Justice has finally caught up with Robert Durst.
The notorious heir to the Durst real estate fortune was convicted of murder Friday by a Los Angeles jury for the execution-style shooting of his friend Susan Berman in 2000. It was one of three confirmed or suspected homicides for which the 78-year-old had long escaped responsibility.
Prosecutors argued that Durst shot Berman point-blank in the back of the head because she was planning to tell police that she had fabricated an alibi for him following the disappearance in 1982 of his wife, whose body was never found.
Durst did admit to one killing, of his 71-year-old neighbor in Galveston, Texas, nine months after Berman was shot, but was acquitted of murder after claiming the man was shot either by accident or in self defense as they struggled over Durst’s gun. Durst was convicted of destroying evidence for dismembering the victim and tossing his body parts into the ocean.
He had moved to Texas and disguised himself as a woman for a time after New York authorities reopened the case involving Durst’s wife in 2000. But he abandoned that effort after walking into a men’s bathroom and accidentally setting his wig on fire as he smoked a cigarette.
Despite a fortune worth an estimated $100 million, Durst, the brother of Durst Organization chairman Douglas Durst, has been an outcast for decades because of suspicions that he killed his wife, Berman and his neighbor. He has no role in the operations of the real estate firm.
Douglas Durst testified at his brother’s L.A. trial in late June, telling the jury that Robert would “like to murder me.” He recalled getting an emotionless call from Robert several days after the disappearance of Robert’s wife, Kathie.
“His tone was very neutral and there was no great anxiety,” the developer recalled.
Robert Durst made two mistakes that led to his murder conviction. One was participating in an HBO documentary about his life, during which he said to himself, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course” without realizing he was wearing a live microphone. He also told the filmmakers that “only the killer” could have written the note that directed police to Berman’s corpse, after which the documentary makers uncovered a letter he had written to Berman with identical handwriting and a matching misspelling.
A year after the 2015 documentary, Durst was convicted of a weapons charge and sentenced to a seven-year prison term, which he is still serving.
The second mistake was testifying at his Los Angeles trial, almost certainly against the advice of his attorneys.
During his 14 days of testimony, Durst changed his story about Berman’s death, acknowledged writing the note to police and said “It’s very difficult to believe, to accept, that I wrote the letter and did not kill Susan Berman.” He also admitted that had he killed his wife and Berman, he would lie to protect himself.
“Today, our thoughts are with the victims of Robert’s crimes,” Douglas Durst said in a statement. “The jury’s conviction holds him accountable and, hopefully, brings a measure of closure, to the families and friends of the people Robert has hurt.”