The heir to a New York real estate fortune and subject of a HBO documentary series about his alleged involvement in three killings has been charged with the execution-style murder of his friend Susan Berman.
Robert Durst is accused in the 2000 slaying of Berman at her Los Angeles-area home. Berman was expected to talk to police about the disappearance of Durst’s wife, who had been missing for decades. Durst, 71, is the son of New York real estate mogul Seymour Durst.
The HBO documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, in which Durst cooperated with filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling, investigated Durst’s connection to the deaths of Berman, Durst’s wife Kathleen and his neighbor Morris Black.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Durst Says in the Documentary He ‘Killed Them All’
During the finale of the HBO documentary, Durst was caught on a microphone saying to himself, apparently unaware he was still being recorded, “There it is. You’re caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” Durst had just been told about incriminating evidence that the filmmakers had uncovered with help from the victim’s stepson.
Durst was formally charged Monday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney with first-degree murder, with the special circumstances of lying in wait and murder of a witness. Durst is eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors said they will decide later whether to seek death. He was arrested Saturday in New Orleans by FBI agents. He was arraigned Monday and will be extradited back to Los Angeles to face prosecution.
His attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said Durst is “ready to end all the rumor and speculation and have a trial,” according to the Associated Press.
The AP reported that the audio was not presented to prosecutors as evidence that would be used to charge Durst, because authorities are still determining if it was tampered with.
Durst was questioned, but not charged, in the brutal murder of Berman, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in her Benedict Canyon, California house in 2003. According to USA Today, police planned to question Berman about her knowledge of the disappearance of Durst’s wife before she was killed.
2. Durst’s Wife Disappeared in 1982
Durst was questioned in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, who went missing in 1982 from their Westchester County, New York home, but was never charged in that case. He has previously denied any knowledge of what happened to Kathleen, who has been declared dead.
According to the New York Post, Durst moved to Texas in 2000 and began cross-dressing to avoid being questioned about his wife.
3. Durst Was Acquitted of Murder in 2003
A jury found Durst not guilty of killing his Texas neighbor, Morris Black, whose body was found dismembered in Galveston Bay. Durst claimed self-defense in Black’s death, but did admit to using knives and an axe to dismember Black’s body before he dumped it into the bay.
Durst was convicted of two counts of bond jumping and one count of evidence tampering and sentenced to serve three years in prison. He was paroled in 2005. He returned to prison in 2006 after violating the terms of his parole and was released in 2006. He was arrested a third time in 2014 after he allegedly exposed himself at a Houston CVS pharmacy and then urinated on candy, according to USA Today. He is awaiting trial in that case.
4. The Documentary Uncovered New Evidence in the Berman Case
The HBO documentary uncovered new evidence in the Susan Berman case, which led to speculation that Durst could be charged in connection with her killing.
In the documentary’s fifth episode, Berman’s stepson found an unopened letter from Durst to Berman from 1999. The letter appears to be similar in style to an anonymous letter sent to the Beverly Hills Police Department in 2000 notifying them of a cadaver at Berman’s home.
Berman, a journalist who wrote a book about her life as a mobster’s daughter, served as a spokesman with the media for Durst after his wife’s disappearance. Police in New York had contacted her to talk to them about Kathleen Durst’s death after the case was reopened in 2000.
5. Los Angeles Officials Re-Opened Berman’s Case
After the documentary put Durst back into the national spotlight, the Los Angeles County Prosecutor’s office re-opened the investigation into Berman’s death, according to the New York Times.
The handwritten letter found by Berman’s stepson was handed over to investigators. A source told the Associated Press that the handwriting analysis was the key new evidence that led to Durst’s arrest.