitted to it.

It was the primary time that both Mr. Durst or his attorneys had been keen to acknowledge that he was in Ms. Berman’s house, and even in Los Angeles, across the time of the homicide. However regardless of the admission, Dick DeGuerin, Mr. Durst’s lead lawyer, stated the protection’s backside line remained unchanged.

“Bob didn’t kill Susan Berman,” he stated, “and he doesn’t know who did.”


Opening statements started within the trial of Mr. Durst for the homicide of Ms. Berman in March 2020, simply earlier than the coronavirus pandemic introduced life throughout America to a halt.

When testimony was set to renew in Might, protection attorneys referred to as the 14-month delay the longest adjournment that includes the identical jury in U.S. historical past, and argued that jurors may need forgotten particulars or slipped of their obligations to not learn or watch studies in regards to the case in the course of the lengthy break.

However the decide, after interviewing the jury members, ordered the trial to proceed. Though Mr. Durst was charged with just one homicide, the prosecution argued that the millionaire had killed Ms. Berman as a result of he feared that she would reveal what she knew in regards to the disappearance of his spouse.

After weeks of testimony, wherein prosecutors referred to as 80 witnesses and launched almost 300 displays, the jury deliberated for about seven and a half hours earlier than discovering Mr. Durst responsible. In his sentencing for first-degree homicide, set for Oct. 14, he faces a life sentence with no choice for parole.

Mr. Durst was not within the courtroom for the jury’s verdict; he was in isolation, officers stated, after being uncovered to somebody who had examined optimistic for the coronavirus.

After the decision, his spouse’s household issued an announcement calling on the authorities to pursue a case in her loss of life as properly. Prosecutors are interviewing witnesses and are anticipated to hunt a first-degree homicide indictment from a grand jury within the coming weeks.

“Kathie,” the household wrote, “continues to be ready for justice.”



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