Robert Durst to Face Wrongful Death Suit From Family of Missing Wife

"That, sadly, was the closure we've been chasing after for years and years," Kathie McCormack's brother, Jim, says of 'The Jinx'

The family of Robert Durst's long-missing first wife, Kathleen, has begun the process of filing a wrongful death civil suit against the imprisoned real estate heir and suspected murderer, New York Magazine reports.

Kathleen McCormack — who went by Kathie — disappeared in 1982 after a fight with her husband at their home in South Salem, New York. As recently chronicled in the HBO docuseries, The Jinx, Durst told police that his wife returned to New York City alone that night, but no reliable witnesses could corroborate the trip. Her body has never been found, and Durst was never charged in her disappearance.

McCormack's family, however, has now retained a criminal lawyer and former Manhattan prosecutor, Alex Spiro, who opened the path to a wrongful death suit by filing a petition to appoint Kathie's brother, Jim McCormack, administrator of her estate. Kathie's mother, Ann Catherine, is the current administrator, but the 101-year-old would be unable to represent the family in the proceedings.

Spiro wrote in his filing: "The reason James McCormack wishes to be appointed administrator at this time is to commence a possible wrongful death action against the decedent's husband, Robert Durst.”

Jim McCormack admitted the family held off filing a civil suit against Durst for so many years partly out of hope that Kathie might return one day. "I know it sounds sophomoric to think that, but she's my baby sister and that's how I felt," he said.

The turning point came when he, along with other members of the McCormack family, watched the stunning finale of The Jinx, which ended with Durst in the bathroom, muttering into a still live mic, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course." The Jinx also helped make the family's pursuit of a wrongful death suit legally possible as New York places a two-year statute of limitations on such proceedings unless there's new evidence. 

"That, sadly, was the closure we've been chasing after for years and years," Jim McCormack said. "After 33 years of hell — really, there's no other way to describe what our family has been through — we decided it's time to sue."

A wrongful death suit would add to Durst's already-packed court schedule. The 72-year-old is in federal prison in Louisiana on gun and drug charges while also awaiting trial in Los Angeles on charges of first-degree murder for the shooting of his friend Susan Berman. Durst was arrested for Berman's murder shortly before the final episode of The Jinx aired; while the docuseries played some role in the arrest, investigators also uncovered a damning letter that Durst admitted to writing to one of his alleged victims.