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Robert Durst, wealthy estate heir convicted of murdering close friend, dies aged 78

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Robert Durst, wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive, who has been suspected for decades with the disappearance and death of those around him before when he was found guilty of murdering his best friend and sentenced to life in prison, just died. He was 78 years old.

Attorney Chip Lewis said Durst died in a state prison hospital in Stockton. He said it was from natural causes due to some health problems.

Durst was convicted in September of shooting Susan Berman at range in 2000 at her Los Angeles home. Trial attorney Dick DeGuerin said he was sentenced to life in prison on October 14. Two days later, he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Durst has long been suspected of murdering his wife, Kathie, who went missing in 1982 and has been declared legally dead. He was finally indicted in November for second-degree murder in her death.

Los Angeles prosecutors presented evidence that Durst silenced Berman because she helped him cover up Kathie’s murder and was about to speak to investigators. They also argued that he killed a Texas man who discovered his identity while he was living secretly in Galveston after Berman was killed. Durst was acquitted of murder in that case in 2003, after testifying that he shot him in self-defense.

Durst discussed the cases and made some damning statements including a stunning confession in an unguarded moment in the six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx: Life and Things”. death of Robert Durst”.

The performance made his name known to a new generation and brought new scrutiny and suspicion from the authorities. He was caught in Berman’s murder the night before the final episode, which ended with him muttering to himself in the bathroom while still wearing a hot microphone and saying, “You’re under arrest! What the hell have I done? Killed them all, of course. ”

The quotes were later revealed to have been manipulated for dramatic effect but the production – done in partnership with Durst on advice from his attorney and friends – was obtained New evidence includes an envelope linking Durst to the Berman murder scene as well as the incriminating statements he made.

Police received a note directing them to Berman’s home with only the word “CADAVER” written in letters.

In interviews given between 2010 and 2015, Durst told the producers of “The Jinx” that he didn’t write the notes, but whoever killed her.

“You’re writing a note to the police that only a murderer can write,” Durst said.

His defense attorneys admitted in pre-trial hearings that Durst had written the letter, and prosecutors said it was tantamount to a confession.

Snippets from “The Jinx” and from the 2010 film “All Good Things,” in which Ryan Gosling played a fictional version of Durst, starred at the trial.

So did Durst himself. His attorneys again risked putting him on the line for what turned out to be about three weeks of testimony. It doesn’t work like it does in Texas.

Under the scrutiny of prosecutor John Lewin, Durst admitted he had lied in the past and would do it again to get out of trouble.

“’Did you kill Susan Berman?’ purely a hypothesis,” Durst said from the stand. “I didn’t kill Susan Berman. But if it was, I would lie about it.”

The jury quickly returned a guilty verdict.

It seems that he would have long avoided any such conviction.

Durst fled in late 2000 after New York authorities reopened their investigation into his wife’s disappearance, rented a modest apartment in Galveston and disguised himself as a mute woman.

In 2001, the body parts of a neighbor, Morris Black, began being washed in Galveston Bay.

Caught in the murder, Durst jumped on bail. He was arrested for stealing a sandwich six weeks later in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he had attended college. Police found $37,000 in cash and two handguns in his car.

He will testify that Black drew a gun on him and died when the weapon erupted in a struggle. He detailed to jurors how he procured tools, fragmented, and disposed of Black’s body. He was acquitted of murder. He pleaded guilty to breaching his bail and forging evidence for dismemberment. He served three years in prison.

Durst suffered from bladder cancer and his health declined during Berman’s trial. He was escorted to court in a wheelchair wearing prison uniform every day because his lawyer said he couldn’t change. But the judge denied further delay after a 14-month pause during the coronavirus pandemic.

DeGuerin said Durst was “very, very ill” during the hearing and it was the worst he’s seen in 20 years representing him.

Durst entered the courtroom with wide, blank eyes. Near the end of the hearing after Berman’s loved ones told the judge how her death had affected their lives, Durst coughed violently and then appeared to struggle to breathe. His chest heaved and he pulled the mask below his mouth and began to swallow air.

The son of real estate mogul Seymour Durst, Robert Durst was born on April 12, 1943 and raised in Scarsdale, New York. He later said that at the age of 7, he witnessed his mother’s death in a fall from their home.

He graduated with a degree in economics in 1965 from Lehigh University, where he played lacrosse. He studied for a doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he met Berman, but dropped out and moved back to New York in 1969.

He became a developer in the family business, but his father turned him over to make his younger brother and rival Douglas head of the Durst Foundation in 1992.

In 1971, Robert Durst met Kathie McCormack and the two married on his 30th birthday in 1973.

In January 1982, when his wife was in her final year of medical school, she went missing. She made a surprise appearance at a friend’s dinner party in Newtown, Connecticut, then left after a call from her husband to return to their home in South Salem, New York.

Robert Durst told police he last saw her when he took her on the train to their apartment in Manhattan because she had classes the next day.

He would divorce her 8 years later, announcing his divorce from the spouse, and in 2017, at her family’s request, she was legally declared dead.

Robert Durst is survived by his second wife Debrah Charatan, whom he married in 2000. He has no children.

Under California law, convictions are vacated if the defendant dies while the case is on appeal, said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola School of Law.

Lewis said an appeal was filed with Durst.

https://kfor.com/news/robert-durst-wealthy-real-estate-heir-convicted-of-murdering-friend-dies-at-78/ Robert Durst, wealthy estate heir convicted of murdering close friend, dies aged 78

JACLYN DIAZ

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