LOS ANGELES (CN) — The New York police detective who first investigated the disappearance of Robert Durst’s wife in early 1982 fired back Tuesday at critics who accused him of botching the case and letting the eccentric real estate scion evade justice.
Testifying in the case accusing Durst of killing his friend Susan Berman, to cover up what she knew about the disappearance of Durst’s wife, retired detective Michael Struk described claims that he and his team had missed important evidence or knuckled under to pressure from Durst’s powerful family as “ridiculous” and “absurd.”
Struk said a lawsuit filed in October that claims the New York Police Department intentionally hid evidence to protect the powerful real estate family was “bulllshit.”
That suit, brought by the law firm representing the sisters of the long-missing Kathleen Durst, demands that the NYPD turn over all its records in the case.
“Did you cover up Mr. Durst’s role in his wife’s disappearance?” lead defense attorney Dick DeGuerin asked.
“That’s silly,” Struk replied.
He said he and the other detectives did the best they could 35 years ago to find out what had happened to Kathleen Durst.
“I thought, personally and professionally, we did whatever we could with what we were presented with, with what direction we had,” Struk, 73, said. “I am professionally comfortable with what we had done before the case got really cold.”
Robert Durst faces trial as soon as next year for the murder of Susan Berman. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin maintains that Durst killed Berman in December 2000 to keep her from revealing what she knew about Kathie Durst’s disappearance to New York state investigators, who reopened the case that year.
Lewin and his team say Durst killed Kathie after an argument on Jan. 31, 1982, at their Westchester County cottage.
Robert Durst went to Struk’s office on Feb. 5, 1982, to report that his wife had been missing since Jan. 31. He said the couple had met at their cottage that day and that he had put her on an evening train back to Manhattan because she had medical school classes the next morning. He said he assumed she returned to their Riverside Drive apartment, but he never heard from her again.
On Tuesday, DeGuerin took Struk step by step through his investigation and the leads he and others gathered that seemed in line with Durst’s statements.
Consulting old logs, notes and typed reports, Struk testified about two witnesses who claimed to have seen Kathleen Durst in or near her Manhattan apartment on Feb. 1, 1982. One of them, elevator operator Eddie Lopez, also described a man he said visited Kathleen’s apartment early that morning.
Although a witness testifying in April this year described Lopez as untruthful, Struk said Lopez reaffirmed his story and added details under hypnosis.
Struk agreed with DeGuerin that some witnesses said Kathleen Durst had been upset about her marriage and problems with her classes. Others said she was using as much as two grams of cocaine a week, and one friend apparently feared she was suicidal, Struk said.
At the end of Struk’s testimony, DeGuerin asked about his critics, including Kathie’s friends and family and the makers of the HBO documentary series “The Jinx.” Struk said parts of “The Jinx” were very good but other parts were too commercialized and “inappropriate.”
In the last scene of the six-part documentary, Durst is heard unwittingly speaking into an open microphone, saying, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Struk also responded to questions from DeGuerin about statements from Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro, who as Westchester County district attorney in 2000 reopened the investigation into Kathleen Durst’s disappearance.
Pirro is quoted several times in last month’s lawsuit against the NYPD, calling the Manhattan detectives incompetent, corrupt and biased against women victims of crime.
Struk said he thinks Pirro is “a camera whore.”
Deputy DA Lewin is expected to cross-examine Struk on Wednesday.