As high-priced attorneys defend federal weapons charges in Louisiana against their multi millionaire client Robert Durst, the team is also working on a strategic plan in the California murder case against him.
I stumbled on this latest information because, as a crime writer, people from both sides of the fence often come out of the woodwork and contact writers. Such has been the case as I’ve written over the years about Susan Berman’s murder and her connection to Durst, who was arrested in March 2015 and now faces a capital murder charge in Berman’s December 2000 death.
The source is a self-described consultant who’s done opposition research (digging up dirt) for political campaigns. Working within Durst’s inner circle, he shared some of the strategies Durst is toying with for when the case goes to trial in Los Angeles.
They’re creative theories, albeit major stretches of the imagination. But opposition research knows no bounds, and these theories appear to fall under that category.
The first strategy, the source says, is that those around Durst are trying to debunk a handwriting match of a letter the killer mailed to police that misspelled the word “Beverley.” It’s a dead ringer for the handwritten block letters Durst printed on a letter to longtime friend Susan Berman before she died.
The letter came to light during the filming of the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” Berman’s letter from Durst was in a box of her belongings her step-son hung onto for nearly 15 years until he went through them during filming of “The Jinx” and discovered it matched the killer’s cadaver letter. After the filmmaker confronted Durst by comparing the cadaver note with his letter to Berman, Durst, unaware he was still being recorded, muttered in an apparent admission that some have called a confession:
That’s it, I’m caught… What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.
A possible defense theory, the source said, is this: It’s a set-up. The source, in his vivid imagination, contends that Berman’s killer, who shot her in the back of the head, set up Durst by copying block letters Durst wrote to Berman onto a cadaver letter the killer sent to police to make it appear as if it were Durst’s handwriting.
Hence, are we to believe that the killer, after he committed murder, stayed inside Berman’s house, rifled through her personal papers looking for handwriting samples to throw cops off the trail, and copied the handwriting onto an envelope, which was postmarked before anyone but the killer knew Berman was dead? A sticking point to this theory is that investigators reported that nothing inside Susan’s home was out of place or disturbed.
Also, two experts confirmed in 2014, according to a Texas search warrant of Durst’s Houston home, that the handwriting on the cadaver envelope was most likely Durst’s. And Durst himself said in “The Jinx,” “it’s a note only the killer could have written.”
A second possible defense strategy shared with me appears to be an even bigger stretch, that an officer-involved fatal shooting at a costume party on Benedict Canyon Road in October 2000, two months before Berman’s murder, could be related to Susan’s death. In that shooting, an LAPD officer, responding to a noise complaint, fatally shot TV actor and partygoer Anthony Dwain Lee four times in the back when the officer mistakenly thought a replica handgun the actor was holding was real.
The source’s theory, however, is that Susan Berman, since she lived on the same street (although not nearby the party house) was somehow a witness to the Halloween shooting and someone shot Berman to silence her. The source added that he’s been trying to place Berman at the party but has been unable to.
It’s a curious theory, considering that the motive in Berman’s murder appeared to be a way to stop her from talking to New York police, who’d reopened the 1982 disappearance investigation into Durst’s first wife Kathie and had sought out Berman to interview. Kathie Durst’s body has never been found and the case remains open.
Susan Berman, according to her memoir, Easy Street, and my biography, Murder of a Mafia Daughter, was reclusive in her later years, desperate for money, was being evicted from her rented house, and rarely went out unless a friend or relative drove her. In all the interviews and research I’ve done over the years about Berman’s activities in the months prior to her murder, no evidence indicates she attended a Halloween party that year.
But, hey, defense team, go for it. Durst has all the money needed to concoct and buy whatever theories he and his circle of insiders can come up with. It worked in the Galveston Bay case, where a gullible jury acquitted Durst when his attorneys claimed self-defense after Durst killed his elderly neighbor Morris Black, dismembered his body with a chain saw, stuffed it into trash bags, and then dumped the remains into Galveston Bay – a far-fetched defense that worked.
It seems to be the trend for attorneys associated with Robert Durst and defending his multiple crimes – throw the kitchen sink at the wall and see what sticks.
By Cathy Scott