What You Need to Know About the Robert Durst Trial


“VANISHES! Lookup for attractive spouse of developer” screamed the headline in The New York Put up. That developer was Robert Durst, heir to a genuine estate empire whose towers assisted form the Manhattan skyline. His spouse, a 29-12 months-previous healthcare university student, experienced disappeared the night of Jan. 31, Mr. Durst informed the paper (in an job interview organized by his friend and publicist, Susan Berman), and he desperately desired to come across her.

Married in 1973, the few partied at Studio 54, sailed the Mediterranean and traveled to Thailand. They break up time concerning a lakeside cottage 50 miles north of Manhattan and a penthouse apartment on Riverside Generate. But their relationship grew fraught, mates would later on say, following Mr. Durst pressed his spouse to have an abortion.

5 days after her disappearance, Mr. Durst walked into a police precinct station home to report her missing. Family members and good friends quickly suspected him. “I believe he killed her,” Ms. Durst’s sister, Mary McCormack Hughes, recalled telling her husband after Mr. Durst termed to say that she was missing. Her body has hardly ever been found, and Mr. Durst insists that he doesn’t know what transpired to her.

The Durst loved ones owned a extensive selection of business office towers and other houses in Manhattan, and as the oldest son, Robert was the heir apparent. But by the 1990s, his habits — erratic hrs, siphoning off enterprise revenue, urinating in his brother’s trash bin — experienced shed him the favor of his father, Seymour, who selected Mr. Durst’s young brother to choose in excess of the business in 1994.

The two brothers, only 18 months apart, had never gotten alongside, specifically right after their mom, Bernice, possibly fell or jumped from the roof of the spouse and children residence in 1950, when Robert was 7. Devastated by his father’s choice, Mr. Durst cut himself off from the household and started flitting between properties in New York, Texas and California. He did not attend his father’s funeral in 1995.

Mr. Durst instructed law enforcement detectives that the final time he noticed his spouse was when he put her on a educate to Manhattan following a supper at their cottage in South Salem, N.Y. The preliminary lookup for her in the 1980s had concentrated on their Manhattan penthouse.

But in 1999, a Condition Police investigator acquired a idea — a poor just one, it turns out, but it made him commence looking into the 17-year-previous chilly case. He pored in excess of old police data and reinterviewed witnesses, then took the scenario to the Westchester County prosecutor.

The new investigation burst into headlines in November 2000. Mr. Durst promptly married a next time, gave his new bride control about his financial affairs and rented a $300-a-thirty day period home in Galveston, Texas, although posing as a mute lady. He did not want to be Robert Durst any longer, he would later on convey to a prosecutor.

He also read from Susan Berman, his former publicist. She was in determined money straits and questioned for support. Mr. Durst despatched her two checks for $25,000.

On Christmas Eve, not considerably from wherever the followers of Charles Manson experienced murdered Sharon Tate in 1969, inhabitants of Benedict Canyon Generate saw two pet dogs running cost-free. They belonged to Ms. Berman.

The police had been termed, and they found her back doorway open. Inside of the property, Ms. Berman was lying useless, shot in the back again of the head, her terriers’ paw prints tracked by means of the pool of blood. There were being no signs of forced entry, and her purse sat untouched.

There ended up other suspects in Ms. Berman’s dying: her supervisor, the landlady. But top rated of the list was whoever had created a notice, postmarked Dec. 23, to the Beverly Hills Law enforcement (misspelled “Beverley”). On a sheet of spiral notebook paper, Ms. Berman’s handle was printed in big block letters, along with a single word: “cadaver.”

On Sept. 28, 2001, a guy fishing with his young children located a torso floating in the waters of Galveston Bay. All through a look for, a law enforcement officer discovered a man’s arms and legs amid plastic rubbish baggage nearby. The head was hardly ever identified.

The baggage contained a deal with for a bow noticed, a receipt from a community components keep, a fall fabric and a newspaper with the supply tackle of an apartment house in Galveston. The sufferer, Morris Black, lived there. So, investigators would find, did Mr. Durst, disguised as a girl.

On demo two decades afterwards, Mr. Durst took the stand and claimed that the two men had been welcoming. But a person night, he returned to his apartment to find Mr. Black, 71, wielding his gun. They struggled and fell. The gun went off. Fearing no a person would believe that him because of his wife’s extended-in the past disappearance, Mr. Durst stated, he sat in a pool of blood on the kitchen area floor, cutting up the system.

The jury acquitted him of murder.

The law enforcement in Los Angeles suspected Mr. Durst in Ms. Berman’s murder. In 2002, although he awaited demo in Galveston, they obtained a sample of his handwriting to compare to the “cadaver” be aware. But they didn’t have adequate proof to demand him. As with his wife’s disappearance, the case went cold.

Mr. Durst didn’t retain quiet, though. He talked to the producers of a 2010 feature movie, “All Fantastic Matters,” which presented a evenly fictionalized version of his existence, then agreed to sit with them for a lot more than 20 several hours of interviews. He also gave them entry to a lot more than 60 cartons of his non-public papers, family members mementos, credit history card receipts, cellphone expenditures and legal papers.

The filmmakers turned it all into a six-portion HBO documentary that aired in 2015: “The Jinx: The Everyday living and Fatalities of Robert Durst.”

Mr. Durst admitted to violence toward his initial wife. He admitted to lying to investigators. And most striking, potentially, was a 1999 letter the filmmakers found that Mr. Durst experienced written to Ms. Berman in Beverly Hills.

Like on the cadaver be aware, the address was printed in large block letters.

Like on the cadaver take note, “Beverley” was misspelled.

In the previous times of the ultimate episode of the “The Jinx,” which aired on March 15, Mr. Durst is filmed strolling off to the rest room with a microphone nevertheless connected to his shirt.

“What the hell did I do?” he is heard to say. “Killed them all, of program.”

His legal professionals argue that it was not a confession the producers took two sentences he uttered at distinct factors in the rest room and spliced them together. But by the time all those phrases aired, Mr. Durst was presently in custody.

Twenty-four hours before the closing broadcast, F.B.I. agents detained Mr. Durst on a murder warrant in New Orleans, in which he had booked a resort area below an alias. The authorities explained they thought that he was about to flee the region.

John Lewin, a Los Angeles deputy district legal professional, flew to New Orleans and interrogated Mr. Durst the up coming morning. In a 3-hour assessment of his lifestyle story, Mr. Durst complained that his brother needed to “take my birthright.” He conceded that he was “very, quite, very, quite controlling” of his initial spouse. He described Ms. Berman as his “best close friend.” And he experienced a striking interpretation of the cadaver observe.

“Whoever wrote that observe,” he stated, “had to be included in Susan’s demise.”

Past 7 days, 12 jurors have been picked in a Los Angeles courtroom. When the judge is equipped to seat 12 alternates, the legal professionals will give opening statements, which could last for numerous days.

The trial is predicted to take as very long as 5 months. Prosecutors alone plan to introduce extra than 2,000 reveals and contact a lot more than 100 witnesses.

There’s a good deal of ground to address.

Mr. Durst is on demo for a single killing: Ms. Berman’s. But his wife’s extensive-back disappearance will not be overlooked. Nor will Mr. Black’s death in Texas. Prosecutors will argue that they are all linked — that Mr. Durst killed Ms. Berman for the reason that he nervous she was about to notify investigators what she understood about his spouse, and that he killed Mr. Black mainly because his neighbor had found his accurate identity.

Mr. Durst will convert 77 during the demo. He is now stooped, gradual-shifting and frail, but he stays truly worth $100 million. In the course of jury selection, he wore new hearing aids and appeared to be subsequent the proceedings carefully. He has explained to close friends that he needs to choose the stand and protect himself when more.


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