An l. a. jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his ally 20 years ago during a case that took on new life after the NY land heir participated during a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife’s 1982 disappearance. Durst, 78, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Susan Berman, who was shot at point-blank range in the rear of the top in her l. a. home in December 2000 as she was prepared to inform police how she helped cover his wife’s killing.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who told friends she provided a phony alibi for him after his wife vanished. Prosecutors painted a portrait of an upscale narcissist who didn’t think the laws applied to him and ruthlessly disposed of individuals who stood in his way. They interlaced evidence of Berman’s killing with Kathie Durst’s suspected death and therefore the 2001 killing of a tenant during a Texas flophouse where Robert Durst holed up while on the run from ny authorities.
Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding a call at a replacement Orleans hotel on the eve of the airing of the ultimate episode of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” during which he was confronted with incriminating evidence and made what prosecutors said was a confession. Durst might be heard muttering to himself on a live microphone during a bathroom: “There it’s. You’re caught.” Durst’s decision to testify in his own defense — hoping for a repeat of his acquittal within the Texas killing — backfired as he was forced to admit lying under oath, made damning admissions, and had his credibility destroyed when questioned by the prosecutor.
The conviction marks a victory for authorities who have sought to place Durst behind bars for murder in three states. Durst was never charged with the disappearance of his wife, who has never been found and was acquitted of murder in Galveston, Texas, where he admitted dismembering the victim’s body and tossing it bent sea. The story of Durst, the estranged scion of a replacement York land developer, has been fodder for brand spanking new York tabloids since his wife vanished. He provided plot twists so numerous that Hollywood couldn’t resist making a feature about his life that eventually led to the documentary and discovery of the latest evidence in Berman’s slaying.
Durst ran from the law multiple times, disguised as a mute woman in Texas and staying under an alias at a replacement Orleans hotel with a shoulders-to-head latex mask for a presumed getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after shoplifting a sandwich in Pennsylvania, despite having $37,000 in cash — alongside two handguns — in his rental car. He later quipped that he was “the worst fugitive the planet has ever met.” Durst escaped close scrutiny from investigators when his wife disappeared. But his troubles resurfaced in late 2000 when my authorities reopened the case.
His lawyer told him to be prepared to be charged within the case, and he fled a lifetime of luxury to Galveston, Texas, where he rented an inexpensive apartment as “Dorothy Ciner,” a lady he pretended couldn’t speak. He eventually dropped the disguise after mishaps that included walking into a men’s restroom and igniting his wig at a bar while lighting a cigarette. Just before Christmas, he testified that he traveled to LA to go to Berman for a “staycation” with plans to ascertain a number of the tourist sites. Durst, who had long denied ever being in LA at the time of Berman’s death, testified at trial that he found her dead on a bedroom floor when he arrived.
Berman, a writer who had been friends with Durst since they were students at the University of California, l. a., had serious financial problems at the time. Durst had given her $50,000, and prosecutors suggested she was trying to leverage extra money from him by telling him she was getting to speak with the cops. Nine months after her death, Durst killed his Galveston neighbor Morris Black, in what he said was either an accident or self-defense. Durst said he found Black, who he had become friends with, in his apartment holding Durst’s .22-caliber pistol.
Durst was acquitted after testifying the 71-year-old was killed during a struggle for the gun. Durst then chopped up Black’s body and tossed it bent sea. He was convicted of destroying evidence for discarding the body parts. After the trial and therefore the ghastly evidence of the dismemberment, Durst found he was a pariah, he said. Despite an estimated $100 million fortune, he was turned away by multiple condominium associations and said the l. a. County Museum of Art wouldn’t take his money unless he donated anonymously.
Durst thought a 2010 feature supported his life, “All goodies,” starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, had been largely accurate and painted a sympathetic portrait, despite implicating him in three killings. He only objected that he was depicted as him killing his dog — something he would never do. He reached bent the filmmaker and agreed to take a seat for lengthy interviews for a documentary. He encouraged his friends to try an equivalent and gave the filmmakers access to boxes of his records. He came to deeply regret his decision after “The Jinx” aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very big mistake.”
The documentary filmmakers discovered an important piece of evidence that connected him to an anonymous note sent to police directing them to Berman’s lifeless body. Durst, who was so confident he couldn’t be connected to the note, told filmmakers “only the killer could have written” the note. Filmmakers confronted him with a letter he sent Berman a year earlier. The handwriting was identical and Beverly Hills was misspelled as “Beverley” on both. He couldn’t tell the 2 apart. The gotcha moment provided the climax of the movie as Durst stepped off-camera and muttered to himself on a live microphone within the bathroom: “Killed all of them, of course.”
During 14 days of testimony that was so punishing Judge Mark Windham called it “devastating,” Durst denied killing his wife and Berman, though he said he would lie if he did. He tried to elucidate away the note and what prosecutors said was a confession during an unguarded moment. For the primary time, Durst admitted on the witness box that he sent the note and had been in l. a. at the time of Berman’s death. Durst said he sent the note because he wanted Berman to be found but didn’t want anyone to understand he had been there because it might look suspicious. He acknowledged that even he had difficulty imagining he could have written the note without killing Berman. “It’s very difficult to believe, to accept, that I wrote the letter and didn’t kill Susan Berman,” Durst testified. A prosecutor said it had been one among the truest things Durst said amid plenty of lies.