35 Years Later, Sister in Durst Case Is Still Looking for Answers

From left, Kathie Durst, Robert Durst, Tom Hughes and Mary McCormack Hughes in 1973. Ms. Hughes, Ms. Durst’s sister, remains convinced that Mr. Durst was culpable in her disappearance.


Mary McCormack Hughes has a vivid recollection of the phone call she got 35 years ago this week from Robert Durst, her brother-in-law. “Have you seen Kathie?” he asked.

Kathie was Kathleen Durst, Ms. Hughes’s younger sister, who at 29 was in the final months of medical school. Her marriage to Mr. Durst, the eccentric scion of a prominent New York real estate family, had splintered under Mr. Durst’s efforts to control her, repeated rounds of quarreling and, finally, violence.

No, Ms. Hughes, said she had responded, but I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Kathie.

Mr. Durst cut her off, saying he was going to the police, and abruptly ended the call, she said.

Ms. Hughes remembers that as she hung up the phone in her East Side apartment that February evening in 1982, she turned to her husband, Tom Hughes, and said, “I think he killed her.”

Today, Mr. Durst, 73, sits in Los Angeles County Jail awaiting trial on a charge of murder — not of Kathie, but of Susan Berman, a confidante who, investigators say, knew his secrets and shielded him from newspaper reporters after his wife vanished.

John Lewin, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, claims that Mr. Durst shot Ms. Berman in the back of her head at her Los Angeles home in December 2000, fearing that she would cooperate with a newly revived investigation into Ms. Durst’s disappearance.

Mr. Durst was never charged with his wife’s killing, nor was anyone else. (Ms. Durst’s body has never been recovered.) He and his battery of lawyers have insisted that he did not kill Ms. Berman and does not know what happened to his first wife.

Ms. Hughes has not paid much attention to events in Los Angeles.

“I think it’s going to be a disaster,” she said, with bitterness, of the coming trial during her first interview in more than three decades, at an Upper East Side apartment building where her sister once lived with Mr. Durst. A large photograph of Kathie Durst dressed in an Annie Oakley-style dress and a wide-brimmed hat from the Wild West hung over the fireplace.

“Hollywood and publicity,” Ms. Hughes said. “They’re not really interested in my sister — they’re interested in Bob. I just want to find out what happened to my sister.”

The obsession nearly destroyed her.

Kathie was the youngest daughter and the fifth child of a telephone company representative, who died in 1966, and a working mother. After graduating from high school in New Hyde Park on Long Island, Kathie trained as a dental hygienist and moved to a building owned by the Durst family on the East Side of Manhattan. Mr. Durst oversaw the building and when the two met, there was an instant attraction.

“It was a mutual attraction, a chemistry,” Ms. Hughes recalled. “He had a magnetism. Kathie had the same thing.”

The Hugheses liked Mr. Durst when he started dating Kathie, then 19, in early 1971. He was nine years older and from another world. His father, Seymour Durst, presided over a Manhattan real estate company whose towers formed the skyline.

The Dursts were low key, not the stereotypical gold-and-bombast developers. For a while, Ms. Hughes said, her sister was unaware just how wealthy the Durst family was.

After their second date, Mr. Durst asked Kathie to move with him to Vermont to run a health food store. But after a short time in Vermont, the couple returned to New York, and Mr. Durst resumed working at the family real estate business.

They were married in a private ceremony on his birthday, April 12, in 1973.

The couple partied at Studio 54, the cocaine-drenched disco that was a haunt for celebrities and others. They sailed on the Mediterranean Sea and traveled to Thailand.

Bob and Kathie socialized with Mary and Tom, even buying a racehorse together from a friend who was a breeder. “He heard it was a tax deduction,” Tom Hughes said. “I think he liked that part of it.”

But the Dursts’ relationship took a dark turn after 1976, when Mr. Durst forced his wife to have an abortion. He didn’t want children; she did.

“That’s when it went south,” Mr. Hughes said.

Ms. Durst sought independence, enrolling in nursing school in Danbury, Conn. The couple bought a cottage nearby, on Lake Truesdale in South Salem, N.Y., in northern Westchester County, but also had a co-op on Riverside Drive in Manhattan and rented an apartment on the East Side.

After graduating from nursing school, Ms. Durst immediately started medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, hoping to become a pediatrician.

“She was excited to be a medical student,” recalled a classmate, Dr. Alicia Landman-Reiner. “She worked hard. She always took a seat in the front row and took notes.”

By 1980, the couple quarreled frequently, Ms. Hughes said, adding that her sister often called her with accounts of their latest fight. Ms. Durst contacted a divorce lawyer. She gathered damaging material about her husband and the Durst family, she told friends and her sister.

Mr. Durst has long acknowledged his marijuana use, and his wife used cocaine, according to friends and members of her family. Both had affairs, his and her friends and relatives say. Mr. Durst, they say, cut off her credit cards to keep her close.

“Bob’s possessiveness was escalating into physical violence,” said a nursing school classmate of Ms. Durst’s, Eleanor Joy Schwank, during an interview in 2000. “I never witnessed it, but Kathie would call me saying, ‘Bobby is really violent.’”

Mr. Durst, impatient to leave a McCormack family gathering, yanked his wife’s hair, shocking her family, Ms. Hughes said. On another occasion, he stormed into their East Side apartment, where Ms. Durst was talking with friends, and kicked an acquaintance in the face. The man later settled a lawsuit over the episode with Mr. Durst.

Three weeks before Ms. Durst disappeared, she was treated at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for bruises she suffered during an argument with her husband, according to several friends and medical records later recovered by investigators.

Ms. Durst told her sister, her friends and virtually anyone who would listen, “If anything happens to me, don’t let Bob get away with it.”

Geraldine McInerney, a friend of Ms. Hughes’s, said she had met Ms. Durst at the couple’s East Side apartment on Jan. 29, 1982. Ms. Durst wanted someone she knew to sublet the apartment so that if “the situation between her and Durst became too threatening, she would have an alternative place to stay,” Ms. McInerney said in a 1983 affidavit.

It was the last time Ms. McInerney saw her.

A week later, Mr. Durst walked into a Manhattan police station to file a missing person’s report. He carried a copy of New York magazine with his father’s picture and the headline “The Men Who Own New York.”

Mr. Durst told the police that he had put his wife on a train to Manhattan from Westchester County on Sunday night so that she could attend school the next day. He said he had later spoken to her by phone, after she arrived at their Riverside Drive co-op.

Soon, the story was splashed across New York’s tabloids.

Mr. Durst, who hired detectives and offered a reward, told his family, friends and the police that his wife might have run away with a drug dealer.

Her family found that implausible, since she was only months away from graduating. “She always wanted to take care of children,” Mr. Hughes said.

Decades later, in an interview with the producers of the six-part HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” Mr. Durst acknowledged that much of what he had told the police was a lie.

Why did he lie?

“I wanted them to leave me alone,” he explained to Mr. Lewin, the Los Angeles prosecutor, during an interrogation after his 2015 arrest in New Orleans on gun charges. “I wasn’t used to somebody questioning my veracity.”

Frustrated by what they regarded as a desultory investigation by New York City detectives, Ms. Hughes and a small band of friends became amateur sleuths, tracking sightings of her sister and Mr. Durst and scouring phone records. By March 1982, they were making furtive late-night visits to what they believed was the scene of the crime, the stone cottage at the edge of Lake Truesdale.

On one trip, Mr. Hughes found an ominous list in Mr. Durst’s handwriting in a garbage can: “town dump, bridge, dig, boat” and “shovel.”

They found Ms. Durst’s diamond earrings in her drawer at the Riverside Drive apartment, which Mr. Durst had told the police she was wearing when she disappeared.

To this day, Ms. Hughes is shocked that New York City detectives never searched the cottage.

Ms. Hughes and Ms. McInerney pored over pages and pages of phone records from the cottage, the apartments and the Durst Organization that they had gotten from the detectives.

Night after night, the two women matched the phone numbers to names until they discovered that Mr. Durst had made collect calls to his family’s business from Ship Bottom, N.J., shortly after his wife vanished.

The calls, coupled with the list of words, led them to suspect that Ms. Durst might be buried somewhere in the nearby Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Ms. Hughes and Ms. McInerney borrowed a car and drove the investigating detectives down to Ship Bottom.

But the detectives seemed uninterested, Ms. Hughes said, and the case was no longer generating headlines. Mr. Durst was not charged with any crime.

Ms. Hughes and her family wrestled with Mr. Durst in Surrogate’s Court for control of Ms. Durst’s estate, but suffered another defeat in 1983.

“I was just so fed up,” Ms. Hughes said. “I broke down. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

For a long time, she refused to drive a car or even leave her apartment. She focused on her two daughters, whom she had long neglected.

In the end, Ms. Hughes was left without answers as to her sister’s fate. But she never lost her conviction about Mr. Durst’s culpability.

Ms. Hughes, her husband and Ms. McInerney cooperated with an investigation into Ms. Durst’s disappearance that was started in 2000 by an enterprising State Police investigator, Joe Becerra, only to be disappointed again when the local district attorney did not indict Mr. Durst.

In recent years, Ms. Hughes and other members of her family have gone back to Surrogate’s Court to fight Mr. Durst and to have her sister declared dead as of Jan. 31, 1982. Their mother, Ann McCormack, died in May at 102, without knowing what happened to Kathie.

“It’s absurd that after 35 years New York has not charged him with murder,” Robert Abrams, whose law firm, Abrams Fensterman, is representing Ms. Durst’s family, said of Mr. Durst. “If they’re not going to do it criminally, we’ll do it civilly.”

Whatever happens in Los Angeles, Mr. Durst will return to federal prison to serve the remaining time on a seven-year gun conviction.

“We want some sort of peace, some answers as to where she’s at,” Ms. Hughes said. “Why couldn’t he just tell us? He has nothing to lose. He’s going to stay in jail.”

(NY Times)




Robert Durst Said Giving Details About Missing Wife Would Be ‘Pleading Guilty’

Los Angeles prosecutors have released a transcript of a 2015 interrogation of millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst in which he says he can’t provide details about the disappearance of his first wife and the murder of a close friend because it would amount to “pleading guilty.”

Durst, 73, then mused aloud about what would be in it for him to give information about the two women to investigators.

“As I see it, all you could for me is t

The conversation with Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin took place shortly after Durst was arrested in New Orleans on a warrant out of Los Angeles.

Authorities in LA have since charged him with the 2000 murder of confidante Susan Berman, allegedly killed because she knew too much about the 1982 vanishing of Kathie Durst, who is presumed dead.

Durst danced around questions about both women in the interview, sometimes saying he was going to “stay away” from talking about certain aspects, according to the transcript.

“You’d like some details from me about if I knew where Kathie’s body is,” Durst said to the prosecutor at one point. “And about what happened with Susan.”

When Lewin said that’s what he wanted, Durst said, “If I tell you those things, I’m pleading guilty.”

Durst has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers said the interview with their client, outside the presence of his attorneys, was an “improper interrogation.”

The transcript, which was released as part of a motion ahead of a hearing next Wednesday, also contained the following revelations:

• Durst says he was on methamphetamines when he filmed the HBO documentary series “The Jinx,” which examined his ties to Kathie Durst’s disappearance, Berman’s slaying and the 2003 dismemberment of a neighbor in Texas. The series ended with Durst muttering into a hot mic that he “killed them all.”

“The whole time I was on meth,” Durst told the prosecutor, according to the transcript. “I think the reason I did it had to be because I was swooped, speeding.” He also said that he smoked pot every day for as long as he could remember.

• Durst said he only had five years left to live after losing his esophagus to cancer and struggling with hydrocephalous, or fluid on the brain.

“So there’s not much I could agree with anybody that somebody could offer me, unless they could offer me more life,” he said when Lewin asked him about his hopes for the future.

• Durst said he didn’t flee right after “The Jinx” wrapped, when he was confronted with a damning piece of newly unearthed evidence, because of “inertia.”

Durst, who was allegedly on his way to Cuba when he was caught in New Orleans, also said that he really doesn’t like life on the run.

“Being a fugitive was not something I did well,” he said. “I was the worst fugitive the world has ever met.”

• Durst seemed unsure of whether he has Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the spectrum of autism disorders, as his lawyers have claimed.

“I never thought that amounted to anything,” he told Lewin. But then he added, “The thing with Asperger’s syndrome is intelligent people don’t get along or don’t enjoy communicating with other people. And that is certainly me.”

Durst denies killing Berman. He has not been charged in connection with Kathie Durst’s apparent death but denies killing her in the interview with Lewin.

“If you had killed Susan, would you tell me?” Lewin asked him.

“No,” Durst said.

Durst was acquitted of the murder of Texas neighbor Morris Black after he argued he killed him in self-defense and dismembered his body in a panic. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence for gun possession.

ell me that ‘this is the best prison in California and that I will recommend you go there,” the real-estate heir said, according to the transcript.

(NBC News)

This Is What The Jinx Creators Think of Robert Durst

Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling have been lying low since March, when Robert Durst, thesubject of their startling six-part HBO documentary, was arrested in New Orleans on the eve of the show’s finale and accused of being a serial killer — thanks in no small part to the revelations uncovered in The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

Citing their potential role as witnesses in Durst’s trial in Los Angeles for the 2000 murder of mob heiress Susan Berman — for which no court date has been set and Durst is being held without bond in Louisiana, where he first faces a federal weapons charge for a revolver found at the time of his arrest — the documentarians have remained quiet until now.

“To try the case in the media, or for us to provide some pseudo-expert opinions about how the legal process is going to go, is only going to confuse people and go beyond our sphere of expertise,” explains Jarecki, recently breaking that silence in an interview with THR.

Jarecki, 52, who wrote, directed and produced the series, and Smerling, 52, who wrote, produced and served as cinematographer, talked about the controversy that has swirled around their project, the strange, chilling charisma of The Jinx‘s central character and when they first believed he was guilty of murder.

I’ve imagined you both in witness protection since the finale.

MARC SMERLING It’s sort of been like that. (Laughs.)

The Jinx initially was intended as a documentary feature. How did it become an HBO series?

SMERLING We were suffering trying to make a two-hour movie. Every time we cut it down, we lost some of the delicious pieces — the moments with Bob that raised it above just a murder story. At the same time, we were watching Homeland, House of Cards and these series stretching one crime over entire seasons. That’s what we needed: the ability to live in a structured piece of storytelling of these three murders but with time to focus on other things. We threw a pilot together and did a chalkboard outline of six episodes. The second episode introduced this kind of sympathetic, funny, interesting guy who confounds the audience. It subverts your expectations. Every subsequent episode turns it over again until he reveals himself.

ANDREW JARECKI We built the series before anyone saw it. The emotional through line for us was our connection to the family of [first victim] Kathie Durst. We had become close with them when we were making All Good Things, interviewed them and the police, and put together a sort of documentary about the story to show [the actors]. These people were so destroyed by what happened to their sister and daughter. It was really hard to ignore. Bob became kind of a burlesque figure — the unusual behavior, dressing as a woman, burping, all of the ticks and that background of wealth and privilege. He’s a fascinating character, but the big thing for the audience of The Jinx, I think, is seeing Kathie’s niece who looks so much like her and tells how this family has been torn asunder. Getting closure for that family was one of the things that drove us through getting this done.

At what point did you decide Durst was guilty?

JARECKI People think it’s a joke to give Bob the benefit of the doubt. As soon as you hear that he chopped up his neighbor, nobody wants to hear the nuances of whether or not he killed his wife, accidentally killed his wife and got rid of the body or if some drug dealers broke in during the middle of the night and secreted his wife away — which is what he’d like us to believe. But when he reached out to me [after Jarecki made the 2010 fictionalized Durst story All Good Things], I felt like I had to give Bob the benefit of the doubt. You had to give him a safe place to tell his story. But the moment where that changed was our finding that letter in the same handwriting [as an anonymous letter alerting police to Berman’s body].

SMERLING I always found it so hard to reconcile that Bob had been so close to three tragedies. But as journalists, we try to draw out the truth by neutral­izing your perspective. Once we saw the letter, we couldn’t neutralize our perspective anymore.

Were you ever concerned for your safety?

JARECKI Murder is one possibility to solving a problem — you always had to be attentive to that. But the man, in our view, is not just a random killer. He’s a strategic killer and won’t put himself at risk unless he thinks there’s an upside. I think we were doing what Bob wanted us to do. He came to me know­ing what we didn’t know at the time: that he killed all three of those people. What drove him to reach out to filmmakers and say, “I want my story to be told?” I think this compulsion to confess is a driver for him. It’s a release he was looking for.

There was some criticism about the timetable for production, what you knew when and at what time you delivered evidence to the police. Do you want to clear any of that up?

JARECKI We were really straightforward about it at the time. We had given the evidence to the authorities two years before the show aired. And we thought that it was responsible and appropriate. And there was so much heat around the show, the natural instinct of the press would include trying to figure out if we were making a spectacle of it. That’s not what we did.

Are you going to be called as witnesses?

JARECKI The reason we’re not talking to press now is that there’s a live case being prepared, and we’re going to be witnesses in that case. To try the case in the media, or for us to provide some pseudo-expert opinions about how the legal process is going to go, is only going to confuse people and go beyond our sphere of expertise. We’re just trying to be respectful of the process for everyone. Ultimately, Bob has to get a fair hearing and the victims have to be respected. This will be a real thorough, thoughtful process with lots of people weighing in.

Have there been any new developments on your end since the finale and Durst’s arrest?

SMERLING We’re as in the dark as anyone. We’ve been able to put it aside and work on some other things. It will come alive again if Los Angeles decides to try him, but right now we’re turning our attention to other projects.

By Michael O’Connell (The Hollywood Reporter)

Robert Durst to be moved to Nelson Coleman Correctional Center – (a jail in St. Charles Parish)

U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan signed an order Monday to move Robert Durst to Nelson Coleman Correctional Center in St. Charles Parish. Berrigan’s order states that Durst “shall not be transferred to a medical facility outside the State of Louisiana.”

Durst’s attorneys requested the move.

  • The Motion for New Jail; April 27th 2015 – here
  • The Signed Order to Designate Housing at Nelson Coleman Correctional Center as to Robert Durst; April 27th 2015 – here

Robert Durst to be moved to new jail

Accused murderer Robert Durst will soon have a new jail cell to call home.

After state gun and drug charges stemming from his March arrest in New Orleans were dropped, Durst is being moved to a federal jail to face a felon in possession of a gun charge there.

The jail where Durst will be housed has not been disclosed, but a hearing was held Thursday with a federal judge, Durst’s attorneys and U.S. Marshals.

The Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System showed Robert Durst has been transferred from the Orleans Parish Jail but it was not immediately clear Friday evening if he was set in federal custody.

Durst’s attorneys said Thursday they were worried about how Durst will be transported from one jail to the next and what kind of care he’ll get.

Durst is not well, according to Dick DeGuerin, one of Durst’s attorneys.

Court records show the Marshals are prepared to house Durst.

“The Marshal’s Service has made all necessary arrangements and is fully prepared to place defendant in custody pursuant to the federal detainer at an appropriate federal contracted facility within the Eastern District,” a federal court minute order reads.

KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice says there is a different between federal jails and state jails.

“Big difference. Federal jails are usually a little nicer,” Wice said.

The state dropped charges in favor of the feds perusing a similar charge stemming from the night he was arrested when police say they found a gun in his hotel room.

In general, prosecutors don’t like to have two cases running at the same time.

They are sometimes concerns testifying in one case might say one thing and then say something different in the other. Defense attorneys would seize on even a slight difference in testimony, most legal experts believe.

Generally, the feds and the state talk about who is going to take the case to trial and that’s what happened here.

By Jace Larson (click2houston)

Unopposed Motion to Continue Status Conference, Oral Argument, and Submission Date:

USA moves the Court to continue the status conference, oral argument, and submission date on the United States’ pending motion to quash subpoenas and dismiss show-cause proceedings for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction (Rec. Doc. 15) currently set before the Court on April 21, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

  • Read the Motion; April 17th 2015 – here:

Miep and Mikhail Attended Robert Durst’s Arraignment on Federal Gun Charges

On Tuesday, April 14, Robert Durst was arraigned in New Orleans for federal gun charges. Upon entering, journalists were required to leave the cell phones and any other electronics with a security guard at the door. A kindly police officer explained this to us before the proceedings started. Broadcasting anything, a photograph or a video, from a federal court proceeding is a felony, so we may as well be relieved of the temptation. He reminded us, if somehow we managed to sneak our phones past security, to promptly hand them over. For our own good. “Otherwise you might have Bob Durst as a room mate,” Dick DeGuerin, Bob Durst’s attorney chimed in. Miep swooned at the very thought.


DeGuerin seemed in high spirits. Before the proceedings, he approached me and Miep with some light banter about the rainy weather, and demonstrated that his jacket is reversible, specifically for occasions such as this one. Miep suspects that he’s following her Twitter account.

Before Durst’s arraignment, Judge Lance Africk arraigned Johnny Baham, who could face 3 years and a $250,000 fine for allegedly stealing two $75 gift cards from his mail route. If he’s guilty, that’s a really stupid crime!

When Durst’s time came, he had to be assisted getting up and going to the podium to make his plea. A member of Durst’s legal team told Judge Africk, “He cannot hear out of his left ear so I have to talk into his right ear.”

The judge asked Durst if he could hear him, and Durst replied that he could. Prosecutor Mike McMahon asked Durst if he understood the charges against him, and he replied that he did. But not before asking the prosecutor to identify himself:

“And you are?” A burst of verbal shuffling ensued.

The judge asked, “Do you need me to read your indictment to you?”

Robert Durst replied, “That’s not necessary.” When asked for his plea, he said, “Not guilty,” in a vaguely astonished way, as if the answer were obvious and he couldn’t believe he was being asked the question. This almost aroused a round of laughter in the room.

The judge called recess, and we walked through the rain back to the car, parked so many blocks away. Federal court is in the central business district. It’s frustrating.

By Mikhail K. (U.S. Nero)


Robert Durst Biographer Matt Birkbeck on What The Jinx Got Wrong

Fifteen years before Robert Durst became a celebrity of sorts thanks to HBO’s The Jinx, People reporter Matt Birkbeck began following the case, interviewing friends, family, investigators, and others about the strange real-estate tycoon and the disappearance of his wife Kathie. Following the dismemberment of Morris Black and the shooting of Susan Berman, Birkbeck wrote the 2003 book A Deadly Secret: The Bizarre and Chilling Story of Robert Durst, chronicling the case and Durst’s links to other murders. Now, for the second time since its initial release, the book is being reissued with updates to reflect Durst’s latest arrest: for the Berman murder, in New Orleans, where he was found with a latex mask, five ounces of marijuana, thousands in cash — and two copies of A Deadly Secret. We recently caught up with Birkbeck to discuss the cases, the recent events, and his views on how The Jinx presented several parts of Durst’s life falsely, while also omitting plenty of chilling details.

What have the last few months been like for you, with the show and the arrest?
Andrew Jarecki and I, we first met back in 2005. He was working on a Durst project. He wanted to just talk about what I knew. We spent some time together. And then he emailed me in 2011 — this was after his movie came out, All Good Things — and he told me he was working on a documentary and that Bobby had agreed to an interview with him, so I was pretty shocked when I heard that. He told me he already had several interviews in the can, and that he had said some things that were somewhat incriminating. His movie in 2010 wasn’t a favorable portrayal of Durst, but it was trying to understand him, and I had already had my own distinct opinion of [Durst] by then. [Jarecki] asked me to interview for his program, and I declined.

I spoke with Andrew after the series aired, and he explained the whole thing to me and said that [Durst’s hot-mic bathroom confession] was something they found months after they recorded it. Without that, [the documentary] would have advanced it a little bit given that they had that [“Beverley”] letter, but that was just a monumental moment. For people who weren’t familiar with Durst, it was a good primer, but the last five minutes, I was shocked when he said what he said. When he said at the end, “Killed them all,” that was the first time throughout the entire documentary, in my mind, that you saw the real Bobby Durst. You heard him, you saw him. He was obviously stressing out in the questioning with the letter, and then it appears to be multiple personalities having conversations with themselves. It was stunning.

What’s your opinion of Jarecki’s handling of it? There’s been some criticism that they should have presented it more journalistically, but other people say, “Well, he’s just a filmmaker. It’s not his job to report the facts.” Then again, people are dead here, so there’s a bigger responsibility.
I share that opinion. There was a lot in The Jinx that was factually incorrect that he was aware of. For instance, Jeanine Pirro had a huge role in this, and she really played up the story about how she had gotten this tip and got the original investigation going, and how her office was going to interview Susan Berman before she died, and that’s the reason Bobby killed her. None of that ever happened, and [Jarecki] knew that. The New York State Police didn’t reach out to Susan Berman until after she was murdered.

[The book] gets into Pirro fairly in-depth. She did the same thing back in 2001, 2002, 2003, where, for her, it was all about the publicity value of the case as opposed to any kind of pursuit for justice. And clearly, that’s what was happening with the documentary, so I had a problem with that. Andrew and I had talked about this before, about Pirro’s role in all of this, so as a journalist, I had an issue with it. He’s a filmmaker [sighs], perhaps he’s beholden to a different set of standards. Joe Becerra, the detective who actually started this whole thing, I think he was in The Jinx for maybe 10, 15 seconds.

There are some really crucial questions here [for Durst]. One of which is, “How did you learn to dismember a body?” And that was never asked. It was more about, “Tell us about Kathie.” He admitted [to] lying to the police way back when, but I didn’t really see anything else that was outlandish. Basically, you just saw a cold, emotionless guy with little empathy for anything. And they knew what the questions were. I thought we might see some answers to them, and we didn’t.

There was that scene where Jarecki asks Durst about intentionally shaving his eyebrows, and Durst says, “Who would mistakenly do that?” Maybe he knew he was dealing with someone that would let him get his side across.
Right. Which he did. He allowed Bobby to get his side across. His movie, All Good Things — Bobby liked the portrayal of himself, the one of the tormented son of the big real-estate developer, Seymour Durst. He liked that, as opposed to other descriptions of him that he had read over the years, of being a psychopath and whatnot. That’s my understanding of why he agreed to do this. The really big question also was, when Durst was 10 years old, he went to go see a psychiatrist because he was having mental issues after his mother died. The psychologist letter is in the book, and he says he can’t even be treated because he’s got some real severe issues. I think the word is “psychological deconstruction.” [Ed. note: It’s actually “personality decomposition and possibly even schizophrenia.”] It’s a warning to everyone that you’ve got this ticking time bomb here, and that was back in 1953. And that wasn’t addressed either, the doctor’s letter. But like you said, he’s a filmmaker, and he’s got his own agenda. When I met with him back in 2005, he and his producing partner Marc Sperling, they had my book, and they had Post-its on almost every page, and we actually spent three hours talking about the book. Everything about Durst was in the book, so they knew about it. They spent years on him, so there were some obvious things they could’ve asked him but they didn’t.

One thing they took dramatic liberties with is the scene in which Durst and his father dispassionately watch his mother’s suicide, but according to your research, there were cops and firefighters there trying to save her.
That bothered me. The whole description in my book about how the mother dies is taken from the records from that day, from news reports, from police reports. So when I saw what they did, that’s the story according to Bobby. It’s one thing to ask him, “Bobby, what happened? Oh, really?” But then to basically film a scene around it, to me, that was over the top. That wasn’t even challenging him. They could have basically said, “Hey, here’s a police report from that day,” or, “Here’s a newspaper article from that day describing what happened. You’re telling me one story, here’s another story.” They knew the real story. They went with his version. Again, that bothered me.

To go back to his arrest, were you surprised that happened?
I wasn’t surprised. I had heard they were going to indict him a few weeks earlier. The FBI has been involved since 2012. They were always interested in Durst in some capacity, but it really picked up steam with the Gilgo Beach murders, those women that they’re finding on Long Island off the ocean. They thought Bobby might be involved in those and became very intrigued. They couldn’t connect him to those. They decided to take a look at the Kathie Durst investigation as well as Susan Berman. They formed a loose task force, and since 2012, they’ve been working with those local police jurisdictions. The FBI has been involved for several years now, and they’ve been working on this and building their case, so I had heard that he was going to be indicted several weeks earlier. The Jinx had started airing. It was the first or second weekend it was airing that I heard he was going to be indicted. Apparently, they had been tracking him for a while, he was getting ready to flee. They figured they had to move on him now, and that’s what they did.

Why did the FBI think he might be linked to the Long Island prostitute murders?
I think they’re convinced that he’s a serial killer, and so they’re trying to connect him to other cases around the country. Being that some of those women had been dismembered, they began looking at him. They couldn’t make a connection, but their interest there led them to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office and the Los Angeles police.

There have been reports linking him to other murders, like Karen Mitchell in California, or Lynne Schulze, who disappeared outside his store in Vermont. Have you heard any more about them?
The one in Vermont came out of left field. That one I did not know about, and I don’t think anyone knew about it other than the police in Vermont and the FBI. The Karen Mitchell and Kristen Modafferi ones out of northern California I had reported on in the book. One of the problems with the Durst case is law enforcement, and the fact is, you’ve got different investigations in different jurisdictions, and it became complicated for them to work with each other. For instance, no one wanted to work with Westchester because of Jeanine Pirro and her penchant for publicity. Then she apparently refused to work with other jurisdictions. In northern California, when they linked Bobby to Karen Mitchell, police there reached out to New York to get Bobby’s credit-card records, and New York refused. They had to go to a judge and get a subpoena to get Durst’s records, which placed him in Eureka the day Karen Mitchell disappeared. That case, it came, and for whatever reason, just like everything else with Durst, it faded. The one good thing about The Jinx is that it brought attention to Durst. The Mitchell one is the strongest one of them all because you know that he lived up there, he had gone to the shoe store that Mitchell’s aunt had owned, and Mitchell worked there, too. He had gone there also dressed in drag. He had visited this homeless shelter, soup kitchen that she worked at, which Bobby had an affinity for. He did the same thing in Galveston. And then you’ve got this dead-on composite [sketch] that is a spitting image. Not only is it the spitting image of Bobby, but the guy that gave the composite, he knew Durst. They can’t get the local cop there to bite on any of this. He had his own suspect in mind, so it’s a comedy of errors with law enforcement. Thankfully, the FBI is looking across the country at every city they can identify where Durst has lived, and they’re going to be looking at missing-persons cases to see if, by any chance, there’s any connection between Bobby and these people.

Do you think he knows what he can get away with? Is he that cunning?
That’s a really good question, because the Durst that we’re seeing now, the one that agreed to be interviewed, the one who apparently just wrote a letter to the L.A. Times, the one who seems to be a little more public, that’s not the Bobby Durst I remember originally reporting on. He went into hiding, he stayed away from everybody. When he was on the run, he shaved his head and his eyebrows and was trying to travel under the radar. Now, apparently, he’s more open about what he’s doing, so I don’t know. When the search warrant was released and they found two copies of my book in his apartment, people asked me what I thought about it. At first I was surprised and somewhat shocked. And I’m thinking about it, and the book provided a roadmap of what he’d been doing before these investigations started up again in 2000. On one hand, it’s reference material for him. He knows what the police know. But on the other hand, maybe there’s something else going [on] with him mentally now, and he likes seeing his name in print.

Considering everything he’s gotten away with so far, do you have any inkling what will happen with the charges in Louisiana or L.A.?
Here’s what’s going on. Law enforcement wants him to stay in New Orleans for a while. They want to take a deep breath, they want to be able to look and see what, if anything, is out there involving him. I think they believe there are other cases out there. They’re going to use this time to find them. That includes getting to the bottom of the Karen Mitchell case, and Modaferri. It gives them time to investigate properly, and not just the cases we know about. Moving forward, unless the judge down there throws out the charges, he could potentially spend several years in prison down there and then ultimately face trial in Los Angeles. I think the people who have been most affected by this case, particularly the family of Kathie Durst, would like nothing better than to see him tried in Los Angeles for the murder of Susan Berman, because if he’s found guilty of killing Berman, the charge would be that he killed her to shut her up because she knew about Kathie. That would give authorities in New York a motive. He was convicted on it.

They may keep him in prison for ten years or so, and he’s 71 years old. He’ll never leave prison, I can tell you that. Everyone believes he’s dangerous. The best thing would be, “Hey, go to some psychiatric facility for the rest of your life, but tell us first what you did in all these different cases. Did you kill this one, did you kill that one, what happened to Kathie Durst, what happened to Susan Berman?” It might be wishful thinking, but that would be, in my mind, the best-case scenario.

By Dan Reilly (Vulture)

Robert Durst: Why Westchester’s case is still unsolved

He’s been acquitted of murder in Texas and now faces a murder charge in California and gun charges in Louisiana. But a resolution of the case for which multimillionaire real estate scion Robert Durst has been a suspect the longest — the Jan. 31, 1982, disappearance and presumed death of his first wife Kathie — has eluded law enforcement. What evidence do Westchester investigators have against the Scarsdale native and what are they lacking?


A Body: Not a deal breaker for a murder prosecution but close. There’s inherent reasonable doubt — “What do you mean he killed her? Prove she’s dead.” Westchester prosecutors won a murder conviction against Werner Lippe in the 2008 death of his wife, who was believed to have been burned in an oil drum. But in Lippe’s case, he confessed and prosecutors used some of his activities in the wake of her disappearance to corroborate the confession.

A Crime Scene:

The Hoyt Street cottage along Lake Truesdale in South Salem where Robert and Kathie had their final argument was not searched until 1999 — 17 years later and nearly a decade after Durst sold the house. The lake was also searched but “nothing of evidentiary value” turned up, state police Investigator Joseph Becerra said in “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” the 6-part HBO documentary series that recently aired. Investigators have never said publicly what, if anything, was found in the house.

Eyewitnesses: Nobody but Robert and Kathie were there when they argued that night.

Susan Berman: She was known to be fiercely loyal and even if she had anything on her pal Bobby she might not have shared. But Kathie’s friends were all certain that if anyone knew anything, it was Berman. They put Westchester investigators onto Berman — but law enforcement didn’t act quick enough. Seven weeks after news of the reopened investigation broke, she was murdered in her Los Angeles home.


Durst’s Lies: Durst remains adamant about putting Kathie on the 9:17 Manhattan-bound train in Katonah on Jan. 31, 1982. But he has acknowledged lying to police about later speaking with her by phone. It was a key detail that, along with a dubious sighting of her later that night, kept New York City detectives from looking at the South Salem cottage.

“I don’t know how he killed her but I don’t think she ever got on the train, that’s for sure,” Edward Murphy, a senior investigator with the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, said on the documentary.

Troubled Marriage: This was the “guts” of Westchester’s case, that the marriage had “spun out of control” and become “increasingly volatile”, former Westchester Assistant District Attorney Kevin Hynes told the filmmakers. One physical confrontation had sent Kathie to the hospital and she was talking divorce. Three days before she disappeared, her lawyer told Kathie that Robert had rejected their divorce offer, Murphy said on the documentary.

Collect Phone Calls: Two collect calls were made from a laundry at Ship Bottom, New Jersey, near the Pine Barrens, to the Durst Organization in Manhattan on Feb. 2, 1982. Durst was known to call the office collect — let his father Seymour pay, was his mantra. A nice detail to sew up a case if a body had been found nearby, for example, but investigators have no proof who placed the calls and even less about their content. Durst insists it wasn’t him. “Bob didn’t make those calls. Bob was not in Ship Bottom,” he told the filmmakers.

A “Confession?”: At the conclusion of the documentary, Durst was heard off camera saying “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” Legal analysts are in near unanimity that the statement would be admissible but not on how much weight a jury might give it. “Is he sincere or is he making a flippant statement? And who in particular is he referring to?” said Dan Schorr, a former Westchester prosecutor now an associate managing director at Kroll. “It’s a very helpful comment to the prosecution but its not a full confession to a particular killing.”

By Jonathan Bandler

Robert Durst Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Gun Charge in New Orleans

Real estate heir Robert Durst pleaded not guilty to a federal gun charge Tuesday in New Orleans, leading one friend and employee to believe Durst will never be extradited to face a murder charge in California..

Durst, who turned 72 behind bars on Sunday, is being held without bond in the medical unit of a Louisiana prison after indictments on federal and state gun charges stemming from his arrest last month. The subject of the recent HBO docu-series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” was charged after FBI agents who stopped him at a New Orleans hotel found a .38 revolver and marijuana in his room.

The agents had stopped Durst based on a Los Angeles murder warrant issued by police in connection with the 2000 shooting of his longtime friend Susan Berman at her Benedict Canyon home. Berman had served as a spokeswoman for Durst after the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie, in New York.

Durst waived extradition to California weeks ago, but Louisiana officials have so far refused to release him.

His arraignment on the California arrest warrant was postponed Monday and transferred to the same court that will handle his next hearing on the state gun charges May 7. His federal trial date has been set for June 22.

The New York millionaire pleaded not guilty to those charges — possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm with a controlled substance — last Thursday.

Durst was acquitted of murdering his Galveston neighbor by a Texas jury in 2003, but skipped bail during the trial and later pleaded guilty to being a fugitive from justice and transporting a weapon across state lines while under felony indictment.

If convicted of the state charges now as a first-time offender, he could be sentenced to up to 10 and 20 years on each charge. If convicted of the federal charge of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, Durst faces a possible 10-year prison term and $250,000 fine.

Durst’s lead attorney, Houston-based Dick DeGuerin, said Tuesday that “no plea agreement is in the works.”

Durst’s extradition expired last week, but DeGuerin said a misdemeanor fugitive charge filed against Durst in state court last week “will keep the extradition alive” while his state and federal cases are pending.

Federal and state prosecutors will be meeting soon to confer about who will prosecute Durst first, DeGeurin said, adding that: “We’re making progress.”

Durst was not able to see a rabbi during Passover, but is expected to meet with one on Wednesday, DeGuerin said.

Joshua Bullard, 39, befriended Durst after meeting him at a Houston Starbucks in 2006, after Durst was released from prison after his plea agreement for bail skipping during the Galveston trial.

One of Durst’s attorneys, Houston-based Chip Lewis, verified that Bullard knew Durst. He is convinced of Durst’s innocence.

“I don’t think this case ever goes to trial in L.A. I think you’ll see it get kicked out,” he said, but, “I’m concerned that there was a pistol found in his hotel. I’d never seen him with a pistol before. I’d never seen him with marijuana before — if he did smoke marijuana, he never shared that side with me.”

Bullard said that when they first met, he recognized Durst immediately from news reports about the Galveston trial.

“He walked in and had a backpack on and tennis shoes. He looked like a hiker,” Bullard told the Los Angeles Times. “He took his coat off and I said, ‘Man, you’re Robert Durst!’ He said, ‘Everyone just calls me Bob’.”

He went on to work for Durst, as a jury consultant during a New York trespassing case brought by Durst’s estranged brother, and managing Houston publicity surrounding “The Jinx.”

Durst never talked about Berman, Bullard said. But at one point, he said, Durst “calls me on the phone and he’s like ‘You’ve got to help me, the New York Post is calling me a cross-dressing killer!’ If you know him, you know he’s not a killer.”

Durst suffered a variety of ailments in recent years, Bullard said, but in recent months, “it seemed like his health had improved. I mean, he was in bad shape in November and December — I mean, his balance was off. You have to remember Bob Durst is a very small guy. … He doesn’t weigh much at all. I saw lots of imbalance issues, as if he was almost kind of falling over but catching his balance.”

Durst shared medical records with Bullard detailing his recent surgeries to remove esophageal cancer and install a shunt to drain fluid from his brain.

More recently, Bullard said, “it looked like he was getting a bit better. His hair had grown back” from the shunt surgery, and although he was still “talking to himself, mumbling — that’s been going on for years,” Bullard said.

He described Durst as “very compartmental,” separating different areas of his life.

“In the last two or three months, I got the feeling he wasn’t traveling as much. He was in his condo more often,” Bullard said.

Bullard shared with The Times the envelopes Durst left his checks in and emails allegedly from Durst. In one of the emails, Durst said he moved to Texas, “since you guys have all the oil r/e banking crash of 1986,” and, “Except for lawyers, nobody seems to know I live in Houston.”

Last summer, after Durst was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief for urinating on candy at a local CVS, he argued that his recent surgeries had left him incontinent and was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor.

“Bob and I had lengthy, personal discussions about that,” Bullard said. “He was experiencing some type of disruption and he peed on the candy to get out of view of the people in the line” at the cash register.

Bullard said he last spoke with Durst early last month, after the airing of the fourth of six episodes of “The Jinx.” He said Durst didn’t seem upset, and arranged for Bullard to pick up a check at his Houston condo complex a few days later, on March 1.

Durst wasn’t there — he had left the check with the concierge, as usual, Bullard said.

“The concierge was a little bit concerned. She just says ‘We’re all watching “The Jinx”.'”

“I said, ‘Yeah, good. This is going to be great!” Bullard recalled, “I just assured her, ‘Hey man, this is all Hollywood. It’s all Los Angeles. It’s all movies. None of this is going to be real life.’”

Then the fifth and sixth episodes of “The Jinx” aired, implicating Durst in Berman’s murder, and he disappeared.

“That was the last time I heard from him,” Bullard said, “I just wish I could have talked to him after Episode 5. … I don’t think he had a clue the FBI was coming in real life. I didn’t. I think he just wanted to get away from the media coming to his condo. That would be very embarrassing for him. It makes perfect sense that he left.”

But initially, he had no idea where Durst had gone.

“I thought he was in the hospital,” Bullard said.

He kept calling Durst, “desperately trying to get a hold of him.”

When news broke that Durst had been arrested, Bullard said he was “emotionally devastated.”

A few days later, he called Durst’s second wife, Debrah Lee Charatan, a real estate developer in New York who has yet to comment publicly about the case and did not participate in the HBO series.

Bullard had never spoken to Charatan before, but said he was able to reach her and ask about Durst. She sounded “like a businesswoman,” he said but also, “seemed really emotionally shocked, just not believing.”

“She said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, we’re all in shock and I’m doing the best I can’,” Bullard told The Times.  “I said, ‘If you can let Bob know that I’d like him to contact me — I mean, I just can’t call down to the jail.”

Bullard later sent Durst a birthday card, but never received a response.

As of Tuesday, Bullard had yet to hear from Durst. But Lewis, Durst’s attorney, called him last week.

“He just said Bob had expressly wanted me to contact you to let you know he has received your letters and he’s grateful for your friendship and your work and it was good to hear from you when he was first arrested and all alone and we’ll keep you posted,” Bullard said.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske (LA Times)