The eccentric descendant of one of the largest real estate families in New York was arrested late Saturday on a warrant for a cold case murder in New Orleans. Millionaire Robert Durst, who was wanted by Los Angeles County, was taken into custody by the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The 71-year-old Durst is notorious for his connection to two mysterious deaths which occurred to women close to him, and for being acquitted of the murder of his neighbor. Although authorities questioned him after the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen Durst, and the December 2000 death of his longtime friend, Susan Berman, he was never charged, and he has continued to maintain his innocence in both cases.
Before she disappeared, Kathleen Durst had been speaking to friends about wanting to divorce her husband. According to a friend of hers, the couple had fought the night of her disappearance, and Mrs. Durst had expressed fear that her husband might do something to her. She was ultimately declared dead.
Robert Durst and Berman attended UCLA together. After his wife’s disappearance, Berman contacted media and other people who suspected Durst of having harmed his wife in order to give them Durst’s side of the story.
Berman’s body was discovered on Dec. 24, 2000, by police. She was found in the home in which she lived alone after neighbors, noticing her door open and one of her dogs outside unattended, called police. Berman had been shot once in the head. Police believed at the time that she could possibly have been murdered several days prior to the discovery of the body. Authorities noted that nothing had been taken from her home and there were no signs of forced entry. At the time of her death, Los Angeles police had been attempting to reach Berman in order to talk to her about the disappearance of Kathleen Durst.
According to The New York Times, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office reopened the investigation into the death of Berman and were working on connecting that case to the one involving Kathleen Durst. The arrest occurs just before the finale of a six-part HBO documentary series called The Jinx: The Life and Death of Robert Durst. The documentary reveals new evidence in the cases that may have helped the investigation.
The eccentric Durst was arrested and tried for murder in 2003 after shooting and dismembering his 71-year-old neighbor, Morris Black. At the time, Durst was living in Galveston, Texas, under the guise of a mute woman. He was acquitted of the murder by a jury who believed his claims that he killed his elderly neighbor in self-defense. Durst settled in Texas after winning a settlement of approximately $65 million from a lawsuit against various family trusts.
Durst is estranged from his family, which runs The Durst Organization. The company manages the maintenance and the lease of One World Trade Center. The skyscraper was constructed on the site of the World Trade Center towers which fell after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and is listed as the tallest building in the western hemisphere. The organization also owns 11 office towers in Manhattan.
In 2014, Durst was arrested after urinating on a rack of candy in a Houston drugstore. In December of the same year, he was charged with trespassing on property owned by his family.
While speaking with The New York Times, Durst continued to assert his innocence, stating that he did not have “the faintest idea” as to who might have killed Berman or what could have happened to his first wife. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Monday.
By Jennifer Pfalz