LOS ANGELES (AP) – New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced Thursday to life without a chance of parole for the murder of his best friend two decades ago.
Durst, 78, was convicted last month of first-degree murder in Los Angeles Superior Court for shooting Susan Berman point-blank in the back of the head at her home in December 2000.
The murder was a mystery that haunted family and friends for 15 years before Durst was arrested in 2015, following his nonchalant decision to participate in a documentary that uncovered new evidence and led him to a surprising confession. Caught.
Burman’s death left a lasting hole in the lives of family members, who remembered her Thursday for her courage, her creativity and her deep and loyal love.
“It’s been a daily, soul-consuming and crushing experience,” said Sereb Kaufman, who considered Burman his mother after his father’s date. “I’ve lost everything many times because of him.”
Durst, who has multiple medical problems and is sitting in a wheelchair wearing a brown gel scrub, said nothing. His eyes were wide open and he had a frightening gaze when he entered the courtroom and could barely see Kaufman and Berman’s three cousins as they talked.
Prosecutors said Durst silenced Berman to prevent him from pleading guilty in a re-investigation of his wife’s disappearance in New York in 1982.
Prosecutors said Berman provided a fake excuse for Durst when Kathy Durst went missing.
Durst testified that he did not kill any of the women, but said at cross-examination that he would have lied if he had.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that he intentionally killed a neighbor in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, although he was acquitted of murder after testifying to shoot the man in self-defense in that case.
Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said he plans to appeal and refrained from making other comments during the sentencing.
Judge Mark Windham refused a motion for a new trial, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence or that he had made a mistake in prior rulings 15 different ways.
“You said the court had made a mistake so many times that made me feel self-conscious,” Windham joked.
He said prosecutors had overwhelming evidence that proved Durst’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt in at least five ways, including Durst’s disastrous cross-examination on the witness stand and an admission Durst made in the climax of the six-part documentary. Includes, “The Jinx: The Life and Crimes of Robert Durst.”
After being caught in a lie about a note he directed Berman’s “cadaver” to the police, Durst went to a bathroom and mumbled to himself over a live microphone, “Definitely killed them all.”
Durst testified that he regretted participating in the documentary.
The trial began in March 2020 and was adjourned for 14 months as the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the US and courts were closed. It resumed in May with the jury reaching its verdict on 17 September.
Seven jurors returned to court to pronounce the sentence and were seated in the jury box.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster and a writer, was Durst’s longtime confidant. She told friends and Durst that she was preparing to talk to the police about her disappearance shortly before his wife was killed.
Kathy Durst was never found. Robert Durst was never charged with a crime related to his disappearance.
But following his conviction in Berman’s death, which relies on evidence that he killed his wife, a New York prosecutor is now set to bring charges against him in his death, a person familiar with the matter said. — but Joe was not authorized to speak publicly on an ongoing investigation and did so on condition of anonymity — told The Associated Press.
Cathy McCormack Durst’s family was expected to present a statement in court Thursday about her loss, but prosecutors denied the request, according to an email sent to her attorney.
Attorney Robert Abrams, who appeared at the hearing. Said the McCormack family was disappointed, and he was outraged.
“The family isn’t going to travel 3,000 miles to be a prop in some Hollywood production and sit there and make their victim impact statement,” Abrams said. “It’s not something that’s a film where it’s gross spectacle. It’s their life, and they’ve been suffering for 40 years.”
Deputy District Attorney John Levine, Kaufman and others now request Durst, who is unlikely to be free, to tell the McCormack family where he was buried.
Kaufman said, “I hope that in your final days and hours you … give McCormack the little he is asking for: to find Cathy, to rest her appropriately, and long at the end. till.” “This is the most important question that still haunts us.”
Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst, who founded the Durst Organization, one of Manhattan’s largest commercial real estate firms. His father, Seymour, took over the reins of the company and later handed over control to a younger brother, Douglas.
Robert Durst settled his share of the family fortune, which was estimated by prosecutors at $100 million.
Berman’s cousin, Davy Berman, who lived in Idaho as a teenager after his father’s death, said he had visited her grave at Home of Peace Memorial Park in East Los Angeles before sentencing.
“I met her and told her she could rest easy,” she said as her voice broke. “That justice has been done.”
Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Stephanie Dizzio in Los Angeles and Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.