Robert Durst, the wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive who was dogged for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and deaths of those around him before he was convicted of killing his best friend and sentenced to life in prison, has died. He was 78.
Durst died in a state prison hospital facility in Stockton, his attorney Chip Lewis said. He said it was from natural causes due to a number of health issues.
Durst was convicted in September of shooting Susan Berman at point-blank range in 2000 at her Los Angeles home. He was sentenced to life Oct. 14. Two days later, he was hospitalized with COVID-19, his trial attorney Dick DeGuerin said.
Durst had long been suspected of killing his wife, Kathie, who went missing in 1982 and has been declared legally dead. He was finally indicted in November for second-degree murder in her death.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles presented evidence Durst silenced Berman because she helped him cover up Kathie’s killing and was about to talk to investigators. They also argued he killed a Texas man who discovered his identity when he was living secretly in Galveston after Berman’s killing. Durst was acquitted of murder in that case in 2003, after testifying he shot him in self-defense.
Durst discussed the cases and made several damning statements including a stunning confession during an unguarded moment in the six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
The show made his name known to a new generation and brought renewed scrutiny and suspicion from authorities. He was arrested in Berman’s killing the night before the final episode, which closed with him mumbling to himself in a bathroom while still wearing hot mic saying: “You’re caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
The quotes were later revealed to have been manipulated for dramatic effect but the production – done with Durst’s cooperation against the advice from his lawyer and friends – dredged up new evidence including an envelope that connected Durst to the scene of Berman’s killing as well as incriminating statements he made.
Police had received a note directing them to Berman’s home with only the word “CADAVER” written in block letters.
In interviews given between 2010 and 2015, Durst told the makers of the “The Jinx” that he didn’t write the note, but whoever did had killed her.
“You’re writing a note to the police that only the killer could have written,” Durst said.
His defense lawyers conceded in the run-up to trial that Durst had written the note, and prosecutors said it amounted to a confession.