Childhood & Early Life
Robert Alan Durst was born on 12th April 1943, in New York, US to real estate investor, Seymour Durst, and his wife, Bernice Herstein. He was the eldest of the four children of the couple.
At the young age of seven, Robert Durst lost his mother when she fell from the roof of their residence in Scarsdale, New York. He claimed that he had witnessed the tragic incident; however, later his brother Douglas denied it.
When Robert was just ten years of age, a psychiatrist's report mentioned ‘personality decomposition and possibly even schizophrenia’.
For his education, he went to Scarsdale High School. In 1965, he graduated from Lehigh University with a BA degree in Economics.
He joined University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for a doctoral program; however, left it midways. It was here that he met Susan Berman, the daughter of a mobster, who became his lifelong friend.
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Marriage With Kathleen & Her Disappearance
In 1971, Robert Durst met Kathleen McCormack, a dental hygenist and the two moved in together in Vermont and opened a health food store. Later, he returned to join the family business.
He married Kathleen in 1973. He was reportedly violent and controlling in his marriage.
He began seeing Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence. By 1982, the couple was staying in separate residences in Manhattan.
Kathleen wanted to become a paediatrician and was a fourth-year student of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. However, just a few months before she completed her course, she disappeared.
On January 31st, 1982, she was last seen at her friend’s party in Connecticut where she appeared upset and left for her South Salem home after receiving phone call from Durst.
Durst claimed that they had a big fight after which he dropped her to Katonah train station and later spoke to her over telephone.
He filed a missing report five days later, after the medical school supervisor informed him that she had called on February 1st and taken a sick leave.
A doorman at her apartment reported that he had seen her on 1st February, but was unsure of the identity since he had seen from behind and a distance. Durst declined any connection in his wife’ disappearance. In 1990, he divorced her, claiming spousal abandonment.
Robert Durst remained a part of his family business till 1992 when his father selected his younger brother Douglas as the designated successor. He left and stayed at various places.
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Killing of Susan Berman & Morris Black
In 2000, the case was reopened to be investigated as a homicide. Robert Durst secretly moved to rented apartment in Galveston, Texas to avoid the media. He posed as a mute woman, Dorothy Ciner, and interacted with his landlord solely through handwritten notes.
In December 2000, he wedded Debrah Charatan, a real estate broker from New York.
Investigators contacted Susan Berman to speak with her regarding McCormack disappearance. However, on 23rd December, Susan Berman was found dead by the police. She was shot execution-style at her home in Benedict Canyon, LA.
After few days, the Beverly Hills Police Department got a handwritten note with only Berman’s address and ‘cadaver’ written in block letter. In it, Beverly was misspelt as Beverley.
On October 9, 2001, Durst was taken into custody in Galveston for killing his 71 years old neighbour Morris Black. The body parts of latter were found floating in Galveston Bay.
He was released on bail but when he failed to appear a court hearing on 16th October 2001, an arrest warrant was issued for him.
After weeks of manhunt, he was eventually arrested after he attempted to steal band-aids, a newspaper and a sandwich from a supermarket in Pennsylvania despite having money in his pocket.
Upon searching his car, the police discovered $37,000 in cash, two guns, marijuana and Black's driver's license.
In 2003, Durst went on trial for the murder of Morris Black. He testified that the two men had got engaged in a struggle over a handgun in which he accidentally shot Black in the face while defending himself. He also admitted to dismembering the body and disposing it off in Galveston Bay.
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On grounds of self-defence, he was acquitted from the charges of murdering Black on November 11, 2003.
In 2004, he pleaded guilty to bond jumping and evidence tampering and was sent to prison.
In 2005, while out on a parole, he violated the terms of parole and was sent back to jail.
In 1994, Robert had begun a legal case to get his family’s wealth. In 2006, he received $65 million to settle the case.
In 2010, a movie ‘All Good Things’, depicted a fictionalised version of Robert Durst’s life. After this, he agreed to be interviewed for a six part HBO series on him.
In 2012, during a meeting with the makers, in a private moment off camera when he did not notice that the microphone was still on, he said, ‘What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course’.
Susan Berman’s stepson gave the producer a 1999 letter written by Robert Durst to Berman in which Beverly was misspelt the same way as in the 2000 ‘cadaver’ letter received by the police.
Durst was arrested on charges of Berman’s murder before the final episode of the series, ‘The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst’ was aired in March 2015. At the time of his arrest he had in his possession a gun, fake ID, latex mask and more than $40,000 cash.
In 2016, he was given 85 months prison term in California after he pleaded guilty to weapon charges.
In October 2018, Los Angeles County Superior Judge determined that there were sufficient proofs to try Durst for the murder of Susan Berman. He again pleaded not guilty.
In March 2020, his trial in the murder of Susan Berman began, though it was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Apart from the three cases, investigators have also reportedly looked into Durst’s involvement in the vanishing of 18-year-old Lynne Schulze from Vermont, 16-year-old Karen Mitchell from California and 18-year-old Kristen Modafferi from San Francisco.