LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Friday convicted New York real estate heir Robert Durst of gunning down a friend more than two decades ago, a killing authorities believe was connected to his missing wife.
The panel had been deliberating since Tuesday afternoon when it came back with the guilty verdict for first-degree murder in the slaying of Susan Berman on Dec. 23, 2000.
Berman had been scheduled to speak to police about a fake alibi she allegedly gave Durst when his wife disappeared in New York in 1982, prosecutors said.
Kathie Durst has never been found, and no charges have ever been brought in connection with her disappearance.
Durst, 78, was not present in court when the verdict was read because he is in isolation after being possibly exposed to Covid-19.
Friday’s verdict wrapped up a trial that began with jurors first hearing evidence in March 2020. They were forced to take a 14-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic. Proceedings began again in May.
In closing arguments, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told jurors they had to hold Durst accountable for Berman’s slaying.
“Bob Durst is not crazy. He’s not some nut job serial killer who goes around killing for the thrill of it,” he said. “Don’t let this narcissistic psychopath get away with what he’s done.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement that “the jury’s decision demonstrates how our legal system can work to hold accountable people regardless of their wealth and status in life.”
Sentencing is set for Oct. 18 in Los Angeles.
After Berman’s death, Durst fell off the grid and landed in Galveston, Texas, where he assumed the name Dorothy Ciner and regularly wore a woman’s wig, dresses and high heels.
Durst was acquitted of the September 2001 killing of his neighbor, Morris Black, despite admitting to chopping up his body, placing the remains in plastic garbage bags and throwing them into Galveston Bay.
Durst claimed self-defense, saying Black was fatally shot when they were struggling over a gun.
A microphone he was wearing while being interviewed was live while he went to the bathroom. It recorded him whispering to himself: “You’re caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Durst’s brother, Douglas, said they hope the conviction provides some peace to those who Robert Durst has hurt.
“Today, our thoughts are with the victims of Robert’s crimes,” Douglas Durst said. “The jury’s conviction holds him accountable and, hopefully, brings a measure of closure, to the families and friends of the people Robert has hurt.”
Kathie Durst’s family called for prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to charge Robert Durst in her death.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” the McCormack family said in a statement after the verdict. “Although Durst has now been rightly convicted of killing Susan Berman, who helped him conceal the truth about Kathie’s death, the McCormack family is still waiting for justice. Kathie is still waiting for justice.”