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DA Says 'Missed Opportunities' Delayed Robert Durst's Indictment For Wife's Murder

Westchester County DA Mimi Rocah said "missed opportunities by law enforcement officials" is why it took nearly 40 years for Robert Durst to be charged for the presumed murder of his wife Kathleen "Kathie" McCormack Durst.


By Gina Tron
Robert Durst Pd

A top prosecutor in upstate New York is pointing to law enforcement errors as for why it took so long for Robert Durst to be indicted for the murder of his first wife Kathleen “Kathie” McCormack Durst.

During a Tuesday press conference, Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah clarified she wasn’t “putting blame anywhere” but noted that “tunnel vision” into the 1982 disappearance of Kathleen by investigators likely led to delayed justice.

“We are able to see now how some missed opportunities by law enforcement officials directing the early stages of the investigation may have contributed to delays in bringing the charges in this case,” Rocah said.

She said that Durst made a “number” of statements to police early on in the investigation that were contradicted by other evidence including “multiple reports of incidents of domestic violence by Durst against Kathleen, including with a gun,” “physical evidence” at his home, and contradictory evidence about his whereabouts by witnesses.

“And yet, the investigation remained guided by Durst’s version of events,” she said.

The prosecutor noted that investigators “can and must learn from this,” she said, particularly for investigations involving rich and powerful individuals.

A recent reinvestigation into the Kathleen’s disappearance by Rocah’s office did lead to his indictment for her murder last fall but Durst fell ill and died of natural causes before he was tried. It came shortly after Durst had been given a life sentence for the 2000 murder of his best friend Susan Berman.

Prosecutors said Durst killed Berman after learning that prosecutors in New York wanted to reopen an investigation into his wife’s vanishing, which has been called the catalyst for the other killings to which Durst has been connected; prosecutors said he would have done anything to cover up that first crime.

Durst, 78, died in custody this month and, since his lawyers had already started the appeal process for the Berman conviction, it will automatically be vacated following his death in a technicality.

Durst was also linked to the death of a man named Morris Black in Galveston, Texas in 2001. During the Berman trial, Durst testified that he'd fled to Texas when news broke that Kathie's case was being reopened. There, he bought a wig and hid out in a cheap apartment in Galveston, disguised as a mute woman. Durst became acquainted with Black, his neighbor.

Durst later shot Black to death in 2001 before disposing of his dismembered remains in Galveston Bay. He claimed he shot Black in self-defense, but prosecutors contended Durst killed Black because the neighbor had discovered his true identity; the millionaire real estate scion was acquitted of that murder at trial. 

While Rocah framed Kathleen’s initial investigation as a learning experience, an attorney for the family characterized it as an attempt “to explain away how money, power and influence allowed a killer to escape justice” in a statement to the Associated Press.

“We ask the public to consider why the current Westchester DA and her predecessors remain unwilling to tell the truth about why it took nearly 40 years for Robert Durst to be charged,” the lawyer, Robert Abrams, stated.