Who Is Robert Durst? What To Know If You're Not Watching The Jinx
On Saturday, suspected killer and admitted dismemberer Robert Durst was arrested in New Orleans in connection with an unsolved murder case. But which one? Since 1982, the millionaire real-estate heir has been linked to a number of different deaths and disappearances, recently becoming the subject of HBO docuseries The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
The finale of that show—which appears to have uncovered the evidence leading to Durst's arrest—airs tonight. Here's what you need to know before then.
Who is Robert Durst?
Born in 1943, Durst is one of four children of New York real estate mogul Seymour Durst and wife Bernice Herstein. In 1950, Durst's mother jumped or fell from the roof of their family home to her death. Durst, who was seven at the time and very close to his mother, claims to have witnessed the event. His bother (and vocal critic) Douglas Durst disputes that account.
In 1973, Durst married 19-year-old Kathleen McCormack. Nine years later, she disappeared under mysterious circumstances. McCormack was never found.
The disappearance of Kathleen McCormack
On January 31, 1982, McCormack left a party at the home of friend Gilberte Najamy after reportedly receiving a series of phone calls from her estranged husband. According to Najamy, before McCormack left she said, "If something happens to me, you will check it out. I'm afraid of what [Durst] will do."
According to reports, Durst did not report his wife missing for nearly five days, explaining it was not uncommon for the two of them to go days without seeing each other. After a fruitless initial investigation, the case lay dormant for nearly 20 years.
The murder of Susan Berman
In 2000, Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro reopened the McCormack case after receiving an intriguing (but ultimately unsubstantiated) tip about the location of the missing woman's body. In December of that year, Durst's long-time friend and confidant Susan Berman was found murdered "execution-style" in her Los Angeles home, just days before she was to talk to Pirro and investigators about McCormack's disappearance.
According to The New York Times, police suspected Durst was the author of the anonymous letter that alerted authorities to Berman's death but were unable to prove it.
The death—and dismemberment—of Morris Black
After Kathie McCormack's case was reopened, Durst went into hiding in Galveston, Texas. He donned a brunette wig and assumed a female identity under the name Dorothy Ciner. In 2001, Durst's elderly neighbor Morris Black was found dismembered in the Gulf of Mexico.
Durst was arrested for murder shortly afterward. At trial, Durst admitted to dismembering his neighbor but claimed he had killed him in self-defense. In 2003, a jury acquitted him of the crime.
Durst was imprisoned for three more years for evidence tampering and bail jumping, but has largely lived as a free man since 2006.
In 2010, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki directed All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and based on the McCormack case. After seeing the film, Durst playfully told The New York Times that Gosling's portrayal of him was, "Close... Not as good as the real thing."
Still, Durst enjoyed the film and reached out to Jarecki, explaining that he would like to sit down with the documentarian for an interview to explain his side of the story. That interview became the six-part HBO docuseries, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
On last Sunday's episode of The Jinx, the show's filmmakers uncovered a letter written by Durst that seemed to match the anonymous note that brought police to Susan Berman's body in 2000. It is this letter's discovery that appears to have triggered the warrant for Durst's arrest on Saturday in New Orleans.
According to The Hollywood Reporter's Matthew Belloni, tonight's finale will not address Durst's arrest.
An HBO rep just told me that Robert Durst's arrest will not be addressed on tonight's finale of The Jinx. Seems odd.
— Matthew Belloni (@THRMattBelloni) March 15, 2015
Various other deaths and disappearances
So: Durst has copped to dismembering an elderly man, admitted (in The Jinx) to lying about his wife's disappearance and been confronted with his potential role in Berman's murder.
And there's likely more. Durst has possible links to the disappearances of two teenage girls, Karen Mitchell of Eureka, California and Kristen Modafferi of San Francisco in 1997. According to The Journal News, an investigator with the San Francisco D.A. found evidence putting Durst in the area "at least on the weekend before Modafferi disappeared and on the day that Mitchell went missing."
Additionally, Durst's estranged brother Douglas believes that Robert killed a series of seven dogs, all Alaskan Malamutes named Igor, in the months leading up to McCormack's disappearance. According to Douglas, a jailhouse recording captures Durst saying, "I want to 'Igor' Douglas." In January, Douglas told The New York Times, "I now believe he was practicing killing and disposing his wife with those dogs."
[Image via AP Images]