(NEW YORK) — Millionaire real estate scion Robert Durst has been charged with murder in the death of his first wife, Kathie Durst, nearly four decades after she disappeared and just days after he was sentenced to life in prison in California for killing a confidante who helped him cover up the slaying.
The New York City police confirmed that Durst has been charged. Durst is 78 and was admitted to the hospital in Los Angeles on Friday after he tested positive for COVID-19.
In Lewisboro, New York, Tuesday saw a police detective file a criminal charge against Durst. It was for the second-degree killing of Kathie Durst who disappeared in 1982. He had not been previously charged in Kathie Durst’s disappearance.
The case garnered renewed public interest after HBO aired a documentary in 2015 in which the eccentric heir appeared to admit killing people, stepping off camera and muttering to himself on a live microphone: “Killed them all, of course.”
Learn more Robert Durst was acquitted years ago of murder. The Jinx
The complaint charging Durst wasn’t announced at the time by law enforcement officials or Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah, who recently convened a grand jury as she seeks to indict him for the killing. The grand jury meets and hears witnesses, and might eventually indict Durst.
“The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office can confirm that a complaint charging Robert Durst with the murder of Kathleen Durst was filed in Lewisboro Town Court on October 19, 2021. We have no further comment at this time,” Rocah’s office said in a statement Friday.
Robert Abrams, a lawyer for Kathie Durst’s family, said in a statement: “Robert Durst has now been formally charged with the murder of Kathleen McCormack Durst. This is a very positive development. At this time, however, we will not be making any further comments until the grand jury process is completed.”
Messages seeking comment were left with Durst’s lawyers.
The one-page felony complaint filed in Lewisboro cites evidence in the files of the Westchester district attorney, the New York State Police and the Los Angeles district attorney, as well as “conversations with numerous witnesses and observations of defendants, recorded interviews and observations of Mr. Durst’s recorded interviews and court testimony in related proceedings.”
Kathie Durst, then 29, was in her last months of medical school. She was the one she saw. Robert Durst (38 at the time) was her husband of nearly nine year and they were living together in South Salem. This is a Lewisboro community. Her remains were never discovered. Her family requested that she be declared legally deceased in 2017.
The complaint charging Robert Durst bears the name of state police Investigator Joseph Becerra, who reopened the probe in 1999 after receiving a tip about Kathie Durst’s disappearance. Authorities searched a lake and the couple’s home but turned up little evidence, with Becerra equating the search to a “a needle in a haystack.”
Becerra testified in July at Robert Durst’s California trial that he wanted to interview Robert Durst’s friend, Susan Berman, but never got the chance because Durst shot and killed her in 2000. Los Angeles prosecutors said Robert Durst killed Berman because she was preparing to confess to police how she helped him cover up Kathie Durst’s death.
Robert Durst filed a criminal complaint Tuesday. This was in addition to grand jury proceedings that could last for several weeks. These filings can be seen as the first steps in criminal proceedings, since all New York felony cases must have a grand jury indictment before proceeding to trial, unless a defendant waives this requirement.
After Berman’s death, Durst went into hiding, disguising himself as a mute woman living in a cheap apartment in Galveston, Texas. After killing a neighbour and chopping up his corpse, Durst was later released after explaining to the jury that it was self-defense.
Durst also received a sentence of over seven years imprisonment in 2016, after pleading guilty in 2016 to federal weapons charges stemming out of a New Orleans 2015 arrest.
Durst’s family owns more than 16 million square feet of real estate in New York and Philadelphia, including a 10% stake in One World Trade Center, the Manhattan skyscraper formerly known as the Freedom Tower. Family members bought out Robert Durst’s stake in the business for $65 million in 2006.
The HBO 2015 documentary The Jinx: The Deaths and Life of Robert Durst, Durst appeared to admit killing people and admitted he made up details about what happened the night she disappeared because he was “hoping that would just make everything go away.”
Durst has many medical conditions and sat in an electric wheelchair during the California sentencing hearing. He read his lawyer’s questions from a tablet giving live transcriptions because he struggles with hearing. He denied killing Kathie Durst. After her medical school called to report that she hadn’t been going to class, he said he figured she was “out someplace having fun” and suggested that perhaps drug use was to blame.
“It hadn’t occurred to me that anything had happened to her,” Durst said, speaking slowly in a strained, raspy voice. “It was more like: What had Kathie done to Kathie?”