Robert Durst charged in 1982 with the murder of his wife Kathie Durst

LOS ANGELES, CA – Robert Durst was charged on Monday with the murder of his first wife, Kathie Durst, whose disappearance nearly four decades ago has long overshadowed the imprisoned millionaire, contributing to his increasingly bizarre and violent behavior and led to a notorious camera confession.

A large jury in New York City’s suburbs returned the second-degree murder charge just weeks after an investigator in the case filed a criminal complaint in city court, accusing the 78-year-old heir to murder, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah said.

Durst is serving a life sentence in California for killing a confidant who helped him cover up Kathie Durst’s murder. Durst was admitted to a respirator with COVID-19 after his sentencing on Oct. 14 in the Los Angeles case and was transferred to a state jail hospital last week. His medical condition was not released, but a mug shot showed no signs of a ventilator.

Rocah said an arrest warrant has been issued for Durst’s arrest in the New York case.

“When Kathleen Durst disappeared on January 31, 1982, her family and friends were left with pain, anxiety and questions that have contributed to their unwavering pursuit of justice for the past 39 years,” Rocah said in a statement announcing the indictment.

Rocah said her office “revived its investigation” of Robert Durst when she took office in January, launching a cold case unit and dedicating the necessary skills and resources. She decided to take the case to a grand jury in early October. Rocah said Durst’s indictment is a “big step forward in the pursuit of justice for Kathie Durst, her family and victims of domestic violence everywhere.”

Asked by a journalist if he had any reaction to the indictment, Durst lawyer Chip Lewis replied in an email: “False news!” Asked in a subsequent email whether he will represent Durst in the New York case and whether there is concern about moving him to New York given his health issues, Lewis replied, “Not sure he will handle it. “But if he does, I will let you know.”

A lawyer for Kathie Durst’s family said they were still working on the news of the indictment and would talk more about the case in the coming days.

Kathie Durst’s disappearance in 1982 aroused renewed public interest after HBO aired a documentary in 2015 in which the eccentric Durst seemed to admit that he killed people, stepped out of the camera and mumbled to himself on a live microphone: “Killed all of them, of course. “

The grand jury that charged Durst continued to meet and hear witnesses, even after state police investigator Joseph Becerra filed a criminal complaint in a district court in Lewisboro, New York, on Oct. 19, in which he charged Durst with second-degree murder. He had never before been charged with her disappearance.

Such submissions are often seen as a first step in the criminal process because all criminal cases in New York require a major jury indictment to proceed to trial unless a defendant waives that claim.

Kathie Durst was 29 and in her final months of medical school when she was last seen. She and Robert Durst, who were 38 at the time, had been married for nearly nine years and lived in South Salem, a community in Lewisboro. Her body was never found. Robert Durst divorced her in 1990 on the grounds that she had been abandoned. At the request of her family, she was declared legally dead in 2017.

Robert Durst’s behavior became more and more erratic as investigators over the years made several attempts to close the case. In 1999, authorities searched a lake and the couple’s homes, but found little evidence that Becerra equated the search with a “needle in a haystack.”

In December 2000, Durst shot and killed her best friend, Susan Berman, as she prepared to tell police about her involvement in Kathie Durst’s death. She had told friends she gave him a false alibi after his wife disappeared, the prosecutor said.

Durst was convicted in September of killing Berman. Afterwards, Los Angeles prosecutor John Lewin described him as a “narcissistic psychopath,” saying Durst “killed his wife, and then he had to keep killing to cover it up.”

After Berman’s death, Durst went into hiding and disguised himself as a dumb woman living in a cheap apartment in Galveston, Texas. There he killed a neighbor, chopped up his body and threw it into the sea. Durst claimed self-defense – that he and Black were fighting for control of a gun – and were acquitted. He was convicted of destroying evidence to discard the body parts.

Durst was also sentenced in 2016 to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to a federal weapons charge stemming from a 2015 arrest in New Orleans.

Robert Durst’s family owns more than 16 million square feet of real estate in New York and Philadelphia, including a 10% stake in One World Trade Center, the Manhattan skyscraper formerly known as Freedom Tower. Family members bought Robert Durst’s stake in the company for $ 65 million in 2006.

In the HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” from 2015, Durst admitted that he had killed people and admitted that he found out details about what happened the night she disappeared because he “hoped, that it would just make everything go away. “

Durst, who has several medical problems, sat in a wheelchair during much of the California trial and sentencing. He read his lawyer’s questions from a tablet that provides live transcripts because he has difficulty hearing.

Durst, who testified at the Los Angeles trial in August, denied killing Kathie Durst. After her medical school called to report that she had not gone to class, he said he reckoned she was “out of a place to have fun” and suggested it might be drug use that was to blame.

“It had not dawned on me that anything had happened to her,” Durst said, speaking slowly in a strained, rasping voice. “It was more like: What had Kathie done to Kathie?”

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