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Real estate heir and accused killer Robert Durst said at his trial in California this week that he lied to authorities for years about the “cadaver note” that he sent to authorities notifying them of his best friend’s dead body as he believed the truth would implicate him in her slaying.
The 78-year-old scion is accused of the Dec. 23, 2000 murder of Susan Berman, 55, at her Los Angeles home; he has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charges and denied involvement in her death from the stand last week. In court on Monday, he admitted the implausibility of his reasoning for sending the so-called “cadaver note” to the Beverly Hills Police Department after he came upon her body, as he maintains.
"I have difficulty believing it myself," Durst said on day four of his testimony before the Los Angeles County Superior Court. "It’s very difficult to believe, to accept, that I wrote the letter and did not kill Susan Berman."
The note, which directed police to her address after her death, was sent after Durst says he dithered while calling 911 from a payphone after finding her home phone line dead, apparently believing his voice would be recognized. He told the court that when he arrived at Berman’s home he discovered her on the floor with blood pooling from her head; Dust claimed he was thinking she was injured after falling, so he lifted her up briefly, he said, but then decided to notify authorities.
Durst also said that he was worried he’d be considered he’d be a suspect in Berman’s murder after he heard neighbors walking outside in the moments just after he says he discovered her body.
"I decided that instead of calling 911 I would send the police a letter telling them that Susan was dead in her house," Durst claimed in court — referring to the note, labeled "CADAVER," and which misspelled Beverly as “Beverley.”
The handwriting of that note and the same misspelling match a letter Durst had previously sent to Berman — as the filmmakers of “The Jinx,” the 2015 hit HBO docuseries on Durst’s life and alleged murders, pointed out to the millionaire scion in their film; At that time, Durst denied to them that he’d written the so-called cadaver note and told the show’s producers that the letter was something "only the killer could have written."
Berman was Durst’s alibi after he was suspected of killing his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, at their home in Westchester County, New York in 1982. Prosecutors in Los Angeles have said that Durst shot her execution-style at her home so she would not tell authorities that the alibi was false. Durst has never been charged with Kathleen’s death and has long denied having anything to do with her disappearance.
Durst had befriended Berman, a memoirist and writer who was the daughter of mob figure David Berman, in the mid-1960s at the University of California, Los Angeles, where they’d both attended college as undergraduates. They bonded over their wealth and having parents who had died young. Berman later became Durst's unofficial spokesperson when his wife vanished.
Durst had previously been accused of murdering a neighbor in Galveston, Texas in 2001 when he discovered him hiding out there as the probe into his wife’s death was reopened in 2001.
Last week, Durst testified that he’d fled to Texas, where he bought a wig and hid out in a cheap apartment in Galveston when the case was reopened and disguised himself as a mute woman.
“I was hiding from Jeanine Pirro,” Durst told the court, referring to the former Westchester district attorney-turned firebrand Fox News host.
Months after Berman's death, Durst shot his neighbor, Morris Black, to death before disposing of his dismembered remains in Galveston Bay. Durst claimed he shot Black in self-defense and was acquitted of murder in that case.
Durst has been in a wheelchair during the entire trial due to bladder cancer and other ailments. His trial began in 2020 but was delayed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, who has said that Durst has lied hundreds of times from the stand, will cross-examine the accused killer once his defense concludes its questioning.
In 2015, Durst was arrested in connection with Berman's death — just one day before the finale of "The Jinx" aired. The series famously captured Durst possibly confessing on a hot mic while using the bathroom after an interview with the filmmaker.
"What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course," Durst apparently utters.
The filmmakers had edited his mumblings for the TV series, but they provided the full clip to police. It was played in its entirety for jurors in 2020.
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