Robert Durst, Real-Estate Scion and Convicted Murderer, Dies at 78

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For decades, he faced investigations into the disappearance of a wife, the murder of a friend and the shooting death of a neighbor

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In 2003, jurors acquitted her of murder after she testified that the shooting of her neighbor in Galveston, Texas, was in self-defense, an accident that occurred when Mr. Durst tried to turn his gun away from the man. Then, he told the jurors, he panicked and saw his neighbor’s body taken apart and threw it into the bay.

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The on-and-off investigations that followed Mr. Durst for decades caught hold of him in his later years. Her 2015 arrest in connection with the murder of Ms. Berman in Los Angeles attracted national attention. Investigators took Mr. Durst into custody at a New Orleans hotel, where he checked in under an alias, just before the airing of a final documentary episode investigating his life and allegations of dishonesty against him.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury convicted Mr. Durst of first-degree murder in September, finding that he killed Ms. Berman at her Benedict Canyon home. The Associated Press reported that he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on October 14 and was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.

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At trial, prosecutors argued that Mr. Durst murdered Ms. Berman so that he could not speak to investigators about the unresolved disappearance of his first wife. He denied that he was responsible for Ms Burman’s death and the disappearance of his first wife.

Mr. Durst’s Los Angeles trial began in early 2020 but was hampered by shutdown policies imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Durst’s attorney, Chip Lewis, said in a statement: “Mr. Durst passed away early this morning while he was in California Department of Corrections custody. We understand that he died of natural causes, which has been around for years. I have repeatedly informed the court. We will not make any further statement and will not consider any question with respect.

Mr. Durst was born on April 12, 1943, and grew up in Scarsdale, NY, a suburb north of New York City. He was the eldest of four children to real-estate developer Seymour and Bernice Durst. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1965 and later enrolled but did not complete his postgraduate program at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he met Ms. Berman.

In his younger years, Mr. Durst worked for the family business. The company’s roots date back to 1915, when Joseph Durst, an immigrant tailor from what is now Poland, purchased its first building on West 34th Street near Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, according to the company’s website.

Robert’s father and Joseph’s son Seymour Durst expanded the family stake, developing five office buildings on Third Avenue as well as towers on the west side of Midtown Manhattan. Many credit the Durst Organization with helping to revive Times Square with the development of a skyscraper now called One Five One. The company, which owns several residential buildings, owns a stake in One World Trade Center and manages the tower.

Mr. Durst and his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, married in the early 1970s. By the time of her disappearance in January 1982, her friends and family members said that Mr. Durst was physically and emotionally abusive towards her, as in “A Deadly Secret” by Matt Birkbeck’s Mr. Durst book. Ms. Durst was a medical student for a few months before graduating, before Mr. Durst was reported missing.

However, Mr. Durst’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said some of the abuse claims were exaggerated. His client described a contentious marriage with emotional and verbal abuse and some pushbacks, Mr DeGuerin said.

During the 1970s through the early 1990s, Mr. Durst worked at the family company and was once seen as the successor to take over the firm. But tensions grew between him and his family, as his behavior became more disturbing to the family members. In 2015 New York Times articleMr. Durst’s brother, Douglas Durst, recalled the discovery in the early 1990s that he and his uncle’s trash had been used by Robert Durst to urinate.

Mr DeGuerin sensationalized such accounts of his client’s behavior. Mr. Durst was never happy with his role at the company and had to come into office dressed up, so he rebelled, Mr. DeGuerin said.

Seymour Durst tapped his younger son, Douglas, to take charge of the company in 1994. According to previous articles in Businesshala, Robert Durst left the family business and was separated from family members for the past few decades. By the time of his final arrest, members of Mr. Durst’s family feared that he might harm them.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if he had a chance to kill me, he would,” Douglas Durst told the New York Times in 2015.

Around 2000, Robert Durst moved to Galveston, where he sometimes posed as a deaf woman, as Westchester County, NY, according to Officer Mr. Birkbeck, re-investigated the unsolved case of his first wife’s disappearance. were starting with. book. Ms Burman was found dead the same year she had been shot in the head in her home. And shortly thereafter, the mutilated body of Mr. Durst’s neighbor, Morris Black, was found in the bay.

Although Mr. Durst was acquitted in 2003 of Mr. Black’s death, he almost ran into more trouble when he arrived to offer an interview to the producers of a feature film based on him and his first wife. were looking for. He sat down for about 25 hours of interviews that formed the basis of the HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” In the final episode, he is heard with Mike outside the camera, making what appears to be the shocking confession, “What did I do? Of course, killed them all.”

As the Associated Press reports, court documents later revealed that the recording had been edited. He had given such statements but not in that order. Mr. Durst’s lawyer also said that his client’s murmur, captured on camera, conveyed a sense of how the filmmakers were going to portray him in the documentary – not a confession.

During his trial in Los Angeles, prosecutors alleged that Mr. Durst confessed to Ms. Berman that he had killed his wife and that Ms. Berman had helped him with the coverup, so he prevented her from talking with investigators. wanted to stop, according to the Associated Press reports. He also said that Mr. Durst intentionally killed Mr. Black because he had discovered Mr. Durst’s true identity.

But Mr. Durst’s lawyer said he had already disguised himself and revealed his true identity to Mr. Black.

Mr. Durst did not kill Ms. Berman, her lawyer said. He only found her body, panicked, sent an anonymous note to the police so that his body could be found and fled.

Mr. Durst testified in his defense in Los Angeles, just as he did during the trial for Mr. Black’s death. But he didn’t do so well the second time around, as prosecutors were able to obtain damaging admission from Mr. Durst on the witness’s stand.


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