“What the hell did I do? Kill them all , of course,” Robert Durst whispered nervously at the end of the recording of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst He was still wearing the microphone on when the protagonist made this involuntary confession while he was in the bathroom. The recording and subsequent broadcast of this unreleased audio finally triggered the trial against the millionaire for the murder of his best friend, Susan Berman, whose case still remained unsolved.
For fifteen years, Durst denied his involvement in the crime, as well as in the disappearance of his wife decades earlier. However, his slip ended up giving him away: “That’s it. “They caught you.”
As millionaire as it is conflictive
Robert Durst, born on April 12, 1943, in the town of Scarsdale (New York State), was the eldest son of one of the most important real estate dynasties in the country with assets worth more than $8 billion. However, his life of luxury and money was marked by a complicated childhood with a father who was as authoritarian as he was absent.
Hence, from a very early age, Robert showed himself to be a conflictive child: he had outbursts of violence and aggression, he was a pathological liar, and the rivalry with his little brother Douglas generated continuous fights. They both ended up in therapy.
Added to this was an important tragedy: the death of the mother in 1950. As Robert explained years later, he witnessed Bernice throw herself from the top of the house, a version that contradicts that of the rest of the family. who claims it was an unfortunate accident.
This setback resulted in a deterioration in Robert’s character, who became a “loner” and barely socialized with his classmates. In fact, after several sessions with a professional, the psychiatrist determined that the boy had a “personality breakdown and possibly even schizophrenia.”
Despite the diagnosis, Robert never underwent any treatment and focused on his studies: he graduated with good grades, then earned a degree in Economics from Lehigh University and earned a doctorate from Los Angeles College. Here he met Susan Berman, daughter of mobster Dave Berman, with whom he formed a close friendship.
In 1970 and back home, Robert Durst began dating Kathleen McCormack, a young dental hygienist who rented an apartment owned by his family. Love arose when she went to give him a check for the lease. A few months later, the couple began living together and in 1973 they married. The idyllic life of Robert and Kathleen with trips around the world and all kinds of luxuries contrasted with the angry character of the millionaire.
“I was always, always, always very controlling,” Durst stated naturally, something that friends of the couple corroborated and for which they came to worry. Above all, when the young woman went to the hospital with bruises on her face in early 1982. That was a turning point for Kathleen because she decided to separate from her and ask for a divorce agreement, a decision with which Robert did not agree. agreement.
Three weeks after this episode, on January 31, 1982, Kathleen disappeared: she had hurriedly left a dinner she attended alone because Robert called to scold her and ask her to return. When saying goodbye to her, the young woman told the hostess: “I’m afraid of what Bobby will do.” Five days later, Robert filed a missing person report with the police and claimed not to have heard from her since he accompanied her to take the train to the city.
Despite the suspicions of family and friends, investigators never found any evidence against the magnate nor any clue to the hygienist’s whereabouts. The case was closed shortly afterward until, in 2000, the investigation was reopened due to pressure from the McCormacks on the district attorney.
For his part, Robert Durst, as a maneuver to avoid media and police persecution, put his foot down and moved to the small city of Galveston (Texas), where he rented a room posing as a mute woman named Dorothy Ciner. “I didn’t want to be Robert Durst anymore,” the millionaire justified.
Meanwhile, investigators reanalyzed the evidence, the testimony of witnesses, acquaintances and friends of the couple, and decided to re-interview Susan Berman, who always showed her public support for Robert. However, the woman was murdered before going to the police station.
On December 23, 2000, they found his body at his home in Beverly Hills: he had been shot in the back of the head. Among the unusual events surrounding the crime: the police received a handwritten note with the word “corpse” written on a piece of paper and with the postal address misspelled. The envelope read “Beverley” instead of “Beverly.” This grammatical error would be crucial years later for the resolution of the case.
After Berman’s murder, investigators focused on his inner circle, including Robert Durst, but the millionaire gave his alibi that he was on the other side of the country. Despite the suspicion that hung over him, the police could not obtain any evidence of his responsibility and the crime remained unsolved for decades.
A year later, Morris Black’s dismembered body was found floating in several garbage bags in Galveston Bay. It was Robert Durst’s neighbor. During the investigations, the police found the link between the victim and the millionaire and proceeded to arrest him on suspicion of first-degree murder.
In 2003 the trial was held and Durst claimed that he acted in self-defense during a monumental argument between the two and that the gun fired by accident. Regarding the dismemberment, the accused justified it by his fear that the authorities would not believe that the shooting had been accidental.
Ultimately, the jury accepted the suspect’s version. It was of no use that the prosecution called him a “cold-blooded murderer” because they found Robert Durst not guilty of the murder of Morris Black. Justice had just released a murderer.
The gruesome story of Robert Durst caught the attention of American director Andrew Jarecki, who in 2010 released the film All Good Things with Ryan Gosling playing the figure of the enigmatic millionaire. Shortly thereafter, the real Durst contacted Jarecki to raise his disagreement with the tape and to ask him to listen to his version of events. This is how the documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durs was created for the HBO Max platform.
In 2012, production of the film began, which included the protagonist’s testimony. For 25 hours, Durst tried to solve the three enigmas of his life: the disappearance of his wife, the murder of his best friend and the exculpatory sentence for the crime of his neighbor.
At one point, Jarecki and his entire team discovered something revealing: the calligraphic similarities between a letter written by the millionaire to his friend Susan years before and the letter sent by his killer to the police. In both cases, the strokes of the letters were practically traced, not to mention the same grammatical error in the victim’s postal address. On both envelopes the word “Beverly” appears misspelled and “Beverley” can be read.
With this information, the director of the documentary sat the millionaire down and showed him his findings, but Durst maintained his speech and denied having written the murderer’s letter, although the similarities were evident. In fact, when Jarecki asked him which of the two postal addresses he had written, he was unable to make any distinction.
After a few seconds of suspense, the director cut off the recording and the interview ended. Robert Durst asked to go to the bathroom before leaving and then the unthinkable happened: the killer confessed to his crimes without knowing that he was still wearing the microphone and that it was on. By the way, no one realized this revelation until the documentary was edited two years later.
“There he is. Stop him!” the tycoon whispers. “What the hell did I do? Kill them all, of course,” he said clearly while the water from the sink could be heard in the background. The producers of the documentary went to the police and on the 14th On March 2015, his arrest was made: there were just a few hours left before the broadcast of the last chapter of The Jinx , where this turn of events appears.
Robert Durst was accused of the first-degree murder of Susan Berman, but during the judicial process the Los Angeles court also sentenced him to seven years in prison for illegal possession of weapons.
Already in March 2020, the trial against Durst for the murder of his best friend Susan Berman began. During her statement, the millionaire, assisted by a respirator and in a wheelchair, confessed to having discovered the woman’s body, also to having written the note to the police to notify the crime, but not to having killed her. He always denied it. “Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman and he does not know who did,” said his defense attorney, who even called his sponsor clumsy and innocent to justify his poor decision-making.
For its part, the prosecution was always clear about who the real Robert Durst was, although at that time he appeared to be a sick and weak old man: “He has existed for many years and has been able to commit many horrible crimes. Considering what he has done, he got a lot more life than he was entitled to.”
To avoid a conviction and even the death penalty, the defense lawyer repeatedly tried to postpone the trial, citing the defendant’s health problems: chest pain, breathing problems, pain when dressing and having a catheter. , and urinary tract infections due to his bladder cancer.
These attempts were in vain because, in September 2021, the Los Angeles court found Robert Durst guilty of the murder of Susan Berman and sentenced him to life in prison. He was 78 years old. “It was a horrible crime,” Judge Mark Windham said before reading the verdict.
On January 10, 2022, the millionaire murderer died at the San Joaquín General Hospital (California) due to cardiorespiratory arrest. His delicate health had worsened after becoming infected with Covid-19 days after being sentenced. His death leaves many unknowns unresolved. One of the most important: where is Kathleen McCormack’s body? Her family is still looking for him.