New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without chance of parole for the murder of his best friend more that two decades ago.
Durst, 78, was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court last month of first-degree murder for shooting Susan Berman point-blank in the back of the head at her home in December 2000.
Durst silenced Berman to prevent her from incriminating him in the reopened investigation into his wife’s 1982 disappearance in New York, prosecutors said.
Berman provided a phony alibi for Durst when Kathie Durst vanished, prosecutors said.
Durst testified that he didn’t kill either woman, but said on cross-examination that he would lie if he had.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that he intentionally killed a neighbour in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, though he had been acquitted of murder in that case after testifying that he shot the man in self-defence.
Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst, who founded the Durst Organization, one of Manhattan’s largest commercial real estate firms. His father, Seymour, took the reins of the company and later handed control of it to a younger brother, Douglas.
Robert Durst settled his share of the family fortune and was estimated by prosecutors to have $100 million US.
Durst’s lawyer said they plan to appeal.
Prosecutors want to charge Durst for wife’s death
The trial came six years after Durst’s apparent confession was aired in the HBO television documentary series The Jinx. Durst, who was still wearing a live microphone after an interview, went into a bathroom and said to himself, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course.”
Lead prosecutor John Lewin, who had pursued Durst for years, credited The Jinx filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for their revealing interviews, which helped make a case against Durst.
Durst’s trial began in March 2020 and was adjourned for 14 months as the coronavirus pandemic swept the U.S. and courts were closed. It resumed in May with the jury that reached its verdict Sept. 17.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who was preparing to tell police that she had provided a phony alibi for him after his wife vanished in New York in 1982.
Kathie Durst has never been found. Robert Durst has never been charged with a crime related to her disappearance.