Robert Durst, the real estate scion charged with murder for allegedly shooting a confidante to death in Los Angeles in 2000, was feared by his wife before she disappeared in 1982, a witness testified Monday.
Durst, 75, heir to the multi-million dollar New York City real estate empire built by his late grandfather Joseph Durst, is charged with killing his long-time friend Susan Berman, allegedly to stop her from telling police what she knew about Durst’s wife’s disappearance decades earlier, Reuters reports.
Berman, 55, was found shot in the head inside her Los Angeles home in 2000, shortly after police reopened their investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s wife, Kathleen Durst. Prosecutors believe Durst told Berman he killed Kathleen, and killed Berman to keep her from talking, according to Reuters.
Durst has not been charged with Kathleen Durst’s death, and has pleaded not guilty to Berman’s murder. A preliminary hearing in the case began Monday, after which a judge will decide whether the prosecution has presented enough evidence to require Durst to stand trial for Berman’s murder.
The prosecution began its case by calling Dr. Peter Halperin to the stand Monday afternoon, according to the New York Daily News. In the early 1980s, the Dursts lived in New York. Halperin was a medical school classmate of Kathleen Durst at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx.
Halperin testified about a telephone call he said he received in late 1981 from Kathleen Durst, shortly before she vanished.
“Kathie said that she was very frightened because she thought that her husband might hurt her,” Halperin said, the Daily News reports.
“She said there were problems in the marriage and things had escalated to the point that she felt unsafe,” he testified. “She said that her husband was capable of violence.”
Durst was arrested for Berman’s murder on March 14, 2015 at a hotel in New Orleans. In his hotel room, police found a loaded .38 caliber revolver, a fake I.D., a “Mission Impossible”-style latex mask, around $44,000 in cash, enough marijuana to roll about 300 joints and maps of New Orleans, Florida and Cuba, according to Vanity Fair.
The day Durst was arrested was the day before the dramatic finale of HBO’s “The Jinx,” a six-part documentary that chronicled Durst’s life. In the series’ finale, Durst was captured saying to himself while alone, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Durst previously admitted killing and dismembering his neighbor Morris Black in Texas in 2001. He was acquitted on self-defense grounds. Durst pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the gun he was caught with in New Orleans, and was sentenced to seven years, one month in prison.
Durst’s preliminary hearing in the Berman murder case is expected to last at least two weeks.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.