Robert Durst, Susan Berman and an L.A. murder mystery
In 2000, crime author Susan Berman was found fatally shot in her Benedict Canyon home in Los Angeles. It was a puzzling murder mystery from the beginning but really began attracting attention when it became linked to Robert Durst, the scion to a New York real estate fortune.
He is now the subject of an HBO miniseries, and the New York Times quoted sources saying authorities are taking a new look at Berman’s case. Officials at the L.A. County district attorney’s office did not return calls seeking comment Sunday evening.
Here are some facts about the case from the Los Angeles Times archives:
Who is Susan Berman?
Berman, whose father was a notorious mob boss who teamed up with gangsters such as Bugsy Siegel to help create modern Las Vegas, was best known as a writer of books, articles and a documentary about Las Vegas and her life growing up there.
On Christmas Eve 2000, Berman’s body, with a single gunshot wound to the head, was found by police in her small home. She lived alone, and police were alerted only after neighbors spotted one of her dogs running loose and her door open. At the time, police said they believed she may have been killed a few days earlier, that nothing appeared to be missing from her home and that the assailant entered without signs of a struggle.
What was the connection to Durst?
Berman and Durst were friends. At the time of her death, authorities in New York were trying to talk to Berman about the disappearance of Durst’s wife.
In 1982, Kathleen Durst vanished shortly after she began talking about her desire to get a divorce from her husband. She had been fighting with her husband the night she disappeared, according to a good friend, who said Durst was worried about what her husband might do to her.
The Times reported in 2001 that after Kathleen Durst’s disappearance, Berman acted as an “informal spokesman” for Robert Durst, calling to give his side of the story to media outlets and people who suspected that he had a role in his wife’s disappearance.
What happened to the investigation?
After several weeks of headlines, the Berman case appeared to grow cold. Los Angeles police officials said they were looking into a Durst connection but stressed that he was not a suspect.
As one LAPD official said at the time: “He was acquainted with the woman who was murdered. Beyond that there is no direct connection.”
Does the director of the documentary have any thoughts about Durst and Berman?
The documentary states that Durst was in California at the time of the slaying, and it offers other new evidence. Director Andrew Jarecki told The Times earlier this year:
It’s really clear that he loved her, platonically. I’ve always seen that relationship as demi-romantic in that it was never an overtly romantic relationship. But I have to assume that she was in love with him. First of all, women love Bob. I don’t know that all women love Bob, but certainly some women love Bob a lot, and he’s had no trouble attracting women. I always felt that Susan had a thing for Bob and at some level figured maybe they would end up together when he was finished with all of this gallivanting around. But she would not be the only woman that has been in love with Bob. There are dozens. He had a serious relationship with Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence. I think he was genuinely upset by what happened to Susan.
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