Robert Durst dead at 78
Former heir to real estate fortune was convicted of murder last year
Robert Durst, the black sheep of one of New York real estate’s royal families and a convicted murderer whose life was the subject of an HBO documentary, died Monday. He was 78.
Durst died of cardiac arrest at a hospital in Stockton, California, after doctors were unable to revive him, his lawyers told the New York Times. He was sentenced to life in prison in October for the murder of his friend, Susan Berman, at her Los Angeles home in 2000.
Durst was battling a variety of health issues and tested positive for Covid just after his September conviction for Berman’s murder, according to his lawyers.
“We understand that his death was due to natural causes associated with a litany of medical issues we had repeatedly reported to the court over the last couple of years,” his attorney Chip Lewis told the Times.
Durst was the son of real estate investor Seymour Durst and the brother of Douglas Durst, chairman of the Manhattan-based Durst Organization, which owns over 13 million square feet of Class A Manhattan office and retail space.
“Bob lived a sad, painful and tragic life,” said Douglas Durst in a statement provided by a company spokesperson. “We hope his death brings some closure to those he hurt.”
Durst’s conviction by a Los Angeles jury for the execution-style shooting of Berman came after years of speculation regarding the unsolved disappearance of his first wife, Kathie McCormack Durst, in 1982.
Prosecutors allege that Durst shot Berman because she was planning to tell police that she had fabricated an alibi for him after Kathie Durst went missing. Her body was never recovered.
Durst had previously admitted to the killing of his 71-year-old neighbor in Galveston, Texas, nine months after Berman was shot. But he was acquitted of murder in 2003 after claiming the man was shot either by accident or in self defense as they struggled over Durst’s gun. He pleaded guilty to evidence tampering 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 his wife’s disappearance. He abandoned that cover after walking into a men’s bathroom and accidentally setting his wig on fire with a lit cigarette.
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 Kathie Durst vanished.
Robert Durst participated in “The Jinx,” an HBO documentary in 2015 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.
A year later, Durst was convicted of a weapons charge and sentenced to a seven-year prison term.