Tue, Mar 17, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Durst charged in killing after seeming HBO confession

NY Times News Service, New York

Since his first wife vanished more than three decades ago, Robert Durst, the eccentric and estranged son of one of New York’s most prominent real-estate dynasties, has lived under the suspicious gaze of law enforcement officials in three US states.

They have followed his path from New York to Los Angeles, where one of his closest friends was found dead in her home in 2000. They have tracked him to Galveston, Texas, where he fled after investigators reopened the case of his wife’s disappearance, and where he posed as a mute woman and shot and dismembered a neighbor in 2001.

Durst was acquitted in the Texas killing, and was never arrested in the disappearance of his wife or the death of his friend. However, on Saturday he found himself in custody once again, arrested on a charge of murder as he walked into a New Orleans hotel he had checked into under a false name.

On Sunday night, in the final moments of the final episode of a six-part HBO documentary about him, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, Durst seemed to veer toward a confession that could lift the shroud of mystery that surrounds the deaths of three people over the course of three decades.

“What the hell did I do?” Durst whispers to himself in an unguarded moment caught on a microphone he wore during filming. “Killed them all, of course.”

In the years since his wife, Kathleen Durst, disappeared in 1982 after spending the weekend at the couple’s country home in the US’ Westchester County, Robert Durst has bounced in and out of jail for other crimes, cut ties with his family, remarried, and sued his brother for a US$65 million share of the family fortune. Through it all, he has maintained his innocence in the disappearance of his wife, while also denying any role in the 2000 death of friend Susan Berman.

His arrest on Saturday in a Marriott hotel on Canal Street in New Orleans was in connection with Berman’s death, though the Westchester authorities said they were still investigating him in his wife’s case. Durst was walking toward an elevator and mumbling to himself when FBI agents intercepted him at the hotel, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said. He had checked in under the name Everett Ward, not the first time he had used an alias.

Durst is believed to have left Houston in a Toyota Camry on Tuesday last week, headed for New Orleans. Investigators involved in the case said they feared that the renewed attention brought by the HBO documentary would lead him to try to flee the US. Durst plans to plead not guilty, one of his lawyers, Dick DeGuerin said, who helped win Durst’s 2003 acquittal in Galveston and who said he expected to head Durst’s defense team in Los Angeles.

“The rumors that have been flying for years will now get tested in court,” DeGuerin said.

As he watched the documentary on Sunday night with the filmmakers, James McCormack, the brother of Kathleen Durst, said: “Closure is near at hand; I feel in my heart.”

It was Robert Durst himself who might have set the latest twist in his bizarre saga in motion. Los Angeles prosecutors reopened their investigation into Berman’s execution-style murder only after Durst agreed to a series of interviews with the producers of the documentary Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling.

“These two producers did what law enforcement in three states could not do in 30 years,” said former Westchester County district attorney Jeanine Pirro, whose office investigated Kathleen Durst’s disappearance for six years. “Kudos to them. They were meticulous. They were focused. They were clear.”

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