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Robert Durst charged with murdering first wife, Kathie, in New York

Robert Durst in an Inglewood courtroom during his murder trial in September.
Robert Durst in an Inglewood courtroom during his murder trial in September.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A document formally charging Robert Durst with murder in the death of his first wife was filed in a New York courthouse earlier this week, days after the real estate scion was sentenced to life in prison in California for the murder of his confidant Susan Berman.

The one-page complaint formally charges Durst with second-degree murder in the death of Kathie McCormack in or around the home they shared in South Salem, N.Y., in 1982. The complaint, signed by a New York State Police investigator, was filed Tuesday. The move comes as the Westchester County, N.Y., district attorney’s office carries out grand jury proceedings seeking to charge Durst in his first wife’s death.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office acknowledged the complaint but offered no further comment.

The first few days of Robert Durst’s testimony in his Los Angeles murder trial have largely circled the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen, in New York City in 1982.

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While Durst has always said he last saw his wife boarding a Manhattan-bound train on Jan. 31, 1982, police and prosecutors have long suspected he killed McCormack. Witnesses at Durst’s Los Angeles murder trial testified that the couple’s marriage was in shambles around the time McCormack vanished and that she lived in fear of her husband.

“Robert Durst has now been formally charged with the murder of Kathleen McCormack Durst. We are very happy with this development,” the McCormack family said in a statement, declining to comment further until the end of the grand jury proceedings in Westchester County.

Durst’s lead defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, DeGuerin confirmed Durst had been placed on a ventilator in an L.A. hospital and is suffering from the effects of COVID-19.

McCormack’s disappearance was central to the prosecution’s theory in his L.A. trial. Authorities argued that Durst shot Berman in the back of the head in her Benedict Canyon home in 2000 for fear she might cooperate with a renewed investigation into McCormack’s death.

Prosecutors have said Berman called the medical school McCormack was attending on Feb. 1, pretending to be the missing woman. The phone call, allegedly made at Durst’s request, served to obscure the timeline of her disappearance, as prosecutors contend Durst had already killed her and may have been disposing of her body in a New Jersey forest around the same time.

McCormack’s remains have never been found, and Durst ignored repeated pleas to reveal the location of her body during his sentencing hearing in L.A. last week.

Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.


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