New York real estate heir Robert Durst planned to commit suicide by shooting himself and intentionally broke the law in view of police officers while on the lam in 2001 in Pennsylvania, according to published reports.
“I must have shoplifted in 12 places, without getting caught,” Durst told a juror from his 2003 murder trial, according to Sunday editions.
The juror, Chris Lovell, visited Durst in jail after the panel acquitted him of killing his elderly neighbor last November.
“I was taking the gun with me, because as soon as some security guard came over, I’d take the gun and shoot myself,” Durst said during one of two jail conversations he had with Lovell in January.
The conversations were recorded by Galveston County Sheriff’s deputies.
The tapes were disclosed during a recent court hearing in which Durst’s defense attorneys sought to remove state District Judge Susan Criss from Durst’s case. The defense wanted the Galveston judge removed, in part, because she instigated the jury-tampering probe, according to the Houston Chronicle, which first reported the contents of the tapes last week.
On the tapes, Durst is heard saying he intentionally committed traffic violations while carrying a loaded gun on his car seat during two months as a fugitive in 2001. He also said he carried a pistol while shoplifting numerous times during the period.
“No way I was going to get arrested,” Durst said. “I would be able to shoot myself. It just seemed so obvious and so easy.”
Durst, 61, was set to be paroled last week after pleading guilty to state bond-jumping and evidence tampering charges related to the death of his 71-year-old neighbor, Morris Black.
But on Thursday, U.S. marshals took Durst into custody and brought him to the federal detention center in Houston to await transfer to Pennsylvania on federal gun charges.
Last month, Durst pleaded guilty to three state charges in exchange for a five-year sentence. He was given credit for the nearly three years he had served and thus was eligible for parole.
In the Pennsylvania indictment, issued Thursday and unsealed on Friday, Durst faces two charges for having a firearm while he was a fugitive from justice and while he was under indictment for a felony.
Durst left Galveston, about 50 miles southeast of Houston, but returned and was arrested in October 2001. He posted bond and ran again, then was caught six weeks later shoplifting in a Pennsylvania grocery store. In his rental car, police found two .38-caliber revolvers and 86 rounds of ammunition.
“That day, I was in a hurry, and I forgot to take the gun,” Durst said.
At his murder trial, Durst testified he accidentally shot Black in September 2001 as they struggled for a gun in Durst’s apartment. He said he panicked, cut up the body and dumped the pieces in Galveston Bay.
On the tapes, Durst tells Lovell he had attempted suicide twice, once by smoking marijuana, taking a bottle of sleeping pills and getting into a bathtub. He said his attorneys advised him not to discuss his suicidal feelings because “… it goes over badly, it goes overboard,” he said.
Durst said he wasn’t sure whether he would seek a change of venue for a trial related to the bond-jumping and evidence-tampering charges he faced at the time.
Durst’s attorney, Michael Ramsey, has asked that a federal judge allow Durst to have an initial appearance in Houston before he is transferred to Pennsylvania, where he is expected to appear on Nov. 4.
If convicted on the gun charges, Durst faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, three years of supervised released and a $500,000 fine.