Robert Durst, convicted murderer and real estate scion, died at age 78 today while serving a life sentence in prison. In November, Durst was convicted of killing confidante Susan Berman who, as posited by the filmmakers of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, aided Durst in the cover-up of the 1982 disappearance of his first wife Kathleen McCormack. The FBI arrested Durst just one day before the final episode of The Jinx aired in 2015, during which he admitted to murdering Berman, McCormack, and his elderly neighbor in a hot mic moment while peeing and burping.
It’s hard for me to write a condemning obituary for a man who was a violent sociopath who used his father’s money and lawyers to skate by murder charges for most of his life, because Robert Durst is also my favorite television character of all time. If it weren’t all true (though filmmaker Andrew Jarecki has been accused of fudging the audio sequencing in the “Killed them all of course…” bathroom confession), Durst’s affectations and errors could have been played as a black comedy: the Vermont health food store, the women’s wigs, the Manhattan real estate fortune, his black little shark eyes, the acid reflux, that one crucial misspelling of the name Beverly, that time Ryan Gosling played him in a feature film, how the law eventually caught up to him for when he was captured for shoplifting a chicken hoagie and Band-Aids in a Wegmans in Pennsylvania, on the lam from authorities in Texas.
Durst was one of the sinister, most idiosyncratic monsters to ever appear on television, and I’ll admit that most of the fun of The Jinx was that he wasn’t fictional. He caused irreparable real-world grief and pain, but he was still alive, evil, and moving through the world, obsidian pupils dilated.What a captivating psycho, and I do mean it for once in the clinical sense! I am a white woman, and even more than loving on true crime’s best dead girls, we love to poke around on Reddit like the little detective emoji girl. Anything to keep the lights on while we sleep!
At the end of his life, Durst appeared at his court dates marauding around as a sad old man with smashed-up eyeglasses, looking diminished in a neck brace and wheelchair. It was a classic villain move, and possibly his best disguise since he lived for months as a deaf-mute woman in Galveston, TX. He maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings, but was nonetheless convicted. In his final days, stricken by COVID, indicted in New York for McCormack’s disappearance,and taken out by a final cardiac arrest, Durst’s dumb luck ran out for the first and last time.