LOS ANGELES (CN) — Quoting Robert Durst’s own words from a television documentary, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered the eccentric multimillionaire to stand trial on charges of murdering his close friend 18 years ago.
Durst, the 75-year-old scion of a powerful New York real estate family, is accused of shooting journalist and author Susan Berman inside her Beverly Hills-area cottage shortly before Christmas 2000. Prosecutors say Durst killed Berman, whom he’d known since college, because she knew he had killed his wife, Kathleen, years before in New York.
Kathleen Durst vanished in early 1982. Her body has never been found, and no charges have been brought in her disappearance.
In finding enough evidence against Durst, Judge Mark E. Windham said Durst had effectively provided “a succinct confession” when he unwittingly talked to himself while wearing a live mic during filming of the six-part HBO documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
“There it is. You’re caught,” Durst said. And. “Killed them all, of course.”
“It’s cryptic,” Windham declared at the end of eight days of preliminary hearings. “But without an explanation from the defendant, it operates as a succinct confession to the murders with which he’s been confronted.”
Durst has denied killing either Berman or his long-missing wife.
Other evidence indicating Durst’s guilt, according to the judge, was his surprising fondness for a fictional movie based on his life called “All Good Things,” in which he is portrayed as killing both women, a neighbor in Texas and a dog, according to prosecutors.
Durst did kill — and dismember —a neighbor, Morris Black, when he was hiding out in Galveston, Texas, in 2001. He was acquitted of the murder on self-defense grounds, but he did serve some time for tampering with evidence.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said that, in interviews about the movie, Durst complained only about being shown as killing his dog, never about being portrayed as a triple murderer.
Windham found that Durst’s comments on the film amounted to an “adoptive admission” of its claims.
In fact, Durst sought out the filmmakers, Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling, just before “All Good Things” was released in late 2010. He sat for three days of interviews with them that December, which they then used in making “The Jinx” documentary about him.
Jarecki and Smerling brought him back in mid-2012 for another interview and to provide commentary on “All Good Things” for its DVD version. In his commentary, Durst declared that scenes showing his character, played by Ryan Gosling, fighting with his wife, played by Kirsten Dunst, and pulling her around by the hair were accurate.
A third piece of critical evidence against Durst was what is known as the “cadaver letter,” Windham held.
A day or two after Berman’s murder, police in Beverly Hills received an anonymous letter, written in block capital letters, declaring simply “cadaver” and giving Berman’s address. The word Beverly was misspelled as “Beverley” with an extra E.
Windham said a handwriting expert had confirmed that the envelope and letter were written by Durst.
Further, Jarecki and Smerling had been given a note that Durst mailed to Berman shortly before her death. The envelope was addressed to her in “Beverley” Hills, with the extra E, and the block printing matched the printing on the cadaver letter and envelope.