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Robert Durst is sued for $100 million by his first wife's family over her 1982 disappearance

Robert Durst is sued for $100 million by his first wife's family over her 1982 disappearance
Robert Durst in New Orleans in 2015. (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

Relatives of embattled New York real estate scion Robert Durst's missing first wife filed a $100-million lawsuit against him Monday in New York, arguing he violated their right to bury her.

When Kathleen Durst, 29, initially disappeared from the couple's suburban New York home in 1982, her husband told investigators that he dropped her off at the train station to take a train to the city, then spoke with her by phone once she arrived.

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He denied having anything to do with her disappearance. She was pronounced dead in 1988, although her body was never found.

The lawsuit stems from Durst's comments during the HBO documentary "The Jinx," which aired in the spring.

The documentary addressed not only his wife's disappearance, but also Durst's later acquittal in the dismemberment of a neighbor in Galveston, Texas. The documentary also discussed the execution-style shooting of Durst's friend Susan Berman in her Benedict Canyon home in 2000.

The documentary led Los Angeles investigators to reopen the Berman case, issue a warrant for Durst's arrest on a murder charge and -- after he disappeared from his Houston condo -- hunt him down in New Orleans in March.

"Durst admitted to killing Kathleen and others" in the documentary, Monday's lawsuit alleges. "In a chilling confession caught on tape, Durst says, 'There it is. ... You're caught. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.'"

The lawsuit was filed by the missing woman's mother, Ann McCormack, and three sisters -- Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes and Virginia McKeon.

Filed in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola, the suit alleges Durst abused his first wife and then covered up her murder, violating the family's "right to sepulcher," an archaic law guaranteeing relatives the right to a body for burial.

"For the past 33 years, Durst has concealed the whereabouts of Kathleen's body from her next of kin," the lawsuit says, "preventing them from providing a proper burial."

Robert Abrams, the McCormack family's attorney, was in a meeting Monday and could not immediately comment.

Experts place Durst's net worth, thanks to his family's New York real estate holdings, at about $100 million.

Durst, 72, remains in prison in Louisiana facing federal gun charges.

He is expected to change his plea in that case and could be sentenced Dec. 17 to more than five years in prison, then be extradited to California in the Berman murder case. He has insisted he had nothing to do with Berman's fatal shooting.

His Houston-based attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has refused to discuss the pending plea bargain in the gun case, and was in New Orleans on Monday.

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"We're not going to comment on it until the day it happens," DeGuerin said via email, adding: "There is no evidence that Robert Durst had anything to do with Kathleen's disappearance. Anybody can file a lawsuit, but eventually they'll have to come with evidence."

For more news on the Durst case, follow @mollyhf on Twitter.

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