Real estate heir and suspected serial killer Robert Durst made headlines for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in 1982. What do we know about the young medical student, her relationship with Durst and her harrowing case? Keep scrolling to find out.
The Dursts Originally Had a Happy Marriage
Durst met McCormack in late 1971. She was a medical student, and the pair bonded quickly over two dates. Shortly after, he invited her to share his Vermont home, as he had built a health food store business. By January 1972, she had relocated there with him. It wasn’t long until Durst’s father pressured him to move back to Manhattan to work in the family business like the rest of his siblings. After returning to New York City, the couple married in April 1973.
Kathie May Have Been a Victim of Domestic Abuse Prior to Her Disappearance
As time went on, the former couple’s relationship became strained. In HBO’s The Jinx, Durst cited the issue of having children as one of their regular arguments because he didn’t want to have any. Though she was just a few months shy of earning her pediatric degree when she disappeared, the source of her stress seemed to stem from her relationship rather than her studies.
One of McCormack’s closest friends, Gilberte Najamy, spoke at length in the HBO docuseries about McCormack’s fear of her husband. Following Najamy’s death in 2015, her sister, Fadwa, testified about McCormack’s behavior the last night she was seen alive. The medical student attended an event thrown by Gilberte at her friend’s home in Newtown, Connecticut on January 31, 1982 — but left hurriedly, puzzling the people close to her.
“She was upset … frantic, the way she came in the house,” Fadwa testified in May 2021 at Durst’s Los Angeles trial for the murder of former friend Susan Berman in 2000. “It was very clear she was not happy, not content and had something to talk about.” She recalled McCormack saying she had just been in a fight with Durst and, a short time later, Najamy heard her on a phone call with him. “I heard her tell him she was on her way home in a pleasant voice and that she loved him,” Najamy testified. “That’s what victims of domestic violence have to do to survive.”
Prior to Najamy’s testimony, jurors in the case heard pre-recorded testimony from Dr. Peter Wilk, a now-retired surgeon. He described a conversation he had with McCormack in 1981, one year before her disappearance.
“She had told me that she thought that her husband might kill her,” McCormack’s medical school mentor said in his testimony. “She was very emotional. She was shaking. She was traumatized. She said that she was going through a divorce, that it was a terrible time.” He added, “She used a word that I have never heard before. She said there was a homicidal side to him and that was shocking to me. The concept that somebody would use that word has embedded.”
Kathie’s Body Has Yet to Be Found
Durst maintains that after McCormack left Najamy’s party, he met up with her at their home in South Salem, New York before putting her on the commuter train to New York City at the Katonah station. He also claimed he had a drink with a neighbor and then spoke to his wife on the phone that night when she arrived at their apartment on Riverside Drive.
Her body has yet to be found — but in May 2021, Westchester County district attorney Mimi Rocah announced that McCormack’s disappearance had been reclassified as a murder and would be reinvestigated.
Durst died at the age of 78 on January 10, 2022, his lawyer Chip Lewis confirmed in a statement.
“Mr. Durst passed away early this morning while in the custody of the California Department of Corrections,” Lewis told In Touch following Durst’s hospitalization for COVID-19 in October. “We understand that his death was due to natural causes associated with the litany of medical issues we had repeatedly reported to the court over the last couple of years. We will issue no further statements and will not entertain any questions out of respect.”
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