Al Seib/Los Angeles Times by way of AP
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his finest good friend 20 years in the past in a case that took on new life after the New York actual property inheritor participated in a documentary that linked him to the slaying linked to his spouse’s 1982 disappearance.
Durst, 78, was convicted of the first-degree homicide of Susan Berman, who was shot at point-blank vary at the back of the pinnacle in her Los Angeles dwelling in December 2000 as she was ready to inform police how she helped cowl up his spouse’s killing.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who instructed associates she supplied a phony alibi for him after his spouse vanished.
Prosecutors painted a portrait of a wealthy narcissist who did not suppose the legal guidelines utilized to him and ruthlessly disposed of people that stood in his manner. They interlaced proof of Berman’s killing with Kathie Durst’s suspected loss of life and the 2001 killing of a tenant in a Texas flophouse the place Robert Durst holed up whereas on the run from New York authorities.
Durst was arrested in 2015 whereas hiding out in a New Orleans resort on the eve of the airing of the ultimate episode of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” through which he was confronted with incriminating proof and made what prosecutors mentioned was a confession.
Durst may very well be heard muttering to himself on a reside microphone in a toilet: “There it is. You’re caught.”
Durst’s determination to testify in his personal protection — hoping for a repeat of his acquittal within the Texas killing — backfired as he was pressured to confess mendacity below oath, made damning admissions and had his credibility destroyed when questioned by the prosecutor.
The conviction marks a victory for authorities who’ve sought to place Durst behind bars for homicide in three states. Durst was by no means charged within the disappearance of his spouse, who has by no means been discovered, and was acquitted of homicide in Galveston, Texas, the place he admitted dismembering the sufferer’s physique and tossing it out to sea.
The story of Durst, the estranged scion of a New York actual property developer, has been fodder for New York tabloids since his spouse vanished. He supplied plot twists so quite a few that Hollywood could not resist making a function movie about his life that finally led to the documentary and discovery of latest proof in Berman’s slaying.
Durst ran from the legislation a number of instances, disguised as a mute girl in Texas and staying below an alias at a New Orleans resort with a shoulders-to-head latex masks for a presumed getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after shoplifting a rooster sandwich in Pennsylvania, regardless of having $37,000 in money — together with two handguns — in his rental automotive.
He later quipped that he was “the worst fugitive the world has ever met.”
Durst escaped shut scrutiny from investigators when his spouse disappeared. But his troubles resurfaced in late 2000 when New York authorities reopened the case.
His lawyer instructed him to be ready to be charged within the case, and he fled a lifetime of luxurious to Galveston, Texas, the place he rented an affordable residence as “Dorothy Ciner,” a girl he pretended could not communicate. He finally dropped the disguise after mishaps that included strolling right into a males’s restroom and igniting his wig at a bar whereas lighting a cigarette.
Just earlier than Christmas, he testified that he traveled to LA to go to Berman for a “staycation” with plans to see a few of the vacationer websites.
Durst, who had lengthy denied ever being in LA on the time of Berman’s loss of life, testified at trial that he discovered her useless on a bed room ground when he arrived.
Berman, a author who had been associates with Durst since they have been college students on the University of California, Los Angeles, had severe monetary issues on the time. Durst had given her $50,000, and prosecutors urged she was attempting to leverage more cash from him by telling him she was going to talk with the cops.
Nine months after her loss of life, Durst killed his Galveston neighbor Morris Black, in what he mentioned was both an accident or self-defense. Durst mentioned he discovered Black, who he had grow to be associates with, in his residence holding Durst’s .22-caliber pistol.
Durst was acquitted after testifying the 71-year-old was killed in a battle for the gun. Durst then chopped up Black’s physique and tossed it out to sea. He was convicted of destroying proof for discarding the physique components.
After the trial and the ghastly proof of the dismemberment, Durst discovered he was a pariah, he mentioned. Despite an estimated $100 million fortune, he was turned away by a number of condominium associations and mentioned the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would not take his cash except he donated anonymously.
Durst thought a 2010 function movie primarily based on his life, “All Good Things,” starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, had been largely correct and painted a sympathetic portrait, regardless of implicating him in three killings. He solely objected that he was depicted him killing his canine — one thing he would by no means do.
He reached out to the filmmaker and agreed to take a seat for prolonged interviews for a documentary. He inspired his associates to do the identical and gave the filmmakers entry to bins of his data.
He got here to deeply remorse his determination after “The Jinx” aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very big mistake.”
The documentary filmmakers found an important piece of proof that linked him to an nameless observe despatched to police directing them to Berman’s lifeless physique.
Durst, who was so assured he could not be linked to the observe, instructed filmmakers “only the killer could have written” the observe.
Filmmakers confronted him with a letter he despatched Berman a yr earlier. The handwriting was equivalent and Beverly Hills was misspelled as “Beverley” on each. He could not inform the 2 aside.
The gotcha second supplied the climax of the film as Durst stepped off digital camera and muttered to himself on a reside microphone within the toilet: “Killed them all, of course.”
During 14 days of testimony that was so punishing Judge Mark Windham referred to as it “devastating,” Durst denied killing his spouse and Berman, although he mentioned he would lie if he did.
He tried to clarify away the observe and what prosecutors mentioned was a confession throughout an unguarded second.
For the primary time, Durst admitted on the witness stand that he despatched the observe and had been in Los Angeles on the time of Berman’s loss of life.
Durst mentioned he despatched the observe as a result of he needed Berman to be discovered however did not need anybody to know he had been there as a result of it might look suspicious.
He acknowledged that even he had issue imagining he might have written the observe with out killing Berman.
“It’s very difficult to believe, to accept, that I wrote the letter and did not kill Susan Berman,” Durst testified.
A prosecutor mentioned it was one of many truest issues Durst mentioned amid a ton of lies.