Los Angeles detectives investigating the Christmas Eve murder of a confidante of real estate scion Robert A. Durst will go to Texas early next week to inspect a weapon the police said Mr. Durst had with him on Tuesday when he was arrested in the murder and dismemberment of a 71-year-old man in Galveston.
The police in Galveston said they recovered two weapons they believe belonged to Mr. Durst, the son of the powerful New York real estate family, when they arrested him on Tuesday and charged him with the killing of Morris Black, his neighbor in Galveston.
The police said they found a .22-caliber handgun in a trash bin behind a house where Mr. Durst and the dead man had apartments, a gun they believe was used in the killing of Mr. Black. But the police also found a 9-millimeter handgun in Mr. Durst’s car, a silver Honda CRV, when he was stopped and arrested.
That gun is of the same caliber as the one used to kill Susan Berman, a longtime friend of Mr. Durst who was shot in her wood-shingled California home last December. Westchester County investigators had wanted to question Ms. Berman about their newly reopened investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Mr. Durst’s wife, Kathleen.
”L.A. is very interested in the 9-millimeter,” said Lt. Mike Putnal of the Galveston Police Department.
A lawyer for Mr. Durst has insisted his client is innocent of the murder of Mr. Black.
The interest of the Los Angeles Police Department in Mr. Durst is the latest development in what has become an extraordinary set of circumstances surrounding the estranged son of one of the city’s richest and most powerful real estate families.
Mr. Durst’s wife disappeared in 1982, and her family came to believe that he had played a role. After 18 years, a new criminal investigation was opened to re-examine the circumstances of her disappearance and Mr. Durst’s account of his last night with her.
But that investigation, conducted by the Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine Pirro, hit at least one snag when Ms. Berman was fatally shot days before she was to speak to the authorities. Ms. Berman, one of Mr. Durst’s oldest friends, had remained close to him and occasionally financially indebted to him.
Friends of Ms. Berman have said they did not believe Mr. Durst could have killed Ms. Berman. ”I still don’t think that Robert was involved in Susan’s death,” said Deni Marcus, a cousin of Ms. Berman. ”They were the dearest, closest friends.”
The police in Los Angeles have never identified Mr. Durst as a suspect in Ms. Berman’s murder, but their level of interest appears to have been raised with the arrest in Galveston and news of the 9-millimeter gun. Still, the police said, they have to do a full physical analysis, including a test firing, of the gun.
”We’re looking into it,” said Detective Paul Coulter in Los Angeles. He said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was also being asked to trace the ownership of the two guns.
Investigators from the New York State Police and the Westchester district attorney’s office will also travel to Galveston.
Mr. Durst was arrested in Galveston on Tuesday and charged with the murder and beheading of Mr. Black, who had lived next to him. A man and his son who were fishing at the edge of Galveston Bay discovered Mr. Black’s headless torso on Sept. 28. The police later found the man’s limbs nearby, as well as newspapers and sales receipts that led them to the four-family house where Mr. Black and Mr. Durst lived.
Mr. Durst, who broke from his family roughly a decade ago, lived in California, Texas and other states in recent years. But how he came to Galveston remains unknown.
The landlord of the house where Mr. Durst lived said he had initially rented the apartment to a woman, Dorothy Ciner. The woman, he said, told him that she had a speech impediment and that Mr. Durst was the person he should deal with about any problems with the rent or other matters.
But the police in Galveston were unable to find find any sign of a woman named Dorothy Ciner in the days after the murder, and they began to explore the possibility that no such woman had ever lived at the apartment, and that Mr. Durst may have in fact have posed as a woman.
Yesterday, investigators said they spoke to a woman named Dorothy Ciner, who told them she had never lived in Galveston. Ms. Ciner and Mr. Durst were friends and high school classmates in Scarsdale, N.Y., 40 years ago.
”Dorothy Ciner called us,” said Joel Bennett, an assistant criminal district attorney in Galveston County. ”I do not believe she is involved in any way.”
Investigators are now trying to determine whether Mr. Durst posed as a woman named Dorothy Ciner during part of his stay in Galveston. Some of the tenants in the building where he lived have questioned whether the woman who had rented his apartment was perhaps a personality adopted by him, because, they said, she appeared to always wear a wig, had some facial similarity and never uttered a word, citing a speech impediment.
Klaus Dillman, the landlord of the building, who met both Mr. Durst and the woman posing as Ms. Ciner, said he could not say for sure whether the woman he had dealt with as a tenant was a man in disguise. But he noted that he never saw the two of them together.
”Anything is possible with a good makeup artist,” said Mr. Dillman, a former hairdresser. ”I wouldn’t say yes, and I wouldn’t say no.”
Police officials said they did not find any women’s clothes in the house where Mr. Durst stayed but said they would review samples of Mr. Durst’s writing against those of the woman posing as Ms. Ciner to to determine if they were written by the same person.
Mr. Durst posted $25,000 cash in satisfaction of a $250,000 bond and is due back in court next week.
By Charles V. Bagli and Kevin Flynn (NY Times)