Robert Alan Durst (born April 12, 1943) is a son of New York real estate mogul Seymour Durst, and brother of commercial developer Douglas Durst. He came to media attention in the 1980s when his wife disappeared, and again in the early 2000s when he was the subject of a multi-state manhunt and twice acquitted of murder.
One of four children, Durst grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and attended Scarsdale High School. He completed his undergraduate degree at Lehigh University and attended graduate school at UCLA. At age 7 Durst reportedly witnessed his mother's apparent suicide; she either fell or jumped from the roof of the family's mansion. According to Reader's Digest, Durst underwent extensive counseling because of his mother's death, and doctors found that his childhood trauma, and anger could lead to psychological problems, including paranoid schizophrenia. Durst went on to become a real estate developer in his father's business; however, it was his brother Douglas who was later appointed to run the family business. The appointment in the 1990s caused a rift between Robert and his family, and he became estranged from them.
In 1973, Durst married Kathleen McCormack, who disappeared in 1982. Her case remained unsolved for 18 years when New York State Police re-opened the criminal investigation. On December 24, 2000, Durst's long-time friend, Susan Berman, who was believed to have knowledge of McCormack's disappearance, was found murdered execution-style in her Benedict Canyon, California house. Durst was questioned in both cases but not charged. According to prosecutors, Durst moved to Texas in 2000 and began cross-dressing to divert attention from the disappearance of McCormack.
In 2001, Durst was arrested in Galveston, Texas, shortly after body parts of his elderly neighbor, Morris Black, were found floating in Galveston Bay, but was released on bail. Durst missed his court hearing and was declared the first billion-dollar fugitive in the US. He was caught in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a Wegmans Supermarket, after trying to shoplift a chicken sandwich, Band-Aids, and a newspaper, even though he had $500 cash in his pocket. A police search of his rented car yielded $37,000 in cash, two guns, marijuana and Black's driver's license.
In 2003, Durst went on trial for the murder of Morris Black. He hired defense attorney Dick DeGuerin and claimed self-defense. During cross-examination, Durst admitted to using a paring knife, two saws and an axe to dismember Black's body before dumping his remains in Galveston Bay. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which the defense argued explained his behavior. The jury acquitted him of murder.
In 2004, Durst pleaded guilty to two counts of bond jumping and one count of evidence tampering. As part of a plea bargain, he received a sentence of five years and was given credit for time served, requiring him to serve about three years in prison.
Durst was paroled in 2005. The rules of his release required him to stay near his home; permission was required to travel.
In December 2005, Durst made an unauthorized trip to the boarding house where Black had been killed and to a nearby shopping mall. At the mall, he ran into the presiding judge from his murder trial, Judge Susan Criss. Due to this incident, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles determined that Durst had violated the terms of his parole, and he was returned to jail. He was released again from custody on March 1, 2006.
In July 2014, Durst was arrested after turning himself in to police following an incident at a Houston CVS drugstore in which he allegedly exposed himself without provocation and urinated on a rack of candy. He then left the store and casually walked down the street. Durst was charged with criminal mischief and is currently awaiting trial. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, he may serve up to a year in prison and may be subject to a $2000 fine.
In popular culture
- Investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck's coverage of Durst for People magazine and Reader's Digest led to his 2002 book ''A Deadly Secret: The Strange Disappearance of Kathie Durst''.
- The events surrounding Durst inspired the 2010 film All Good Things, the title of which is a reference to a health store of the same name set up by Durst and his wife in the 1970s.
- Two Law & Order episodes gave different takes on the murders: season 14, episode 17 of Law & Order, "Hands Free", and season 1, episode 19 of Law & Order: Criminal Intent titled "Maledictus".
- In December 2014 it was announced that HBO planned to air a six-part documentary about Durst, titled The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The mini-series, by the filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling, who were responsible for All Good Things, airs on Sunday, February 8, 2015.
- Collins, Marion. Without a Trace. New York: McMillan (November 18, 2002). ISBN 0312985029.
- Bruno, Anthony. "All about millionaire murderer Robert Durst". truTV. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
- Rosenberg, Rebecca; Greene, Leonard (October 24, 2011). "Cross-dressing 'murderer' Robert Durst moves into Harlem townhouse". New York Post.
- Todt, Ron. "Fugitive heir Robert Durst arrested in Pennsylvania" Spartanburg Herald-Journal (December 1, 2001)
- Bagli, Charles V. (January 26, 2002). "Durst Waives Extradition To Texas Trial In Murder". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- Springer, John. "Prosecution forces Durst to admit his many lies". truTV. Retrieved 2009-04-02.[dead link]
- Leung, Rebecca. "The Mystery of Robert Durst". CBS News. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- John Springer. "Millionaire Durst acquitted of neighbor's murder". truTV. Retrieved 2009-04-02.[dead link]
- Su, Jessica. "Millionaire Robert Durst pleads guilty to bail jumping, evidence tampering". Court TV. Archived from the original on 2009-03-09.
- Abrams, Dan. "Billionaire Robert Durst back in jail". MSNBC. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- Moran, Kevin (March 1, 2006). "Millionaire Durst allowed back to Houston home". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
- Reilly, Richard Byrne. "Cross-Dressing Convict Robert Durst Returns to New York", New York (February 4, 2011)
- Rice, Harvey (July 22, 2014). "Durst accused of urinating on candy at CVS". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
- Diebel, Matthew (July 24, 2014). "Robert Durst: From riches to allegedly peeing on candy". USA Today. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- Rubinstein, Dana (August 8, 2008). "Ryan Gosling Is Robert Durst". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
- Jones, Leigh (August 22, 2008). "Movie based on Durst's wife's disappearance". The Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- Bagli, Charles. "Stranger Than Fiction? Try Fact: HBO Plans a Documentary on Robert Durst". The New York Times (December 1, 2014)
- Birkbeck, Matt (2002). A Deadly Secret: The Strange Disappearance of Kathie Durst.
- Scott, Cathy (2002). Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman. ISBN 1-56980-238-6.