Los Angeles prosecutors on Monday charged New York real estate heir and TV documentary subject Robert Durst with murder in the 2000 death of his friend, Susan Berman.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Laceysaid that Durst, the subject of an HBO documentary who was taken into custody in New Orleans on Saturday by FBI agents,, is charged with one count of first degree murder. The charge under California law carries the “special circumstances of murder of a witness and lying in wait,” and makes Durst eligible for the death penalty if convicted, Lacey said.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek death in the case.
Durst, 71, is being held without bail in New Orleans. The eccentric real estate heir was in possession of a handgun when he was arrested in New Orleans, complicating his return to Los Angeles to face the charge, authorities said Monday. He has waived extradition.
Lacey said prosecutors and the L.A. police have been investigating the once-cold case for the past two years. He is charged with killilng Berman on or about Dec. 23, 2000. Her body was discovered in her home on Christmas Eve.
His lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said Durst was innocent.
“We came here to waive arraignment and go back to California and get it on,” DeGuerin said. “Bob Durst didn’t kill Susan Berman. He’s ready to end all the rumor and all the speculation and have a trial.
“But we are frustrated because local authorities are considering filing charges here,” he said, referring to the gun charge in New Orleans.
Durst was the focal point of a six-part HBO documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The final episode that aired Sunday evening wrapped up with a clip from more than two years ago in which Durst is heard in a bathroom mumbling to himself, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki told Good Morning America on Monday that his team didn’t notice Durst’s bathroom ramblings for two years because the recording had no video and “you’re making a film.”
“It took a while to really understand the impact of it,” Jarecki said. “It was so chilling to hear it.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a written statement that “additional evidence that has come to light in the past year” resulted in Durst being charged.
Durst has been at odds with his family for years. Durst’s brother Douglas, president of the family’s multibillion-dollar real estate conglomerate Durst Organization, said he hoped his brother “will finally be held accountable for all he has done.”
Robert Durst was the only named suspect in the disappearance of his first wife, medical student Kathleen McCormack, who vanished in 1982. The couple lived in Westchester County, north of New York City. No charges were ever filed in the case.
Eighteen years later, investigators looking into the McCormack disappearance contacted Berman. She was later found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of her head. No one had been charged in her death until now.
Months after Berman’s death, Durst was arrested in the death of a Texas neighbor, Morris Black. Durst, who admitted cutting up Black’s body and dumping the remains in Galveston Bay, won acquittal based on self-defense.