Robert Durst’s Friend ‘Let Killer Into the House,’ Jury Told
Robert Durst’s long friendship with Susan Berman made it easier for him to kill her, a prosecutor told the jury in the New York real estate heir’s Los Angeles murder trial.
“She let her killer into the house,” John Lewin, a deputy district attorney, said in opening statements in the trial Wednesday. “She turned her back to him…and then she was executed, shot in the back of her head at very close range. Thankfully, she did not see it coming.”
Durst, whose family has stakes in properties including Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, killed Berman in 2000 so she wouldn’t talk to investigators about the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie, according to prosecutors.
Looking frail, Durst, 76, shuffled into court wearing a blue blazer over an open collar shirt. He bumped fists with his lead lawyer Dick DeGuerin before sitting down.
Lewin told jurors Durst believes he can do whatever he likes, including loudly burping at business meetings at the Durst organization, fraudulently obtaining food stamps and shoplifting at airports.
“Bob Durst is very honest that the rules don’t apply to him,” the prosecutor said.
Lewin’s raising of Durst’s anti-social and eccentric behavior drew objections from DeGuerin.
“This is character,” the defense lawyer said as Lewin started telling the jury how Durst forced Kathie to have an abortion in the 1970s even though she wanted to keep the baby. “This is an attempt to make him look bad.”
“You present what you want to present, and I present what I want to present,” Lewin fired back at one point.
The opening statements are expected to last as long as four days, with the trial possibly stretching to five months.
Much of that time will be spent leading the jury through the events before and after Kathie Durst’s disappearance in New York’s Westchester County nearly four decades ago as well as exploring Durst’s long friendship with Berman, whom he met in the 1960s at the University of California at Los Angeles. Prosecutors believe Berman helped Durst cover up his wife’s murder.
The district attorney will also want the jury to know that Durst has killed before.
In late 2000, when New York state police reopened the investigation into his wife’s disappearance, Durst went underground in Galveston, Texas, where he posed as a mute woman and rented a $300-a-month studio apartment. He later admitted to killing and dismembering his elderly neighbor in Galveston, but a jury accepted his claim that he acted in self-defense and acquitted him of murder in 2003.
According to Los Angeles prosecutors, Durst traveled from Galveston to California in December 2000 and killed Berman in her Beverly Hills home.
Read More: Robert Durst Bets on Another ‘Miracle’ to Beat Murder Rap
His lawyers stipulated last year that he sent a note to the police in Beverly Hills that said there was a “cadaver” at Berman’s address. The 2015 HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” revealed for the first time that the envelope sent to the police had the same misspelling of “Beverly” as “Beverley” and the same handwriting as a letter Durst had sent to Berman earlier.
Durst was arrested in New Orleans, where he stayed at a hotel under a fake name, the day before the final episode of the documentary was to air in March 2015 and appeared to be preparing to flee.
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