Ex-cop de­fends NYPD work in 1982 Durst case

He re­jects ac­cu­sa­tions of a coverup in the dis­ap­pear­ance of the mil­lion­aire’s first wife.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Marisa Ger­ber marisa.ger­ber @la­times.com Twit­ter: @maris­ager­ber

A re­tired New York po­lice de­tec­tive took the stand in the Robert Durst mur­der case Tues­day, tes­ti­fy­ing that he did all he could to solve the mys­tery of the long-ago dis­ap­pear­ance of the real es­tate ty­coon’s wife.

The 74-year-old mil­lion­aire is ac­cused of shoot­ing his best friend, Su­san Ber­man, in her Bene­dict Canyon home in 2000. The mur­der, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege, was mo­ti­vated by fear she’d tell oth­ers what she knew about the 1982 dis­ap­pear­ance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen.

New York po­lice Det. Michael Struk, who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Kathleen Durst’s still un­solved dis­ap­pear­ance, ap­peared in a Los An­ge­les court­room and ve­he­mently de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions that New York au­thor­i­ties sought to pro­tect Durst.

Durst’s at­tor­ney Dick DeGuerin re­ferred to a col­lec­tion of items, in­clud­ing the ini­tial miss­ing-per­sons re­port, Struk’s per­sonal notebook filled with de­tails about in­ter­views re­gard­ing the case, tele­phone records, and tran­scripts from Struk’s in­ter­views from an HBO doc­u­men­tary se­ries about Durst, to ques­tion Struk on his process dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

DeGuerin pre­sented an Oc­to­ber New York Post ar­ti­cle de­scrib­ing a law­suit filed on be­half of Kathleen Durst’s fam­ily ac­cus­ing the NYPD of work­ing to cover up Durst’s role in his first wife’s ap­par­ent death.

“Did you do any­thing to cover up [for] Durst in his wife’s dis­ap­pear­ance?” DeGuerin asked.

“That’s silly,” Struk said, chok­ing up.

Af­ter go­ing through the chronol­ogy of Struk’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, DeGuerin asked, “Did you do your best to solve this mys­tery?”

“We did what­ever we could with what we were pre­sented with, with what di­rec­tion we had,” Struk said. “I am pro­fes­sion­ally com­fort­able with what we had done be­fore the case got re­ally cold.”

DeGuerin asked Struk whether he thought al­le­ga­tions made against him and the NYPD in the law­suit were fair.

“No,” Struk replied. “Un­til you walk in my shoes, don’t spit in my face.”

Struk was the first wit­ness called by the de­fense, who be­lieve his tes­ti­mony un­der­cuts the prose­cu­tion’s case and could help se­cure their client’s ac­quit­tal.

Since Durst is un­likely to go to trial be­fore 2018, a judge has al­lowed at­tor­neys to gather and video­tape early tes­ti­mony from older wit­nesses, which could be played for ju­rors if the wit­nesses are not avail­able to tes­tify at trial. In re­cent months, sev­eral wit­nesses called by the prose­cu­tion have given dam­ag­ing tes­ti­mony against Durst.

Dur­ing a hear­ing ear­lier this year, the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire’s long­time friend Nick Chavin tes­ti­fied that Durst once con­fessed to killing Ber­man. “I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice,” Durst said, ac­cord­ing to Chavin.

Chavin also tes­ti­fied that Durst ad­mit­ted to killing his wife in a con­ver­sa­tion with Ber­man, who Chavin said later re­layed that in­for­ma­tion to him.

Durst has pleaded not guilty.

The idio­syn­cratic mag­nate was ar­rested at a New Or­leans ho­tel in connection with Ber­man’s slay­ing on March 14, 2015. In­side his ho­tel room, which po­lice say he checked into un­der an as­sumed name, au­thor­i­ties found a .38 re­volver, stacks of $100 bills in­side small en­velopes and a rub­ber, old-man mask.

His ar­rest came on the eve of the fi­nal episode of a six-part HBO doc­u­men­tary about Durst. Dur­ing the last mo­ments of “The Jinx,” he mum­bles, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Some in­ter­preted his mut­ter­ing, which was cap­tured on a hot mi­cro­phone dur­ing a bath­room break, to be a con­fes­sion to three killings — those of Ber­man and his wife and the fa­tal shoot­ing of Morris Black, a neigh­bor in Texas.

In the Texas case, Durst ar­gued at trial that the gun fired while he was de­fend­ing him­self dur­ing a strug­gle with Black. He ad­mit­ted to dis­mem­ber­ing the body and dump­ing the parts in Galve­ston Bay, but a jury ac­quit­ted Durst of mur­der.

Pat Sul­li­van Associated Press

ROBERT DURST isn’t likely to go to trial in a friend’s death un­til 2018.

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