After eluding the law for decades, eccentric New York real estate heir Robert Durst is finally set to stand trial for the murder of his best friend in California nearly 20 years ago.
Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday, and Durst is charged with one count of murder of Susan Berman, the daughter of a prominent Las Vegas mobster, who was found shot in the back of the head at point-blank range in her Los Angeles home on Dec. 23, 2000.
The bizarre billionaire’s life has been shrouded in suspicion and controversy since the day his wife Kathleen vanished in a New York suburb in 1982. Her body was never found, but investigators presumed her dead and suspected Durst as the killer, although he was never charged.
Berman fiercely defended Durst throughout the media frenzy that followed his wife’s disappearance, and prosecutors said Durst later killed her to keep her from revealing what she knew about Kathleen’s demise.
Following his wife’s death, Durst left New York and disguised himself as a mute woman to feign anonymity, prosecutors said.
He later was arrested in October 2001 on charges that he murdered and dismembered his elderly neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas. Black also was the landlord to his $300-a-month rental room.
A jury eventually acquitted Durst in 2005 after his attorneys argued self-defense.
This time, prosecutors have been determined to nab Durst, 76, based on a slew of circumstantial evidence, including a cryptic note sent to police with Berman’s address on it that read “CADAVER,” which prosecutors said Durst wrote. The address on the note misspelled the location — Beverly Hills — as “BEVERLEY,” written in block letters with the same spelling error identical to a previous letter Durst wrote to Berman when she was alive.
The discovery was made as Durst participated in a 2015 multipart docuseries with HBO filmmakers entitled “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
In the series, he was presented with the note on camera and denied writing it, but said, “only the killer could have written” it. Yet, Durst was unable to distinguish between the note and a letter that he had written prior to that.
He blinked, burped and put his head in his hands before denying being the killer. After the interview, he went to use the bathroom unaware that he was still wearing a microphone. Filmmakers said they didn’t realize until two years later as they were editing the film that they captured audio of him in the bathroom.
The film ended with Durst’s voice: “You’re caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
However, what seemed like a bombshell confession actually had been edited by filmmakers, combining all three phrases into one sentence.
Prosecutors are expected to introduce testimony from former friends of both Durst and Berman, who said Berman was afraid of him because he confided to her that he had abused then killed Kathleen so many years ago.