Robert Durst: Convicted murderer and subject of ‘The Jinx’ dies in prison at 78

The 78-year-old was serving a life sentence in California for the killing of his confidante Susan Berman

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 10 January 2022 19:57
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Robert Durst jailed for life without parole for murder of friend Susan Berman
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Robert Durst, the scion of a wealthy New York business family, who was charged with multiple gruesome killings that later became of the subject of the HBO true-crime miniseries ‘The Jinx’, died in prison on Monday. He was 78.

Durst, who was serving a life sentence in Stockton, California for the killing of Susan Berman, a former friend, died of cardiac arrest while in hospital for testing, his lawyer confirmed to The New York Times.

The controversial real estate heir, believed to be worth upwards of $100 million, is suspected of having killed three people: his wife Kathleen Durst, Susan Berman, and Morris Black, a neighbour. (Durst was only ever convicted for the killing of Berman.)

In 1982, Kathleen Durst went missing under suspicious circumstances and was never seen again, just months shy of graduation from medical school.

She and Robert reportedly had frequent public, sometimes violent, arguments, and Kathleen was treated for bruises on her body. She also claimed that Robert forced her to have an abortion. Her husband was suspected in the disappearance, but he always denied any involvement.

The next chapter of Durst’s made-for-tabloid saga came in 2000, when Susan Berman, a friend and confidante, was found shot in her Benedict Canyon home in Los Angeles. Ms Berman, a journalist, had been Durst’s main spokesperson and defender in public. Before she died, Ms Berman was reportedly about to tell authorities that Kathleen Durst hadn’t disappeared but rather had been killed, and that she had aided in Robert Durst’s coverup of the murder.

Durst sent an anonymous letter to Los Angeles police with the word “cadaver” directing them to Ms Berman’s body, which he later conceded in court that he had written.

But it would be more than a decade before Durst faced charges for the killing.

Instead, he went on the run across the country in the year after Berman’s death, sometimes disguising himself as a woman to avoid notice.

In 2001, a man named Morris Black was shot and killed in Durst’s Texas apartment. Durst claimed the death occurred when the two were have an argument and his gun accidentally went off. Black’s body was dismembered and dumped in Galveston Bay, and police arrested Durst on suspicion of murder.

He jumped bail and went on the run again, before being apprehended in a Pennsylvania supermarket stealing a chicken sandwich, where police found guns and $37,000 in cash in his rental car, along with Black’s driver’s licence.

Durst was acquitted in 2003.

A major turning point came in 2015, when Durst’s story reached its biggest audience yet, thanks to the HBO mini-series “The Jinx.”

That year, as authorities prepared to arrest Durst in Berman’s killing, he was caught on tape seeming to admit to all three killings.

Though he ultimately didn’t cooperate with the HBO show, he did sit for a series of interviews with its producers.

After one conversation, thinking he was no longer being recorded, Durst went into a bathroom and spoke of the slayings in a monologue.

“What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” he says in the tape.

His trial for Berman’s killing began in 2020, but was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic. He was convicted in September, with both his brother Douglas and a friend, Nick Chavin, testifying against him.

“It was her or me. I had no choice,” Durst said of Berman’s killing, according to Mr Chavin’s testimony.

This is a breaking news story and will continue to be updated with new information.

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