LOS ANGELES (CN) — Two months after the HBO documentary series “The Jinx” presented the conclusion that New York real estate multimillionaire Robert Durst had likely murdered three people, Durst told a friend from jail that he made a mistake talking to the show’s producers.
In a recorded telephone call from the downtown Los Angeles jail, Durst told a woman he’d grown close to that after watching the fourth episode of the six-part series, “I started to think I had a problem.”
After the fifth episode, he said on the recording: “I definitely had a problem.”
Durst, now 75, is accused of the execution-style murder of his close friend, Susan Berman, in late December 2000. Los Angeles prosecutors contend he killed Berman for fear she would disclose what she knew about Durst’s involvement in the disappearance and presumed murder of his first wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982.
Robert Durst did admit killing and dismembering a third person in Galveston, Texas, in 2001. He claimed self-defense and was acquitted.
In the fifth episode of “The Jinx,” broadcast on March 8, 2015, the producers showed Durst an anonymous letter sent to police immediately after Berman was killed in her Beverly Hills-area home. The letter said only “cadaver” in capital block capital letters and listed the address of Berman’s cottage. The envelope was addressed to “Beverley Hills Police,” with Beverly misspelled.
Next, they showed Durst a letter he had sent to Berman previously. The address on the envelope — written in matching block letters — listed the city as “Beverley Hills,” with the same extra “e” in Beverly.
Durst complained about the show and the producers in a phone call recorded on May 8, 2015, with Jeanne Clarke, a Los Angeles-area woman some have described as his girlfriend. “I never should have spoken to that schmuck,” Durst said about one of the two “Jinx” producers.
Although in the phone call he was upset about episodes four and five of “The Jinx,” the most damning scene came at the very end of the sixth and final episode. Not aware that his microphone was still live, he appeared to confess while speaking to himself off camera. “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” he said.
Durst and Clarke were recorded a second time on May 10, 2015. In that call, Durst tells Clarke he needs to find a friend to whom he has written letters who could testify that he never misspelled Beverly. “That would be very helpful,” he said.
Clarke was one of four witnesses to take the stand Thursday in Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham’s small courtroom near Los Angeles International Airport. Although Durst may not go to trial until next year, Windham has allowed prosecutors, led by Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, to take testimony from ill and elderly witnesses who might not be available at trial.
Clarke, 74, said she met Durst about 10 years ago at a group dinner put on by a Los Angeles-area organization to help people meet. She said the two eventually became friends and went out to dinner several times. She said their relationship was never physical, although she did stay with him in a condo in Texas for a few days when he was ill.
Since he was arrested and charged with Berman’s murder in March 2015 and brought to Los Angeles, she has visited him once in jail and taken many phone calls from him, she said.
But she said little else in about two hours on the stand Thursday. Lewin asked her repeatedly when she had learned that Durst was suspected of murdering his wife and his best friend and that he had admitted a third killing.
She said she did not remember and that she never asked Durst about the high-profile accusations and suspicions.
Why didn’t you ask him? Lewin asked.
“Because I didn’t want the information,” Clarke said. “I think I was aware there were things on the internet and the TV, but I never believed them.”
Many of the rest of her answers were “No,” “I don’t know,” “I don’t remember” and “I don’t understand.”
Asked at one point about “The Jinx,” Clarke responded: “Who’s the jinx?”
Eventually, Judge Windham said he believed her poor memory was feigned.
Another witness Thursday was a close friend of Susan Berman’s who became the executor of her estate. Mystery writer Julie Smith said the two met when they were both young newspaper reporters in San Francisco around 1970.
Smith recounted an episode at Berman’s memorial service in early 2001 when she was approached by Nick Chavin, who was a close friend of both Berman and Robert Durst. Despite many others’ suspicions, Chavin had long insisted that Durst had nothing to do with young Kathleen Durst’s disappearance in 1982.
At the service, however, Chavin was “extremely agitated” when he approached Smith. “He asked me if Susan had ever told me that Bobby [Durst] had killed Kathie [Durst],” she said.
Smith said she asked him if Susan had told him that Durst killed his wife. He said yes. Quoting Berman, Chavin said: “Bobby is our friend. We love him. We have to support him.”
Chavin gave even more dramatic testimony himself in February 2017. He said that after a 2014 dinner with Durst, he asked about Berman. Durst replied: “I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice.”
Testimony is to continue on May 3 with more direct and cross-examination of Jeanne Clarke. In October, the judge will hear more of the preliminary hearing, at which he must decide whether there is enough evidence to hold Durst over for trial for murder.