Yesterday Robert Durst was arrested in New Orleans on suspicion of murder of Susan Berman, in California in 2000. He was charged with illegal possession of a handgun, as he is a felon.
I began watching HBO’s documentary THE JINX (directed by Andrew Jarecki, of Capturing the Friedmans) when it aired six weeks ago. The case was new to me, but I quickly caught up on it. Robert Durst, the son of a billionaire real estate magnate, was the only suspect in the disappearance of his wife. Her body was never found, and according to police, no real investigation was made by the family, despite their copious resources. Robert was “estranged” from his family; evidence of threats against his younger brother Doug, who was given control of the business, was given. He has a restraining order against Robert, who is known to carry handguns.
In 2000 in California, Robert’s friend Susan Berman was found shot in the head, only after an anonymous letter to the police was received, saying “where to find the cadaver.” Friends of hers believe she had information on the disappearance of Durst’s wife, and that was why she was killed.
In 2001 in Galveston, where Robert was living as a woman by wearing a wig and claiming to be mute, he was put on trial for murdering and dismembering his roommate, whose torso washed up in a nearby body of water. He admitted killing him “in self defense,” and said he was drunk while he methodically dismembered the body, paid the rent up front, and disposed of the remains. Because in Texas some people need killin’, the jury believed this, and acquitted him.
A more detailed explanation of this trial, by Matt Pearce of the L.A. Times, can be read here.
Spoilers follow in the next paragraph.
The documentary depicts Durst being shown new evidence linking him to Berman’s murder, and at the end of the episode, forgetting that he still has his mike on, Durst goes to the bathroom and mutters to himself, ending with, “what did you do? killed them all, of course.”
And then it fades to black.
After the final episode aired, he was arrested. He has a habit of fleeing on bail and has nearly limitless resources; he spent $1.8 million on his Galveston defense. It will be interesting to see if the new evidence in the Berman case will get a murder conviction to stick. He all but confessed on tape, if Jarecki protrayed it truthfully. Durst was not on camera at the time. There will be plenty of reasonable doubt if this is brought as evidence. Voice analysis, and so on. The Berman evidence rests largely on handwriting analysis, and that can be countered as well. There are few smoking guns, and with the resources he has, the passage of time, and the lack of evidence at the crime scenes, his next trial may accomplish nothing except give Jarecki material for his next documentary.