the troubled millionaire scion of an influential New York genuine-estate dynasty who was convicted of the murder of his longtime close friend and was a suspect in another killing and the disappearance of his wife, died Monday at the age of 78.
For decades, Mr. Durst had dodged suspicions of his involvement in the 1982 disappearance of his 1st spouse, Kathleen McCormack Durst, and the 2000 killing of his mate Susan Berman. Although he experienced many operate-ins with law enforcement, he had managed to fend off most of the critical charges towards him.
In 2003, jurors acquitted him of murder just after he testified that the shooting dying of his neighbor in Galveston, Texas, was in self-defense, an incident that transpired when Mr. Durst tried out to wrestle his gun absent from the gentleman. Then, he instructed jurors, he panicked and sawed his neighbor’s system apart and dumped it into the bay.
The on-and-off investigations that followed Mr. Durst more than the decades caught up with him in his later a long time. His 2015 arrest in link with the slaying of Ms. Berman in Los Angeles drew national focus. Investigators took Mr. Durst into custody at a New Orleans resort in which he had checked in less than an alias, just ahead of the airing of a remaining documentary episode analyzing his everyday living and foul-enjoy allegations towards him.
A Los Angeles Remarkable Courtroom jury in September convicted Mr. Durst of initial-diploma murder, obtaining that he killed Ms. Berman in her Benedict Canyon house. He was sentenced to lifetime in jail devoid of likelihood of parole on Oct. 14 and was shortly immediately after admitted to a healthcare facility after tests good for Covid-19, the Affiliated Push noted.
At trial, prosecutors argued that Mr. Durst murdered Ms. Berman to continue to keep her from speaking to investigators about the unsolved situation of his lacking very first spouse. He had denied he was accountable for Ms. Berman’s dying and his first wife’s disappearance.
Mr. Durst’s Los Angeles trial commenced in early 2020 but was interrupted by shutdown guidelines imposed in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chip Lewis, attorney for Mr. Durst, mentioned in a statement: “Mr. Durst passed absent early this morning though in the custody of the California Department of Corrections. We recognize that his loss of life was because of to normal results in linked with the litany of clinical issues we had frequently reported to the court in excess of the past few of decades. We will situation no even more statements and will not entertain any thoughts out of respect.”
Mr. Durst was born on April 12, 1943, and grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., a suburb north of New York Town. He was the eldest of actual-estate developer Seymour and Bernice Durst’s 4 youngsters. He graduated from Lehigh College in 1965 and later on enrolled in but didn’t finish a postgraduate method at the College of California, Los Angeles, the place he satisfied Ms. Berman.
In his young several years, Mr. Durst worked for the household enterprise. The business traces its roots to 1915, when Joseph Durst, an immigrant tailor from what is now Poland, purchased his initially making, on West 34th Road around Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, in accordance to the company’s internet site.
Seymour Durst, Robert’s father and Joseph’s son, expanded the family’s holdings, producing 5 workplace structures on Third Avenue as well as towers on the west aspect of Midtown Manhattan. Quite a few credit score the Durst Group for serving to to revive Occasions Square with the enhancement of a skyscraper now named 1 5 A person. The corporation, which has various residential buildings, owns a stake in One particular Earth Trade Center and manages the tower.
Mr. Durst and his 1st spouse, Kathleen McCormack Durst, married in the early 1970s. By the time of her disappearance in January 1982, her buddies and family members users claimed Mr. Durst was bodily and emotionally abusive toward her, according to Matt Birkbeck’s e-book about Mr. Durst, “A Lethal Secret.” Ms. Durst was a professional medical college student months away from graduating just before Mr. Durst claimed her missing.
Mr. Durst’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, on the other hand, mentioned some of the abuse claims were exaggerated. His consumer described a contentious relationship with emotional and verbal abuse and some pushing and shoving, Mr. DeGuerin stated.
During the 1970s by the early 1990s, Mr. Durst labored in the loved ones organization and was at the time seen as the successor to choose above the business. But tensions among him and his spouse and children grew, as his habits grew to become more and more disturbing to loved ones users. In a 2015 New York Times write-up, Mr. Durst’s brother, Douglas Durst, recalled exploring in the early 1990s that his wastebasket and that of his uncle have been made use of by Robert Durst for urinating.
Mr. DeGuerin explained this kind of accounts of his client’s behavior as sensationalized. Mr. Durst experienced under no circumstances been delighted with his purpose in the firm and owning to gown up and arrive into the office environment, so he rebelled, Mr. DeGuerin reported.
Seymour Durst tapped Douglas, his more youthful son, to acquire the helm of the corporation in 1994. Robert Durst still left the family members business enterprise and was estranged from spouse and children users for the past couple many years, in accordance to earlier articles or blog posts in The Wall Street Journal. By the time of his previous arrest, Mr. Durst’s loved ones customers ended up fearful he may possibly hurt them.
“There’s no doubt in my brain that if he experienced the option to destroy me, he would,” Douglas Durst explained to the New York Situations in 2015.
Close to 2000, Robert Durst moved to Galveston, wherever he sometimes posed as a deaf-mute lady, as news arrived out that Westchester County, N.Y., authorities had been reopening an investigation into the unsolved scenario of his initial wife’s disappearance, according to Mr. Birkbeck’s guide. Ms. Berman was uncovered useless the exact same year, shot in the head in her home. And not long soon after that, the dismembered overall body of Mr. Durst’s Galveston neighbor, Morris Black, was found in the bay.
Despite the fact that Mr. Durst was acquitted in Mr. Black’s demise in 2003, he practically seemed to search for a lot more difficulty when he achieved out to supply an interview to the producers of a feature film based mostly on him and his initially spouse. He sat for about 25 hrs of interviews that grew to become the basis for the HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Existence and Deaths of Robert Durst.” In the last episode, he is read off digicam with the mic continue to on, earning what seemed to be the shocking confession, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of training course.”
Courtroom documents afterwards uncovered that the recording experienced been edited, in accordance to an Involved Push report. He had designed these types of statements but not in that get. Mr. Durst’s legal professional also mentioned his client’s mutterings, captured off digital camera, expressed his realization of how the filmmakers ended up going to portray him in the documentary—not a confession.
For the duration of his trial in Los Angeles, prosecutors alleged that Mr. Durst experienced confessed to Ms. Berman he experienced killed his wife and that Ms. Berman experienced assisted him in the coverup, so he desired to continue to keep her from speaking with investigators, according to Related Press experiences. They also said Mr. Durst deliberately killed Mr. Black due to the fact he had identified Mr. Durst’s real identity.
But Mr. Durst’s attorney reported he had already drop his disguise and told Mr. Black his true identity.
Mr. Durst didn’t kill Ms. Berman, his lawyer said. He only discovered her physique, panicked, sent an anonymous take note to police so her body would be identified and ran.
Mr. Durst testified in his possess protection in Los Angeles, just as he did during his trial for the death of Mr. Black. But he didn’t do so very well the 2nd time, as prosecutors have been able to elicit harming admissions from Mr. Durst on the witness stand.
—Elisa Cho contributed to this report.
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