Millionaire to face murder charges from 15 years ago

2015-03-16 20:57
(Matthew Hinton, AP)

(Matthew Hinton, AP)

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New Orleans - Robert Durst, a millionaire from one of America' wealthiest families, agreed on Monday to return to Los Angeles to face a 15-year-old murder charge after muttering that he "killed them all" in a documentary about his links to three sensational killings.

Durst, 71, appeared before a judge in New Orleans on Monday after FBI agents arrested him before HBO's broadcast of Sunday's final episode of the documentary.

He is charged in the shooting death of Susan Berman, a mobster's daughter who acted as his spokesperson. He has also long been suspected in the death of his wife, Kathleen Durst, and was acquitted years ago in the death of an elderly neighbour in Texas.

In finale of the documentary that authorities hope will finally lead to a conviction, he muttered that "killed them all, of course".

He shuffled into the courtroom with his hands shackled at his waist, wearing sandals and an orange jumpsuit. He turned to the gallery and smiled, then appeared to fall asleep just before the hearing started. Later, he answered "yes" to questions from the judge about whether he was waiving extradition from Louisiana state to California.

A former prosecutor who reopened one of the cold cases against Durst years ago, Jeanine Pirro, said on Monday that his own words, recorded during and after a lengthy interview he gave to the filmmaker, are enough to convict him.

'All about Hollywood now'

In the finale of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, Durst acknowledges similarities in the handwriting of a letter he wrote and another one sent anonymously to Beverly Hills Police alerting them to his friend's "cadaver". Then he went to the bathroom, still wearing his live microphone.

What followed was bizarre rambling in which Durst said, apparently to himself, "There it is. You're caught" and "What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course."

Sunday's show ended with plenty of questions unanswered.

It wasn't immediately clear whether filmmaker Andrew Jarecki ever confronted Durst about the words recorded in the bathroom, what exactly Durst meant by them, and to what extent the filmmakers cooperated with authorities.

Durst's lawyer, Chip Lewis, smelled a setup, telling The Associated Press that Jarecki was "duplicitous" for not making it clear to Durst that he would be sharing information with police. Lewis also suspected that the timing of Durst's arrest on Saturday was coordinated between the authorities and HBO for maximum impact.

"It's all about Hollywood now," Lewis said.

But Los Angeles Police said on Sunday that the arrest came as the result of new information developed over the last year. And Jarecki told ABC's Good Morning America on Monday that he had no idea the arrest was coming.

Pirro dismissed the idea that federal agents would time an arrest for HBO.

"The FBI picked him up because he was in New Orleans under an assumed name about to go to Cuba where there's no extradition," she said on Fox-TV's Good Day New York on Monday morning.

Durst, who was acquitted of murdering his neighbour Morris Black in Texas, willingly talked with Jarecki on camera after the filmmaker told a fictionalised account of his story in All Good Things, a 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling.

Jarecki told Good Morning America that he didn't even know about the bathroom audio until much later, when an editor happened to hear it.

"It was so chilling to hear it," Jarecki said.

But Pirro said the words can clearly be used against Durst in court.

"It was a spontaneous statement, a classical exception to the hearsay rule," Pirro said. "I don't hear it as a muttering. I hear it as a clear, unequivocal 'I killed them'. That means he killed his wife, he killed Susan Berman and he killed Morris Black."

The Durst family is worth at least $4bn, according to the Forbes list of richest Americans, and Robert Durst has been estranged from his relatives since their father chose his brother Douglas to run the family company.

Berman was the daughter of an associate of Las Vegas mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky who spoke out on Durst's behalf after his wife disappeared. She was killed at her home near Beverly Hills with a bullet to the back of her head.

Durst then lived as a mute woman in a Texas boarding house until 2001, when dismembered parts of Black's body were found floating in Galveston Bay. He fled while awaiting trial, then turned up shoplifting in Pennsylvania.

Lewis told that jury that Durst shot Black in self-defence and suffered from Asperger's syndrome, and he was acquitted of murder, despite admitting that he used a paring knife, two saws and an ax to dismember Black's body before dumping the remains.

Read more on:    robert durst  |  us

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