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The Robert Durst Murder Trial Starts: All You Need to Know About ‘The Jinx’ Villain
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Summary: Police believe Robert Durst killed his friend-turned-blackmailer, he says he’s innocent

After two decades of waiting, the murder trial of Robert Durst, the 76-year-old estate heir from New York, kickstarted when he appeared in court last week for opening statements.

The Robert Durst murder trial took years to start but experts believe that developments will now be quick as police have enough evidence to prove Durst guilty.


The case received national coverage and Durst reached infamy in 2015 when HBO presented a documentary on him called The Jinx. The presentation highlighted his life including his alleged crimes and has been mentioned during the legal battle a number of times because several clips from the show have been used as evidence.

The Dark History of the Murder

In 2000, Susan Berman was murdered in her Benedict Canyon bungalow. 

Opening arguments began in an LA courtroom, five years after authorities found Durst in New Orleans.

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It’s believed that Durst killed Berman, who was once his friend, because she was aware of the secret behind the sudden disappearance and presumed death of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst.

Police said that Berman was going to talk to the officials about Durst’s murder, which is why Durst took such a drastic step thus proving motive.

As expected, Durst has pleaded not guilty.

But That’s Not the Only Case

During the same time period, the estate scion was acquitted in a case involving the murder of a man in Galveston, Texas, identified as Morris Black, Durst’s elderly neighbor. 

In a surprising turn of events, Durst admitted to shooting and chopping up the victim’s body. 

However, his team insists that it wasn’t a confession despite how it appeared on the HBO show. His lawyers Chip Lewis and Dick DeGuerin convinced the jury that the man was acting in self-defense.

His attorneys didn’t deny that he had killed Black, his 71-year-old neighbor, in 2011, but they argued that Durst was justified in doing so.

According to the testimony, Black was killed during a struggle. Durst confessed to having butchered Black’s corpse before putting the parts in garbage bags that were discovered in Galveston Bay. 

Prosecutors, however, didn’t buy the story. They argued that Durst moved to Texas to avoid the police when they reopened the case investigating Kathie’s death. They argued that Durst stayed hidden in Texas and even disguised himself as a woman to avoid the authorities.

Prosecutors believed Durst murdered Black to steal his identity so he could stay hidden from cops. The jury that consisted of four men and eight women declared Dust not guilty on Nov. 13, 2003.

He, however, pled guilty to evidence tampering, bail jumping, and hiding evidence. 

More About the 2000 Murder From Robert Durst aka ‘The Jinx’

Police have reasons to believe the lost wife of Robert Durst was killed by the man himself despite the fact that her body was never found. The police officially considered her dead in 2017.

According to reports, Durst had been financially helping Berman by sending her checks, which some experts interpret as blackmail payments. 

The authorities are of the idea that Berman, a freelance writer, joined hands with Durst in the murder of Kathleen and turned on him when she started to struggle financially. 

Durst was never charged for the mysterious disappearance of his wife. There is no information on where she disappeared as her body was never recovered and nobody ever heard from her.

Ugly Confessions from Robert Durst ‘The Jinx

Those who have seen the HBO documentary must have seen Durst confess to many murders. He was arrested on March 14, 2015, a day before the final episode of The Jinx

“There it is. You’re caught,” he can be heard saying in the video. 

“What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” he muttered in the video without a surge of remorse or guilt in his voice.

This was not the first time that he was seen talking to himself. However, the confession did not amount to anything as it turned out to be cleverly edited by the makers, Marc Smerling and Andrew Jarecki.

They reversed the order of his words: “Killed them all, of course” preceded “What the hell did I do?” by a bunch of remarks. 

The makers have been heavily criticized for such editing. Due to such manipulations, Durst’s attorneys have requested the court to not consider The Jinx a documentary.

They consider it a ‘TV show’ and not reliable enough to be used in court as evidence.

More to the Story – The Cadaver Note

For those not in the know, a few days after Berman’s body was found, the Beverly Hills Police Department received a letter containing the word “CADAVER” in block letters and Berman’s address. 

The letter was named ‘The Cadaver Note’ and was dated a day before police found Berman’s body.  It was presumed to have been sent by Berman’s killer.

It received attention in the news once again when, in the last episode of the documentary, filmmaker Jarecki presented an envelope to Durst that he had sent to Berman using his office stationery.

Source: LA County District Attorney’s Office

Written in block letters and identical to the ‘Cadaver Note’, this envelope is considered major proof in the case as both pieces contain similar handwriting and misspellings – Beverly Hills as Beverley Hills.

Durst has time and again denied writing the original note, however, he does believe that it must have been written by the murderer.

“Somebody has planned to do this. They had to go to her house and do what they did. And you’re taking this big risk. You’re writing a note to the police that only the killer could have written,” he said.

This resulted in the filmmaker presenting Durst both versions of the letters stacked together. He asked Durst to identify the one he had written to Berman but he couldn’t because the handwriting was identical in both the notes.

Source: HBO

In a major twist – 19 years after the original letter was found and several years after the last episode of The Jinx had aired – Durst’s attorneys accepted that Durst had written the Cadaver note.

This shocking confession left everyone surprised but it appears to be nothing more than a strategy to protect Durst.

Second Marriage and Life

There still wasn’t much known about the lost wife of Robert Durst when he secretly divorced his missing wife (she was not yet declared legally dead) and married Debrah Charatan, a NYC real estate agent, only two weeks before Berman’s murder.

He was taken into custody on October 9, 2001, but was able to get bail thanks to his second wife. He fled and was rediscovered in December 2001 in Pennsylvania where he was caught stealing a newspaper, chicken salad sandwich, and Bad-Aids at a local grocery store.

He looked different as he had no eyebrows or hair on his head. Police believed he had changed his look to remain undetected. 

He had $500 on him when he was arrested and was carrying $37,000 in a rental car he rented in Black’s name, providing evidence for police allegations that he wanted to steal Black’s identity.

Durst and Charatan are still married. The authorities cannot force his second wife to testify against her husband.

Durst served about a year in jail and then spent a few more months in prison for returning to the house where he had murdered Morris Black. 

Durst was again back in police custody in 2014 for urinating on a candy display at a CVS store in Texas. His lawyer described the incident as a ‘medical mishap’.

He has been called a lunatic and eccentric for his behavior and his alleged involvement in multiple murders.

The Opening Statement at The Robert Durst Murder Trial

Durst changed his stance at the latest hearing of his murder trial. 

For years, he had denied being in LA when Berman was killed. However, according to the latest statement he was there.

“Bob showed up and found her dead,” said his lawyer at his trial in LA. 

“He panicked. He wrote the anonymous letter, so her body would be found, and he ran. He’s run away all his life.”

His lawyers now have to prove how and why Durst wrote the original note without being the killer. 



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