If you’ve committed a crime for which you were never charged and you’re considering doing a documentary about said crime, you might want to think again.
Thirty-four years ago, Robert A. Durst’s wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, disappeared from her home in Westchester County. Since then, Mr. Durst has spent his time traveling between New York, Los Angeles, and Houston, funded by his estranged family’s real estate empire.
Ms. Durst’s family members have long suspected Mr. Durst of killing her, but they never had enough evidence to charge him for the crime. Three decades later, Mr. Durst sounds pretty confident that he got away with murder.
Confident enough that he agreed to cooperate with the producers of a six-part documentary called “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which was broadcast on HBO in February and March. Mr. Durst provided hours of interviews, family mementos, court papers, and credit card records.
Mr. Durst’s attorneys warned him against participating in the documentary, pointing out that investigators and prosecutors who suspected him of committing at least three acts of first degree murder might be tempted to reinvestigate the cases.
Mr. Durst insisted he had no reason not to say whatever he wanted to anyone he wanted. He said it was so long ago that a D.A. would have to open up a major investigation and it would cost too much money.
The documentary explored Mr. Durst’s connection, not only to his first wife’s disappearance, but to the deaths of a boardinghouse neighbor in Texas and Susan Berman, who was shot in the back of the head. The documentary ends with Mr. Durst whispering that he killed them all.
The day after the final episode of the documentary was broadcast, Mr. Durst was arrested in New Orleans on a first-degree-murder warrant from Los Angeles. Investigators found Mr. Durst had a fake ID, latex mask, and a handgun in his possession.
The L.A. district attorney’s office had reopened the investigation into Berman’s murder, at least in part because of information provided by the producers of the documentary. Afraid Mr. Durst was about to flee the country, investigators obtained a murder warrant for his arrest and quickly acted on it.
Berman served as Mr. Durst’s spokeswoman after his wife disappeared in 1982. According to the new complaint, Mr. Durst allegedly shot her for having witnessed a crime.
Now, Ms. Durst’s 101-year-old mother, Ann McCormack, and three sisters, Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes, and Virginia McKeon, have filed a lawsuit against Robert for failing to provide them with Kathy’s body.
The family’s attorney, Robert Abrams, said the family’s priority is to properly bury their daughter and sister. With that intention, they filed their lawsuit against Mr. Durst for $100 million for violating their right to sepulcher, a New York law that grants family members the right to immediate possession of a body for burial.
The law doesn’t get much use, but if this lawsuit successful, it would strip Mr. Durst of most of his considerable wealth.
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