13 January 2016 - The Strange Case of Robert Durst
The Strange Case
of Robert Durst
Real estate scion and alleged
serial murderer Robert Durst was arrested on Saturday, the day before the
shocking final episode of "The Jinx," the HBO documentary series
about his life and alleged crimes. Here's a look at some of the more bizarre
details of his ongoing saga.
the final episode of HBO's six-part documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, dropped
a headline-making bombshell in its final moments. Real estate scion, shape
shifter, and alleged serial murderer Robert
Durst is recorded off-camera, speaking to
himself in the bathroom: "What the hell did I do?. . .Killed them all, of
course." At the time of the broadcast, Durst had already been
arrested by the FBI in New Orleans in connection with the murder of
his friend Susan Berman.
Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is directed by Andrew
Jarecki, best known for his 2003 documentary about another troubled family, Capturing the Friedmans.
Jarecki and writer/co-producer Marc Smerling have visited this particular well
before; in 2010, they produced a fictionalized account of Durst’s story in the
feature film All Good Things,
starring Ryan Gosling as the Robert Durst character
and Kirsten Dunst as his wife.
Durst liked Jarecki and Smerling’s dramatization, because he offered his full
cooperation in the making of The
Jinx. The now 71-year-old subject appeared on-camera to tell his
story and, perhaps, unwittingly reveal his secrets.
The facts that made Durst such a complex and
compelling subject are these: in 1982, Durst’s semi-estranged wife Kathleen,
who was in the process of finishing her medical degree, disappeared without a
trace. Her husband came under suspicion, but neither body nor tangible evidence
of his culpability in any crime was found. The investigation foundered as Durst
prospered in his father’s real estate business. Then, in the 1990s, he left the
firm after a family dispute and himself disappeared from sight, only to
resurface in Galveston, Texas as the main suspect in the murder/dismemberment
of a neighbor.
was a manhunt, Durst was caught, and acquitted (though he did cop to cutting up
his neighbor’s body.) In the meanwhile, Susan Berman, a longtime female
friend, of the suspect also turned up murdered in California. On March 14,
2015, Durst was arrested by the FBI in connection with Berman's murder.
the outline of Durst’s ongoing saga. But here are some of the more bizarre
details of his story:
1.Trouble attached itself early to Robert Durst.
When he was seven, his 32-year-old mother
either jumped or fell to her death from the roof of the family home in
Scarsdale, New York. Robert was a witness; years of counseling followed. As a
child, his eccentricities included pretending to be in a school band and hiding
his tuba in the woods.
2.Despite his wealth, Robert styled himself a
member of the counterculture in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
While enrolled at UCLA,
he minored in marijuana intake, engaged in primal scream therapy alongside John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and became an acolyte of Beatles guru
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In the early 70s, he met Kathleen, and the couple moved
to New Hampshire to run a health food store.
3.Robert seemed less than concerned after his
Kathleen was on the verge of extricating
herself from what friends described as a controlling, abusive Robert when she
vanished in 1982. Durst did not report the disappearance for four days, and his
accounts of the last time he saw his wife in their Westchester County home kept
changing and did not hold up to scrutiny. The police were stumped, but after
several of Kathleen’s friends undertook their own investigation, their homes were
burglarized and relevant materials stolen.
4.Like Cain, Robert was no fan of his younger
In a recent interview
with The New York Times,
Douglas Durst revealed that he and his brother’s long-standing enmity extended
to keeping weapons—a plumber’s wrench for Robert, a piece of pipe for
Douglas—close at hand in their Durst Organization offices during the 1990s.
Father Seymour Durst eventually replaced eldest son Robert with Doug as
designated successor. Robert subsequently left the company.
5.Being a mafia princess doesn’t necessarily
protect you from your crazy friends.
On Christmas Eve of 2000, Durst pal and
supporter Susan Berman, who had written books about her girlhood amongst Las
Vegas mobsters like Bugsy Siegel, was found dead in her Los
Angeles pool. A single gunshot wound to the head made it look like a gang hit.
But it then emerged that New York State Police had been in touch with Berman
about the Kathleen Durst cold case. Durst was arrested by the FBI on March 14,
2015 in connection with Berman's murder.
6.In 2000, the same year as Berman's murder, a
cross-dressing Robert turned up in Galveston.
Dressed in drag and posing as a mute woman
called Dorothy Ciner (the name of an actual childhood acquaintance), Durst
moved into a shabby apartment in the Texas coastal city. At times he also
passed as a mute man, and sometimes as Dorothy Ciner’s house guest, Robert
7.Dorothy was no more to be trusted than
September 2001, pieces of Dorothy’s neighbor, 71-year-old Morris Black, started
washing ashore around Galveston. No head was ever recovered. A trail of blood
was found leading from Black’s apartment to Dorothy’s. Her true identity was
revealed, and Robert was arrested, but posted bail and escaped.
8.Robert should have resisted the urge to
shoplift that chicken sandwich.
Still dressed in a woman’s wig, Durst was
apprehended while stealing a sandwich, a newspaper, and a Band-Aid from a
Pennsylvania supermarket. He pled innocent to the murder charge during trial,
claiming a struggle over a gun had led to Black’s death (while admitting to
carving up the man’s body with a paring knife). Durst was acquitted of murder,
although he served some time on lesser charges.
9.Was Robert also a dogslayer?
With interest revived in Kathleen Durst’s
disappearance and presumed murder, Douglas Durst revealed a theory in his Times interview. According
to his account, Robert had a succession of seven Alaskan Malamutes (all named
Igor) who mysteriously died over the months leading to Kathleen’s
disappearance. Could these have been dry runs for the big event?
10.Public urination has tripped Robert up on more
than one occasion.
In July 2014, Durst was arrested when he
exposed himself and urinated on a candy rack at a Houston CVS. Douglas Durst
recalls that his older brother’s fate with the Durst Organization may have been
sealed when he peed in an uncle’s wastebasket. This piece of information may
not help solve the Kathleen Durst case, but when it comes to Robert Durst,
stranger things truly have happened.