Robert Durst, Convicted Murderer and 'The Jinx' Subject, Dead at 78

Robert Durst, the member of a New York real estate dynasty who was convicted in the murder of Susan Berman in September 2021, was suspected of being involved in his wife's disappearance, and tried in the killing of a neighbor, has died. Durst, whose life was the subject of the 2015 HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, was 78. His lawyer, Chip Lewis, said he died early Monday in custody in Stockton, California.

Durst died at the San Joaquin General Hospital, where he was undergoing testing, Lewis told the New York Times. He went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived. Durst tested positive for COVID-19 after he was convicted of Berman's murder. His attorney said the virus worsened Durst's already existing medical issues.

In October, Durst was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Berman's murder. Later that same month, New York authorities charged Durst with second-degree in connection with the presumed death of his first wife. Kathie Durst. Kathie was last seen in January 1982 and no remains have been found. Prosecutors said Durst killed Berman in 2000 because she knew details about Kathie's disappearance.

Durst was the subject of media fascination for four decades, beginning with Kathie's disappearance. He met Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mob boss, at UCLA in 1965, and she became Durst's unofficial spokesperson after Kathie's disappearance. Prosecutors believed Berman helped Durst cover up Kathie's death and Durst decided to kill her after he learned police wanted to talk with her. 

In 2001, Durst was accused of killing Morris Black, who was Durst's neighbor when he lived in Galveston, Texas. The 71-year-old Black and Durst, who sometimes lived at the apartment as a woman, argued one night. The argument ended with Durst's gun going off, killing Black. Durst dismembered Black's body and threw some of the remains in Galveston Bay. After he jumped bail, Durst was found in Pennsylvania after he stole a sandwich. During his trial in 2003, Durst claimed self-defense and was acquitted.

Durst was arrested for Berman's murder in 2015, but the trial didn't start until March 2020 and was paused for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. While awaiting trial, Durst was held in custody and was treated for esophageal cancer and fluid on the brain. Some of the most damaging evidence from the trial came from Durst himself, including interviews Durst did for The Jinx. In the show's finale, Durst walked into a bathroom and, apparently unaware that his microphone was still on, said, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course." 

The case also included a "cadaver note" written to Los Angeles police. They received the anonymous letter just before they were scheduled to interview Berman in 2000. The letter told police where they could find a "cadaver," which was where Berman was found. Durst denied writing the letter, but his lawyers eventually conceded he did. They claimed it was only evidence that Durst knew of the murder, not that he committed it. During the trial, Durst continued to deny he killed Berman.

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Durst was the eldest son of the late New York City investor and developer Seymour Durst. He was estranged from his family and his brother, Douglas Durst, who is now the chairman of the Durst Organization. During the trial, Douglas testified that his brother would "like to murder me" and said he hired security for his trip to Los Angeles.