MANHATTAN (CN) – A wrongful-death lawsuit for the 1982 disappearance of Robert Durst’s first wife is 35 years too late, attorneys for the real estate scion argued Thursday before a New York judge.
Durst, the real estate heir who seemingly confessed to killing first-wife Kathleen in the final of episode of the 2015 HBO documentary series “The Jinx,” got hit with the lawsuit earlier this year by his former sister-in-law, Carol Bamonte.
At a hearing today before Justice Paul Goetz in Manhattan County Supreme Court, lawyers for the family said there is no question as to whether Durst killed Kathleen, who hasn’t been seen since 1982.
“He’s a serial murderer who should not be rewarded for covering up a crime long enough so that the he can defeat the statute of limitations,” Abrams Fensterman attorney Robert Abrams told the court.
Abrams said the wrongful-death suit against Durst was properly commenced within two years of the date in which Kathleen was legally declared deceased by the New York County Surrogate’s Court pursuant to New York’s Estates, Powers & Trusts Law.
Bamonte’s March 2019 complaint notes that Kathleen’s next-of-kin began the process of having her declared deceased a year after the broadcast of “The Jinx.”
Though Surrogate Nora Anderson designated a date in 1987 as Kathleen Durst’s probable date of death, an appellate panel unanimously modified that determination last year, setting the date of death as Jan. 31, 1982 — the date she disappeared at age 29.
Robert Durst’s defense team moved to dismiss in April, telling the court today that Bamonte’s window to sue is governed by New York’s Estates, Powers & Trusts Law.
That means she had two years after Kathleen’s death, “not two years after they saw the HBO show ‘The Jinx’ … and had their a-ha moment,” said Joshua Siegel, an attorney for Durst with Kasowitz Benson Torres.
Siegel pointed to court filings where family members have said they suspected Durst in Kathleen’s death from the moment of her disappearance.
“They sat on their rights until it was deemed newsworthy,” Siegel said in court. Accusing Durst’s in-laws of “judge shopping” and “forum shopping,” Siegel argued that advancing Bamonte’s case would “upend New York law” concerning statute of limitations.
Durst’s attorneys also say Bamonte’s case should be consolidated, if not dismissed outright, with a related 2015 case in Nassau County.
While never formally charged in Kathleen’s disappearance, Durst’s admission in “The Jinx” led to his arrest in 2015 for the 2000 killing in Los Angeles of his friend Susan Berman.
Prosecutors contend that Berman had helped Durst cover up his involvement in Kathleen’s death, and that Durst shot Berman in the back of the head to keep her from talking after a new investigation into Kathleen had been opened.
A year later, Durst surfaced in Texas, posing as a mute woman, after the dismembered body parts of his neighbor, Morris Black, were found floating in the Galveston Bay.
A jury acquitted Durst of Black’s 2001 murder.
Durst’s criminal trial on Berman’s death is slated to begin in Los Angeles Superior Court next year.