Arrest in Texas Murder Case May Have a New York Angle

The police in Galveston, Tex., are trying to determine whether a suspect charged with murdering and dismembering a 71-year-old man there is a member of the wealthy and influential Durst real estate family in New York, the authorities said.

A man identified as Robert A. Durst, 58, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with the killing. He was freed yesterday after posting bond with money wired from New York, said Kurt Sistrunk, Galveston County’s first assistant district attorney.

Bail was set at $300,000 for the murder charge and a marijuana possession charge, said Capt. Edward Benavidez, of the Galveston Police Department.

The authorities said they had to investigate further, including a fingerprint check, to learn if the suspect was the Robert A. Durst who is the eldest son of the late Seymour B. Durst, patriarch of the New York real estate empire. Mr. Sistrunk said he intended to contact New York investigators today.

Captain Benavidez said the Galveston suspect’s birthday was April 12, 1943, that of Seymour Durst’s son. State records show that Robert A. Durst of the real estate family acquired a Texas driver’s license in 1998, for which he listed a Dallas address.

Mr. Sistrunk also said that the suspect had given a Social Security number that belonged to a Robert A. Durst.

A Galveston lawyer, Mark J. Kelly, who said he was retained by a relative of the suspect, said he did not know much about his client’s background but said that the suspect was denying the charges. Mr. Kelly, described his client as a writer who had apparently been living in the area for six or seven years.

Mr. Durst’s wife, Kathleen, a 29-year-old medical student, disappeared in 1982.

The case has been an enduring mystery, and is newly under investigation by the Westchester County district attorney. Mr. Durst said he last saw his wife on Jan. 31, 1982, when he drove her to a train station near their Westchester cottage.

Mr. Durst reported that his wife was missing several days later. But investigators said they have been troubled by discrepancies in his account, and Mrs. Durst’s family has cast suspicion on him. Two friends reported that she had given them confidential information on Durst holdings for safekeeping during a period of estrangement. Mr. Durst has denied any involvement in his wife’s disappearance.

The victim in Galveston, whose name was being withheld until the police could locate relatives, lived in the same building as the suspect, investigators said. A fisherman found his torso in Galveston Bay, and his limbs were in plastic garbage bags, said Captain Benavidez. The head has not been found. He was identified through fingerprints.

By Daniel J. Wakin (NY Times)

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