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Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Robert Durst, the wealthy New York estate heir and failed fugitive who has been pursued for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and death of those around him before being convicted of the murder of his best friend and sentenced to life in prison is dead. He was 78 years old.

Durst died in a state prison hospital in Stockton, his lawyer Chip Lewis has said. He said it was natural causes due to a number of health issues.

Durst was convicted in September of shooting at point blank range at Susan Berman in 2000 at her Los Angeles home. He was sentenced to life on October 14. Two days later he was hospitalized with COVID-19, his trial lawyer Dick DeGuerin said.

Durst had long been suspected of killing his wife, Kathie, who disappeared in 1982 and was declared legally dead. He was eventually charged in November with second degree murder in his death.

FILE – Real estate heir Robert Durst sits in his murder trial at the Los Angeles Airport courthouse on Thursday, March 5, 2020. Durst, the wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive who has been sued for many decades with suspicion in the disappearance and death of those around him before he was convicted of murdering his best friend and sentenced to life in prison, died on Monday, January 10, 2022. He was 78 years old. (Robyn Beck / AFP via AP, Pool, File)

Los Angeles prosecutors presented evidence that Durst silenced Berman because she helped him cover up Kathie’s murder and was about to speak to investigators. They also claimed he killed a man from Texas who discovered his identity while secretly living in Galveston after Berman was murdered. Durst was acquitted of the murder in that case in 2003, after testifying that he shot him in self-defense.

Durst has discussed the cases and made several damning statements, including a startling confession during an unsupervised moment in HBO’s six-part documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst”.

The show brought its name to a new generation and sparked renewed scrutiny and mistrust from authorities. He was arrested in Berman’s murder the night before the last episode, which ended with him muttering in a bathroom while still wearing a hot mic saying, “You’re caught! What did I do? Killed them all, of course.

The quotes were later found to have been manipulated to dramatic effect, but the production – made with Durst’s cooperation against the advice of his lawyer and friends – unearthed new evidence, including an envelope connecting Durst to the scene of Berman’s murder as well as incriminating statements. he did.

Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78
FILE – New York real estate heir Robert Durst, center, is escorted by Northampton County Deputy Sheriffs Dave Falco, back left, and Keith Border, back center, as They are heading to a Northampton County courtroom before a hearing informing Durst of his rights under extradition laws on December 3, 2001, in Easton, Pa., Durst’s attorney, John Waldron, is seen in law. Durst, the wealthy estate heir convicted of murdering a friend and suspected of other deaths, has died. He was 78 years old. (AP Photo / Robert Fish, File)

Police had received a note directing them to Berman’s home with only the word “BODY” written in all capital letters.

In interviews given between 2010 and 2015, Durst told the creators of “The Jinx” that he didn’t write the note, but whoever did killed her.

“You write a note to the police that only the killer could have written,” Durst said.

His defense attorneys admitted as the trial approached that Durst wrote the note, and prosecutors said it amounted to a confession.

Clips from “The Jinx” and the 2010 film “All Good Things,” in which Ryan Gosling played a fictional version of Durst, had lead roles at the trial.

Just like Durst himself. His lawyers again took the risk of putting him on the stand for what turned out to be around three weeks of testimony. It didn’t work like it did in Texas.

Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78
FILE – New York real estate scion Robert Durst speaks and testifies during his murder trial at the Inglewood courthouse on August 9, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. Durst, the wealthy real estate heir convicted of the murder of a friend and suspected of other deaths, has died. He was 78 years old. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

During a devastating cross-examination by District Attorney John Lewin, Durst admitted that he had lied under oath in the past and that he would do it again to get out of trouble.

“‘Did you kill Susan Berman? “Is strictly speculative,” Durst said from the stand. “I didn’t kill Susan Berman. But if I had, I would be lying about it.

The jury quickly returned a guilty verdict.

It seemed for a long time that he would avoid such condemnations.

Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78
FILE – In this Tuesday April 14, 2015 file photo, Robert Durst leaves Federal Court in an Orleans Parish Sheriff’s vehicle after his arraignment in New Orleans. Durst, the wealthy New York estate heir and failed fugitive who was pursued for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and death of those around him before being convicted of murdering his best friend and sentenced to death. life imprisonment, died on Monday January. 10, 2022. He was 78 years old. (AP Photo / Gerald Herbert, File)

Durst fled in late 2000 after New York authorities reopened an investigation into his wife’s disappearance, renting a modest apartment in Galveston and disguising herself as a silent woman.

In 2001, body parts of a neighbor, Morris Black, began washing in Galveston Bay.

Arrested in the murder, Durst skipped bail. He was arrested for shoplifting a sandwich six weeks later in Bethlehem, Pa., Where he had attended college. Police found $ 37,000 in cash and two handguns in his car.

He would testify that Black had pointed a gun at him and that he died when the gun exploded during a fight. He explained to jurors in detail how he bought tools and dismembered and disposed of Black’s body. He was acquitted of the murder. He pleaded guilty to violating his bond and falsifying evidence for the dismemberment. He served three years in prison.

Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78
FILE – Real estate heir Robert Durst appears at an airport branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court with defense attorney Dick DeGuerin for a hearing on pre-trial motions, Friday 6 January 2017, in Los Angeles. Durst, the wealthy New York estate heir and failed fugitive who was pursued for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and death of those around him before being convicted of murdering his best friend and sentenced to death. life imprisonment, died on Monday January. 10, 2022. He was 78 years old. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

Durst had bladder cancer and his health deteriorated during the Berman trial. He was escorted to court in a wheelchair in prison gear every day because his lawyers said he was unable to change into a suit. But the judge refused further delays after a 14-month hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic.

DeGuerin said Durst was “very, very sick” at his sentencing hearing and that it was the worst he has watched in the 20 years he has spent representing him.

Durst entered the courtroom with wide, empty eyes. Towards the end of the hearing, after Berman’s relatives explained to the judge how his death had turned their lives upside down, Durst coughed loudly and then appeared to have difficulty breathing. His chest rose and he lowered his mask under his mouth and began to suck in air.

Son of real estate mogul Seymour Durst, Robert Durst was born April 12, 1943 and raised in Scarsdale, New York. He would later say that at 7 years old, he witnessed the death of his mother in a fall in their house.

Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78
FILE – Real estate heir Robert Durst sits in his murder trial at the Los Angeles Airport courthouse on Thursday, March 5, 2020. Durst, the wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive who has been sued for many decades with suspicion in the disappearance and death of those around him before he was convicted of murdering his best friend and sentenced to life in prison, died on Monday, January 10, 2022. He was 78 years old. (Robyn Beck / AFP via AP, Pool, File)

He received a degree in economics in 1965 from Lehigh University, where he played lacrosse. He entered a doctoral program at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he met Berman, but dropped out and returned to New York in 1969.

He became a developer in the family business, but his father abandoned him to make his younger brother and rival, Douglas, the head of the Durst Organization in 1992.

In 1971, Robert Durst met Kathie McCormack and the two tied the knot on his 30th birthday in 1973.

In January 1982, his wife was a final year medical school student when she disappeared. She had shown up unexpectedly at a friend’s dinner party in Newtown, Connecticut, then left after a call from her husband to return to their home in South Salem, New York.

Robert Durst, wealthy real estate heir convicted of murdering friend, dies at 78
FILE – Multi-millionaire murder accused Robert Durst, right, is congratulated by his attorneys Dick DeGuerin, left, and Mike Ramsey after receiving a not guilty verdict on November 11, 2003, in Galveston, Texas. Durst, the wealthy New York estate heir and failed fugitive who was pursued for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and death of those around him before being convicted of murdering his best friend and sentenced to death. life imprisonment, died on Monday January. October 10, 2022. He was 78 years old. (AP Photo / Pat Sullivan, file)

Robert Durst told police he last saw her when he put her on a train to stay at their Manhattan apartment because she was in class the next day.

He divorced eight years later, demanding the abandonment of the spouse, and in 2017, at the request of her family, she was declared legally deceased.

Robert Durst is survived by his second wife Debrah Charatan, whom he married in 2000. He did not have children.

Under California law, a conviction is overturned if an accused dies while the case is on appeal, said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School.

Lewis said an appeal has been filed for Durst.


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