Robert Durst arrives in L.A. to face murder trial; first court appearance is Monday
New York real estate heir Robert Durst arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and will be arraigned next week on a murder charge in the 2000 slaying of his friend Susan Berman, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.
The arrival of Durst, who is scheduled to appear at the Airport Courthouse Monday afternoon, marks the latest chapter in a legal saga that was reinvigorated last year when the New York aristocrat was featured in the HBO documentary series “The Jinx.”
Durst, 73, had been due to be transferred to Southern California by Aug. 18 from a federal prison in Louisiana, where he had pleaded guilty to a weapons charge.
“Bob Durst didn’t kill Susan Berman and he doesn’t know who did,” Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, told The Times on Friday. “He’s eager to get to trial to prove it.”
DeGuerin said he expected a preliminary hearing in the case to take place in the spring and a trial later in 2017. Durst was booked into the Los Angeles Police Department jail at 1:20 p.m. Friday. His move from Louisiana was delayed this summer as federal prison authorities had at one point proposed moving him to an Indiana prison with more sophisticated medical facilities.
Durst has insisted he had nothing to do with Berman’s fatal shooting.
The six-part HBO series explored the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathie, who went missing in New York in 1982, and the slaying of Berman, a writer who was found dead in her Benedict Canyon home in 2000. Police believe Durst killed Berman because she planned to speak to New York prosecutors about Kathie’s disappearance.
Among the evidence against Durst is a letter sent to Berman in 1999 that has handwriting strikingly similar to that on an anonymous note sent to Beverly Hills police at the time of Berman’s killing, telling them that they would find “a cadaver” at Berman’s house. In both samples, the writing is in all capital letters, and Beverly Hills is misspelled as “Beverley Hills.” In the final episode of the HBO documentary, Durst admitted he wrote the letter to Berman but denied writing the “cadaver” note.
In 2003, a Texas jury acquitted Durst even after he admitted killing his neighbor, Morris Black, chopping the body into pieces and then dumping the remains into Galveston Bay.
At the time, Durst was living in Galveston under an assumed identity as a mute woman in a threadbare apartment that rented for $300 a month. At the sensational trial, Durst’s legal team, spearheaded by DeGuerin, laid out an elaborate argument of self-defense.
“Morris Black died as a result of a life-and-death violent struggle over a gun that Morris Black had threatened Bob Durst with,” DeGuerin told jurors.
Before the series finale of “The Jinx,” Durst disappeared from his Houston condo, prompting a manhunt that ended in New Orleans. Federal prosecutors filed a weapons case against him after FBI agents found a loaded revolver in his hotel room there.
Durst pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and was sentenced in April to seven years and one month in federal prison.
In a letter to a Times reporter, Durst wrote that he is eager to come to Los Angeles to defend himself.
“I’d rather be going to California on my own, but I’m anxious to get to trial to prove I didn’t kill Susan Berman,” Durst wrote. “You couldn’t print what I think about ‘The Jinx.’ I didn’t kill Susan Berman, and I don’t know who did.”
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Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.
4:45 p.m.: The article was updated with additional details about Durst’s transfer from a Louisiana prison, details about an HBO documentary and comments from Durst’s attorney.
4 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect that Durst was booked into the LAPD jail at 1:20 p.m. Friday
This article was originally published at 3:45 p.m.
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