The FBI believes Robert Durst is “romantically linked” to a New York woman who sent him a package containing $117,000 shortly before his arrest in New Orleans in March.
The details contained in a March search warrant for the package add one more mystery to the many surrounding Durst, the estranged member of a wealthy New York real estate family who is facing federal gun charges in New Orleans and a state charge of murdering longtime friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000.
After the airing of the second-to-last episode of a recent HBO documentary miniseries about Durst — an episode that law enforcement authorities believe prompted his departure from Houston under an assumed identity — a Campbell Hall, New York, woman who is not his wife leapt into action to help him. But Susan Giordano, who has previously been described simply as a longtime friend of Durst, disputes the agency’s characterization of the pair’s relationship as romantic.
“We were just good friends. We still are,” she said Thursday. “I don’t know where they got that. We’ve been friends for decades. Like I said, we’re just really close friends.”
Giordano told authorities that she mailed the package at Durst’s request. The money came from Durst’s apartment and was not hers, she said. The package was sent on March 12, four days after the airing of the fifth episode of HBO’s “The Jinx.”
Giordano also admitted to attempting to cancel the package’s delivery the morning of March 15 — the morning after Durst’s arrest.
Giordano claims her decision to have the package’s delivery canceled just hours after the arrest was a coincidence. She said she recalled the package because she believed Durst was on the move to New York for his April 12 birthday. She said she did not become aware of his capture until the afternoon of March 15.
“It just so happened that (filmmaker Andrew Jarecki) aired (the series’ final episodes)” at that time, she said. “It was bad timing.”
Giordano said she was interviewed for “The Jinx” but did not watch it.
“I got cut,” she said.
FBI agents arrested Durst on March 14 after spotting him in the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel on Canal Street. When agents entered his hotel after the arrest, they found on a table next to his bed a piece of hotel stationery with the handwritten letters “UPS” and a series of tracking numbers.
On March 17, FBI agents stopped the package from being returned to New York and seized it, storing it at the agency’s New Orleans offices.
The next day, law enforcement officials interviewed Giordano in New York. According to the search warrant, “After the package was seized, (FBI Special Agent William) Williams learned from a special agent with the New York division of the FBI that Susan Giordano is romantically linked to Robert Durst.”
New Orleans Detective Christopher Harris obtained a warrant to open the package on the night of March 19. Investigators suspected they might find weapons, credit cards, masks, maps or fake IDs — similar to items found in Durst’s hotel room — inside the 16-pound brown cardboard box. Instead, prosecutors later revealed in court, they discovered $117,000.
Police in New York also seized a trove of Durst’s personal records from the cellar of Giordano’s house in New York last month. Giordano told The New York Times that she was sent the files by Durst’s wife, Debrah Lee Charatan. The paper reported later in March that the relationship between Durst and Charatan, who have never lived together and essentially functioned as business partners, has grown even more distant in recent years.
Durst was initially booked in Orleans Parish on state weapons charges. He was held without bail after District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, pointing to the money and a map of Cuba found in Durst’s room, suggested he posed a serious flight risk.
The state charges have since been dropped, and Durst is now awaiting trial in Louisiana on a federal weapons charge. U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan on Monday ordered that he be held in a St. Charles Parish jail.
Giordano said she has retained a lawyer in New York and has been fully cooperative with authorities.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” she said. “I’ve met with anybody who would meet with me.”
By Matt Sledge (The New Orleans Advocate)