After years of trials for two murders, real estate heir and alleged serial killer Robert Durst was convicted on Friday, September 17, for the murder of longtime friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000. Who has the New York City native been accused of killing over the years? Keep scrolling to find out.
In 2000, Durst, 78, moved to Galveston, Texas, and became friends with another tenant in his building, Morris Black. Durst relocated down south to avoid further scrutiny from the public and the police when the case of his missing first wife, Kathie McCormack Durst, was reopened. He even went as far as to go incognito dressed as a mute woman named Dorothy Ciner when he moved as to not attract attention — but his disguise is what ignited his friendship with Black.
In September 2001, Durst alleged that he and Black got into a physical altercation about a handgun and Black was accidentally shot and killed. Black’s torso was found floating near the shoreline of Galveston Bay by the end of the month, and garbage bags of human remains were also discovered nearby. In October, Durst was arrested but posted $300,000 bail. He failed to show up for a court hearing in his case and was immediately labeled a fugitive.
Seven weeks later, Durst was arrested for shoplifting a sandwich in Pennsylvania, which allowed police to take him back into custody. In 2003, Durst stood trial for Black’s murder, during which he pleaded self-defense for the crime and even admitted to cutting up the body for disposal despite allegedly not intending to kill his neighbor. He was acquitted of the murder in November 2003.
Before Durst relocated to Galveston to evade law enforcement looking for answers about his first wife, the New York State district attorney’s office had scheduled an interview with Susan Berman, Durst’s longtime friend from college. She had become his unofficial spokesperson when McCormack first went missing and handled his correspondences during that time — so the police were interested in questioning her.
In December 2000, Berman’s body was found at her home in the Benedict Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles. Police determined she had been murdered the day before she was found and the killing was performed execution-style with a single bullet to the back of the head.
Days later, the Beverly Hills Police Department received what would come to be known as the “cadaver” note: a handwritten sheet of paper containing Susan Berman’s address and the word “CADAVER” in block letters and postmarked the day before her body was found. In the 2015 HBO docuseries The Jinx, Durst himself said the note could’ve only been sent from Berman’s killer, but handwriting analysis was inconclusive at the time the note was discovered.
However, lawyers for the real estate mogul revealed late last year that Durst did write the anonymous note. “This does not change the fact that Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman,” the court filing read.
In March 2020, Durst’s trial for the murder of Berman commenced, but it was postponed for 14 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The court reconvened in May 2021, and in September 2021, Durst was convicted in the killing of Berman after nearly four months of testimony.
Durst has yet to be sentenced but his jurors agreed that the crime met “special circumstances” in California law, which would allow Durst to be sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a witness to a crime, as well as lying in wait and using a firearm in the murder. California has a moratorium on the death penalty, so Durst cannot be sentenced to death for his crime. His sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for October 18.
Kathie McCormack Durst
Durst married McCormack in April 1973. Their blissful marriage quickly became strained, particularly because of discussions regarding building a family. McCormack had spoken at length with friends about her fear of her husband prior to her disappearance. She was last seen alive in January 1982 after a party. Durst alleged that he dropped her off at the Katonah, New York, train station so she could head back into Manhattan. Five days later, he reported her missing to the police. Her case was reopened in 2000, which prompted Durst to go into hiding.
In May 2021, jurors in Durst’s trial for the killing of Susan Berman heard prerecorded testimony from Dr. Peter Wilk, a now-retired surgeon who had a harrowing conversation with McCormack in 1981, one year before her disappearance.
“She had told me that she thought that her husband might kill her,” the former medical professional 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. 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.”
McCormack was legally declared dead in 2017. Durst has yet to be convicted in McCormack’s case.
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