Durst, who rose to international infamy when featured in ‘The Jinx’, says he has no idea who killed his friend Susan Berman
Robert Durst, the 73-year-old heir to a New York property fortune whose life became the subject of the documentary series The Jinx in 2015, had pleaded not guilty while facing charges of murdering a close friend in 2000.
Susan Berman, a novelist, was shot dead in her Los Angeles home 16 years ago, with the documentary positing that Durst may have committed the crime in order to prevent his friend from revealing his alleged involvement in the disappearance of his wife in 1982. Berman was shot in the back of the head in her Benedict Canyon home not long after contacting Durst to say New York detectives wanted her to answer questions in relation to the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack.
Appearing before a Los Angeles Country Superior Court, Durst, seated in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace, entered a plea of not guilty, telling the court: “I am not guilty. I did not kill Susan Berman.”
Durst was arrested in New Orleans in March 2015 after a murder warrant against him was filed in Los Angeles. While protesting his innocence, Durst did plead guilty to the illegal possession of a firearm.
Durst rose to international infamy when he agreed to be featured in an extensive documentary surrounding his past, including the suspicion of his involvement in his wife’s disappearance and his exoneration from a murder trial in Galveston, Texas, where Durst posed as a deaf woman in order to rent an apartment without attracting attention. In the latter case, a jury found him innocent of the murder of his neighbour, Morris Black, but did convict him of dismembering the corpse.
Susan Berman met Durst when they were both students at the University of California, Los Angeles in the 1960s, where they became close friends and confidantes. Durst relied on her to act as his representative to the press during the disappearance of his wife and he walked Berman down the aisle when she wed in 1984.
In December 2000, police officers entered Berman’s home after an anonymous letter tipped them off that she had been killed. The makers of The Jinx would later obtain a letter Durst once wrote to Berman, with the handwriting on the envelope looking very similar to the anonymous letter sent to the police, also containing the same misspelling of ‘Beverley Hills’ in place of the correct Beverly.
Granting the documentarians access to his credit card receipts, phone bills, and legal papers, all of which indicated that Durst was in California when Berman was shot, The Jinx ends with Durst, still wearing a live microphone, saying in a candid moment to himself in the bathroom, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Police arrested Durst in New Orleans just hours before the documentary aired on HBO, fearing he would flee the country.
Durst’s lawyer has reiterated his client’s not guilty plea, adding that the defence will mount a serious attack on the material gathered by The Jinx, describing the documentary as a “sensationalised docudrama.”
Even if found innocent, Durst will return to an Indiana prison to complete his 85-month sentence for his illegal firearm charges.