Millionaire skyscraper scion Robert Durst has been charged with the decades-old murder of his first wife, Kathie Durst, a medical student who went missing in New York in 1982, officials confirmed Friday.
“The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office can confirm that a complaint charging Robert Durst with the murder of Kathleen Durst was filed in Lewisboro Town Court on October 19, 2021,” spokesperson Jess Vecchiarelli said in a statement.
A source previously told Rolling Stone that a secret grand jury was empaneled last week to hear witness testimony in the case.
“Robert Durst has now been formally charged with the murder of Kathleen McCormack Durst. We are very happy with this development. At this time however, we will not be making any further comments until the grand jury process is completed,” Bob Abrams, the lawyer representing Kathie’s surviving family members, told Rolling Stone on Friday.
Last week, after Durst was sentenced to life with parole for the execution-style murder of his best friend Susan Berman in December 2000, Kathie’s brother Jim McCormack told Rolling Stone he wanted Westchester prosecutors to take action next.
“Justice has been served for Susan, her family, and her friends, and there’s a small, incremental measure of justice with this conviction for Kathie, but I’m looking for courage, not cowardice, from Westchester County. Now that this trial and the sentencing are over, everything pivots to Westchester County,” he said.
McCormack said he was convinced Durst killed his sister and that he hopes “an epiphany of conscience” from the real estate heir that might enable his family to recover Kathie’s remains.
Reached by phone Friday, Durst’s lead criminal lawyer Dick DeGuerin said it was too soon to comment on the new New York indictment. “I just heard about it. I have no information. I’m not making any statement at all,” he said.
DeGuerin also declined to comment on his famous client’s health status after the Los Angeles Times reported last week that Durst, 78, tested positive for Covid-19 after his sentencing and had been placed on a ventilator.
It was last month that a jury convicted Durst of murdering Berman because she was a witness in Kathie’s unsolved disappearance. They did so after prosecutors presented testimony claiming Durst was a physically abusive husband who terrorized Kathie and tossed out her belongings in a trash compacter soon after she went missing. Some witnesses told the jury that Berman confessed to them years later that she helped Durst with his alibi back in 1982.
According to prosecutors, Durst drafted Berman to pose as Kathie and call in sick to her new pediatrics clerkship the morning after she was last seen alive. The call proved critical because it led investigators to believe Kathie went missing from Manhattan, taking the focus off the couple’s cottage overlooking Truesdale Lake in South Salem, a hamlet in Lewisboro.
According to a friend and even Durst’s own testimony, Kathie vanished after spending a tense weekend with Durst in South Salem marked with arguments amid a crumbling marriage. Her friends and family have long suspected Durst killed Kathie and disposed of her body before reporting her missing and claiming he last saw her alive January 31, 1982, boarding a train in Katonah, New York, on her way to the couple’s Manhattan penthouse ahead of a busy school week.
Durst managed to avoid charges over Kathie’s death for years, but when state police and former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro started reinvestigating the case in 2000, he was so spooked, he fled to Texas where he rented a cramped apartment in Galveston while posing as a mute woman, he testified over the summer.
Prosecutors said Durst shot Berman in the back of her head in December 2000 because he feared she might start spilling what she knew about his actions after Kathie vanished. They said he later shot and killed his Texas neighbor Morris Black and dumped his dismembered body parts in Galveston Bay because Black had uncovered details about his past. Durst was charged with Black’s murder but was acquitted by a Texas jury after testifying he shot his neighbor in self-defense during a struggle over his gun. He claimed he hacked up Black’s body in a drunken panic.
Durst appeared to be living a life free of any lingering legal jeopardy over Berman’s and Kathie’s deaths when he decided to cooperate with the 2015 HBO true-crime documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. It proved to be his undoing. In the series, Durst admitted he lied to authorities about details regarding Kathie’s disappearance and appeared to give a confession of sorts on a hot mic that was still recording during a bathroom break. Jurors were never shown The Jinx during the Berman trial, but it led to the unearthing of a key piece of evidence that forced Durst to admit he was in Berman’s bungalow around the time she died and wrote the anonymous so-called “cadaver note” that alerted police to Berman’s corpse.
His defense team has vowed to appeal the Berman guilty verdict.