For years, the wheels of justice moved so slowly towards Robert Durst, the New York actual property inheritor with a path of useless our bodies dotting his improbably charmed life, that his victims’ household and buddies feared he’d by no means pay the implications.
Now, although, it’s open season. After Durst’s first homicide conviction final month – the end result of a sensational trial in Los Angeles that includes near 40 years of devastating proof – prosecutors and civil litigators are working at lightning pace to haul him again to court docket any means they’ll.
In Westchester county, New York, the district lawyer’s workplace has assigned a newly shaped chilly case unit, headed by a top-flight prosecutor, to reopen an investigation into the demise of Durst’s first spouse, Kathie, whose disappearance from their suburban dwelling on a chilly winter’s evening in 1982 has eventually been reclassified as a homicide. In keeping with native information experiences, a grand jury may very well be empaneled as early as this week.
Kathie’s surviving siblings are intent on suing Durst and imagine, if he’s charged in Westchester, they’ll overcome a technical downside with the statute of limitations that stymied a earlier effort to carry him liable in civil court docket. In addition they wish to pursue Durst’s household, whom they accuse of taking part in a cover-up after her disappearance by persuading the police they had been dealing not with foul play however with a runaway spouse. (The household has at all times denied any wrongdoing.)
And there could also be extra. Because the jury in California has established that Durst murdered Susan Berman, an in depth good friend he didn’t belief to maintain quiet concerning the occasions of 1982, investigators in New York Metropolis might now wish to re-examine the actions of Durst and his associates within the weeks operating as much as Berman’s demise – a time when, in his personal phrases, he was “setting myself as much as be a fugitive” – and determine if anybody else was complicit within the crime.
Requested by the Guardian in the event that they had been conducting such an investigation, the Manhattan district lawyer’s workplace stated: “We are going to decline to remark.”
Many individuals who’ve willingly talked concerning the Durst case previously – former investigators, Kathie’s household, prosecutors and protection attorneys – have gone quiet previously two weeks, presumably prematurely of a proper grand jury announcement by Westchester county. The Westchester district lawyer, Miriam Rocah, instructed reporters on the finish of final month her group was working “very onerous” however wouldn’t be drawn on specifics.
Durst, who’s 78 and sick, nonetheless has two years to serve in jail for violating federal gun legal guidelines on the time of his arrest for the Berman homicide in 2015. He additionally faces a sentencing listening to in Los Angeles on 18 October, making it greater than probably that he’ll die behind bars. Nonetheless, authorized consultants say, there are at the least two compelling causes Westchester county and others would wish to pursue him.
The primary is to supply Kathie Durst’s household and buddies the justice they’ve been demanding in useless for 4 a long time. In a press release issued in response to Durst’s conviction, Kathie’s household stated it was “weird and unacceptable” that Durst can be tried for killing an confederate to Kathie’s homicide earlier than being held accountable for the unique crime. In launching her investigation in Could, Rocah stated: “The household clearly desires and desires closure … A complete neighborhood desires and desires closure.”
The second is as an insurance coverage coverage. Durst’s high-priced attorneys have signaled their intent to attraction the homicide conviction, and whereas their probabilities of overturning the jury verdict appear slim, they’ve a monitor file of pulling off the seemingly not possible for his or her consumer. (In 2003, Durst was acquitted of murdering a person in Galveston, Texas, despite the fact that he admitted delivering the deadly blow and dismembering the physique.)
“You by no means know what’s going to occur on attraction,” stated Laurie Levenson, a professor on the Loyola Regulation Faculty in Los Angeles. “Particularly right here, while you had the Covid outbreak, and a protracted break within the trial, and a prosecutor who was very aggressive.”
For a lot of a long time, the Kathie Durst case was thought-about too troublesome to pursue. Many early investigative leads had been misplaced as a result of Durst and others misled the police into pondering they wanted to research in New York, the place Kathie was near ending medical faculty, and never in Westchester county, the place prosecutors now imagine she was killed. Her physique was by no means discovered, and to this present day there isn’t any certainty about how she died.
Because of the exhaustive efforts of the Los Angeles prosecution group, nevertheless, the Westchester authorities can now draw on quite a few statements by Robert Durst that time to his guilt. (He instructed one interviewer: “No matter occurred to Kathie was an enormous chunk my fault.”)
Telephone data present that he was within the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey two days after the presumed day of her demise, suggesting that he might need disposed of her physique “Sopranos-style”, as a Los Angeles prosecutor put it to the jury. An inventory recovered by a good friend of Kathie’s from the Dursts’ rubbish, a lot mentioned on the Berman trial, learn partially: “City dump, bridge, dig, boat, different, shovel or ?”
Additional investigation might in fact present much more proof – towards Durst or attainable equipment. Levenson, the legislation professor, stated this is perhaps one more reason prosecutors and others needed to maintain going. “Spin-off circumstances are attainable, and it’s one other solution to tie up free ends,” she stated. “Till you do the investigation, you don’t know what you don’t know.”
For the previous 20 years, the Durst household has issued repeated public statements distancing itself from Robert and expressing sorrow for the hurt he has brought about. Durst’s brother Douglas, who heads the household actual property enterprise, has even stated his brother want to kill him due to his refusal to supply extra help.
The Berman verdict – and the prospect of additional felony prosecution – might elevate troubling questions, nevertheless, concerning the household’s actions in 1982, when Kathie disappeared, and once more in 2000 when Durst acquired a tip-off – investigators say it was from his sister – that he is perhaps beneath renewed investigation.
Jordan Barowitz, a Durst Company lawyer, instructed the Guardian the household would proceed to cooperate “in any felony investigation of Bob”. He indicated he was unafraid of any civil swimsuit that Kathie’s household and their hard-charging lawyer, Bob Abrams, may file towards anybody within the broader household or the corporate. “None of Mr Abrams’ lawsuits have progressed previous being dismissed in abstract judgment,” Barowitz stated.
Not everybody in Kathie’s outdated circle helps the persevering with quest for justice. Ellen Strauss, herself a lawyer, instructed the Guardian the Los Angeles trial was clear sufficient in establishing Durst’s culpability, and she or he felt no want for extra. “He’s going to die in jail anyway. A variety of us, Kathie’s buddies, are useless at this level,” Strauss stated. “Why waste taxpayer cash to maintain going after this man?”
Durst himself has, up to now, remained quiet on the subject of attainable additional prosecution. His longtime lead protection lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, stated he was “not snug in making any statements till after sentencing”.