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Robert Durst Of Famed Real Estate Mogul Family, Lived As A Mute Woman, Will Stand Trial For Murder

December 14, 2015

This is what makes for the perfect start to a murder trial.

But even as the family celebrates the founding of the Durst Organization 100 years ago by its patriarch, Joseph Durst, Robert casts a long, dark shadow.

Now 72 and frail, Mr. Durst is scheduled to be in court in New Orleans on Dec. 17 for sentencing on a gun charge. Sometime next summer he will be transferred to Los Angeles, where he has been accused of murdering a former confidante, Susan Berman, who was found shot in the back of her head at her home on Dec. 24, 2000. Prosecutors say Mr. Durst wanted to ensure that Ms. Berman would not reveal what she knew about the abrupt disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982. In another case riddled with bizarre twists, Mr. Durst, who had been living on the cheap in Texas as a mute woman, admitted to butchering his neighbor’s body and dumping the parts into Galveston Bay. He claimed that the neighbor’s death had been accidental, that he had been acting in self-defense. A jury acquitted him of murder in 2003.

Robert Durst married Kathleen McCormack and joined the family business in 1973 but was an intermittent presence at the office.

In 1982, Mrs. Durst vanished. Robert waited five days to report her missing; he suggested that she might have run away with a drug dealer. A close friend, Susan Berman, served as Robert’s spokeswoman. The Dursts’ marriage had unraveled amid violence and Robert’s controlling personality, prompting some of Kathleen’s friends and neighbors to suspect him of killing her. But the police at the time did not focus on Robert, who has never been charged in the case. The McCormack family has long complained that Seymour Durst never offered them any comfort or consolation after Mrs. Durst vanished.

It was months before the tabloid headlines faded, and years before Robert returned to work. His behavior, Douglas said, became increasingly erratic.   

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