Robert Durst faces pho­tos of slain friend in life, in death

The Citizens' Voice - - Obituaries / State / Nation - By brian Mel­ley

LOS AN­GE­LES — A black-and-white photo beamed on a court­room wall Mon­day pro­vided a stark re­minder of how much had changed in Robert Durst’s life over three decades.

The photo dat­ing to at least the early 1980s showed the New York real estate heir’s grin­ning best friend, Su­san Berman, flanked by a bearded Durst wear­ing a smirk and his wife, Kath­leen, with an elec­tric smile.

To­day, Berman is long dead and Kath­leen Durst has been miss­ing for more than three decades and is pre­sumed dead. Durst, an old, frail man with a shaved head, wore a scowl in a court­room where he is ac­cused of killing both women.

Pros­e­cu­tors be­gan pre­sent­ing ev­i­dence in Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court to link Durst to the killings in the first day of a hear­ing to de­ter­mine if he will be tried on a mur­der charge in the ex­e­cu­tion-style death of Berman.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Durst killed his col­lege friend, the daugh­ter of a Las Ve­gas mob­ster, be­cause he be­lieved she was go­ing to tell po­lice what she knew about Kath­leen Durst’s death.

Robert Durst, 75, an ec­cen­tric mul­ti­mil­lion­aire, has never been charged with a crime re­lated to his wife’s 1982 dis­ap­pear­ance in New York. He has pleaded not guilty to Berman’s 2000 death at her Los An­ge­les house.

The first day of the hear­ing re­vealed lit­tle that was not pre­vi­ously dis­closed in an HBO doc­u­men­tary se­ries and a string of other court pro­ceed­ings, but it made the con­nec­tion be­tween Berman’s death and the mys­tery around Kath­leen Durst’s dis­ap­pear­ance, which pros­e­cu­tors want to show as a mo­tive for Berman’s slay­ing.

Karen Minutello, man­ager of the Man­hat­tan build­ing where the Dursts lived in a pent­house apart­ment, said Kath­leen Durst called her about a week be­fore her dis­ap­pear­ance and asked to rent her own unit be­cause she didn’t want to live with her hus­band any­more.

“She was hes­i­tant, she didn’t just blurt out why. Then she did say she needed to get away from him,” Minutello said. “She was afraid of him.”

Days af­ter Kath­leen Durst van­ished, Minutello said she was alerted to a bro­ken trash com­pactor that she found jammed with the miss­ing woman’s pos­ses­sions, in­clud­ing note­books with her name, dresses, makeup and a hair dryer. She made notes about the find­ing be­cause it seemed sig­nif­i­cant.

“Who does that?” Minutello said. “Whose loved one is miss­ing and they throw out their stuff ?”

Af­ter the dis­ap­pear­ance, Berman served as Robert Durst’s un­of­fi­cial spokes­woman. But pros­e­cu­tors and wit­nesses in a se­ries of ear­lier hear­ings said she did much more.

Berman told friends over the years that Durst ac­knowl­edged killing his wife and said she helped him cover his tracks. Pros­e­cu­tors are hop­ing to use many of those hearsay state­ments at trial, which de­fense at­tor­neys are chal­leng­ing.

Berman told one friend that if any­thing hap­pened to her, Durst would be the cul­prit.

Durst, lis­ten­ing to the hear­ing through head­phones to en­hance the vol­ume, dozed off in the court­room. As an­other photo of Berman was pro­jected on the wall, he stirred and stared ahead.

It was a photo from Berman’s au­topsy. Her right eye was black­ened, and her tongue was be­tween her lips.

A sub­se­quent photo showed a sin­gle jagged bul­let wound to the back of her head.

Dr. Mark Fa­jardo, now chief foren­sic pathol­o­gist in River­side County, said Berman was shot by a gun within an inch of her head. The ev­i­dence in­di­cated the shooter was be­hind her, Fa­jardo said.

JAE C. HONG, POOL / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mil­lion­aire real estate heir Robert Durst sits in a court­room in Los An­ge­les on Dec. 21, 2016. Pros­e­cu­tors in the Los An­ge­les mur­der case against ec­cen­tric New York real estate heir Durst say his vic­tim’s words should be used against him in court.

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