Local police say Robert Durst was “very, very upset’ during shoplifting arrest.
At first they didn’t know who they had, but Colonial Regional police said they ran Robert Durst’s name through a national computer database just as they would for any other shoplifting suspect.
Only then did they understand why the heir to a billion-dollar real estate company and murder suspect — a man who was stopped for allegedly taking only a sandwich and a Band-Aid from Wegmans in Hanover Township, Northampton County — acted so jittery.
“He was just very, very upset with himself, so red flags went up in my mind,” said Dean Benner of the Colonial Regional Police Department. “I thought this guy’s just way too upset for this little summary violation.”
Benner, unaware at the time that Durst was the subject of a nationwide manhunt, tried to calm Durst and explained the violation was a summary offense, a $300 fine.
Police said Durst couldn’t explain why he tried to get away with a free lunch and a bandage when he had more than $500 in his pocket.
“He just basically said, “I don’t know why I did it. I guess I’m just an asshole,”‘ Benner said.
Colonial Regional police interviewed Durst at their headquarters in Bath, where he gave his real name and date of birth but an incorrect Social Security number. When pressed, he gave the right one, said Colonial Regional’s Lt. James DePalma.
The computer search revealed the 58-year-old Durst is wanted for murder in Galveston, Texas, and his last known address was in New York City, police said.
He also is wanted by the FBI in Houston for flight to avoid prosecution and is being investigated in slayings in Los Angeles and Westchester, N.Y.
He was arraigned on a fugitive charge before District Justice Barbara Schlegel in Bethlehem and committed to Northampton County Prison without bail.
Colonial Regional police impounded a mid-1980s red Chevy Corsica that Durst was using and locked it away at the Bethlehem city impound lot until Galveston police take it, DePalma said. A check of the license plate number revealed the car was stolen from Frederick, Md., according to The New York Times.
Colonial Regional police Saturday said they don’t know why Durst was in the Lehigh Valley or for how long, and he wasn’t registered in any hotels in the area “under any name we have for him,” DePalma said.
DePalma called the ordeal a “career arrest” for Benner, and was thankful Durst’s arrest was otherwise uneventful.
“It’s a little unsettling. We’re fortunate nobody got hurt. When Wegmans security stopped him he didn’t put up a fuss, nor did he with us,” DePalma said.
Authorities aren’t releasing much more information about Durst’s status. For his first 72 hours in Northampton County Prison, he would stay in a cell by himself and under medical screening, said Scott Hoke, deputy warden of classification. “I don’t want to jeopardize the case against him, so I don’t want to say anything just now,” said Gladys Saslaw, Black’s sister, who lives in Massachusetts. “Out of respect for [the prosecutors], I won’t comment until the trial is over. Then I will talk.”
Authorities have been searching for Durst since Oct. 16 when he failed to make a court appearance. He was out on $300,000 bail while awaiting trial on the murder charge.
On Sept. 30 Black’s body parts were found in garbage bags floating along the shore of Galveston Bay, police said. Authorities said they also found a receipt for a bow knife from a Galveston hardware store and a newspaper with a Galveston address on it, the apartment building where Black lived. During a search of the building police found blood between Black’s and Durst’s apartments. Durst’s lease had the name Dorothy Ciner, one of Durst’s aliases and the name of a girl with whom he attended high school.
Police searched Durst’s apartment and found a drop cloth; a drop cloth was among the items listed on the hardware store receipt found in the trash bags with Black’s body parts.
Other tenants in the apartment building Durst lived in told authorities they saw him loading garbage bags into his vehicle Sept. 30, according to police records.
Authorities also have been investigating Durst in the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, in Westchester, New York. That case recently was reopened and police were talking to Susan Berman of Los Angeles, a good friend of the Dursts and the daughter of Las Vegas mobster Davie Berman.
Susan Berman was shot to death last Christmas Eve.
Durst remarried Debrah Lee Charatan, a New York real estate broker, earlier this year in a secret ceremony, according to The New York Times. Charatan arranged for Durst’s $300,000 bail when he was arrested in October in Texas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reporter Nicole Radzievich