Read an Excerpt
As I write this, Robert Alan Durst is rotting in a federal facility. But I don’t want him to die.
And, no, I am not relying on his lawyer Dick DeGuerin’s statements about his client’s poor health.
If Dick DeGuerin told me what time it was, I’d check my watch; if he told me the sky was blue, I still wouldn’t believe him.
All you have to do is look at Robert Durst to see that he’s not long for this world. The man is seventy-two years old, but he looks like a thousand. His physical disintegration from when I first laid eyes on him in 2001 in Pennsylvania to 2013 when he filmed the HBO documentary series The Jinx to now is startling. He’s stick thin, weak looking, and shuffling. A strong wind would topple him.
On one side of his shaved head, he’s got a shunt to drain out excess brain fluid. The condition is called hydrocephalus. It might kill him. It might not. If the brain fluid doesn’t do him in, his esophageal cancer will. For now, Durst is being held in a federal facility, having been transferred to St. Charles Parish’s Nelson Coleman Correctional Center to be treated for his illnesses, in Hahnville, Louisiana.
I’m praying his brain and cancer treatments work. I want Robert Durst to live long enough to stand trial in Los Angeles and be convicted for the December 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman in that city. I want him to live long enough to be indicted for and convicted of the murder of his wife, Kathleen, who vanished in 1982. And then I want to dance in my Manolo Blahniks on his grave.
As district attorney of Westchester County, New York, I took a fresh look at Kathleen’s case in 1999 when new questions about it came to light.
The decision to reopen that seventeen-year-old cold case was like kicking a hornet’s nest. Sixteen years after that, the hornets are still buzzing, louder than ever, and a lot of people have been stung in the interim.
I kicked that nest because I knew it was hiding a man who killed his wife, a woman who disappeared without a trace. I knew it then, and I know it now. How? Guts and instinct. When you’ve done enough of these cases, as I have, you just know. There’s a second sight, a déjà vu, an overwhelming sense that you’ve been here before and you know how it ends. The dots are all over the place, but the lines aren’t yet connected.
But pure guts and instinct aren’t enough to bring a criminal down. You need evidence, pure and simple. And Robert Durst, for some reason, is expert at getting rid of evidence. Actually, he doesn’t deserve that much credit. He was aided by money, power, society, and a culture (including the police) willing to believe that a woman who vanished from the face of the earth probably just fell off. Case closed.
I’ve been on a mission since 1999 to prove that Kathleen didn’t just fall off or run off, but had been murdered and disposed of by her not-so-loving husband. Not just that. I’ve been fighting to expose the ineptitude, ignorance, abuse of power, and, yes, cover-up, that have allowed Durst to live free for more than three decades.
He’s skated for two other murders since then. He was suspected of shooting his best friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000. They’d been each other’s close, close confidants. But when he feared, heard, and knew she’d talk to the police about him, he was not about to let that happen. He had to shut her up.
He admitted to killing a neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, in 2001. But the half-wit jury—aided and abetted by an out-of‑her-depth judge and an odiously brilliant but unscrupulous defense “dream team”—acquitted him of it. I actually believed that kangaroo courts ended . . . But, then again, people were starting to question the criminal justice system. O. J. Simpson: acquittal. Michael Jackson: acquittal. Durst testified on the witness stand that he shot and dismembered his neighbor Morris Black. After he was caught, he jumped bail and stayed on the lam for six weeks. To my mind, and the minds of most normal people—not to mention an accepted legal inference, which, as a judge, I charged juries for years—his flight alone showed consciousness of guilt. He killed Black intentionally, and then the entitled dirtbag thought he could just drive away and never look back. Actually, he did!
One of the jurors who let him get away with murder (and wore it as a badge of honor) visited Durst in jail five times while Durst served a year on separate charges of bond jumping and evidence tampering. Why did this man visit Durst so many times? His actions were questionable at best. So much for Texas justice. Isn’t Texas where murderers go straight to hanging immediately after arrest?
In a perfect world of equal justice, Robert Durst would be shot in the head and then dismembered with an axe and a bow saw, like Morris Black. (“I didn’t kill my best friend,” Durst told the jury. “I did dismember him.”) Or he’d be shot in the back of his head like Susan Berman, one of his other best friends. With friends like him . . . Or he would meet whatever heinous fate was inflicted on Kathie.
I have long been haunted by the question of exactly what he did to her. But I have a pretty good idea. Based on an accumulation of evidence compiled by my team, law enforcement in other states, and The Jinx filmmakers, I’d bet my pet pig Kathie was beaten to death in their home in South Salem, New York, hacked up for easy transportation to some remote parkland in New Jersey, and secretly buried.
I’ve always been a believer that sooner or later the truth comes out. Sooner or later, the jig is up. But Durst is not your run-of-the-mill dirtbag. He’s pulled himself out of the fire again and again, thanks to family money and the power to corrupt the justice system. He has gotten away with murder. Not once. Not twice. But three times (that we know about).
In the annals of serial killers, Robert Durst has raised the “Holy Shit!” bar sky-high. To say that he has been cunning, methodical, and devious every step of the way is an understatement. It’s no surprise that a man worth upward of $100 million could or would beat the system. What is a surprise is the shrewd and outlandish methods he used to get away with his crimes, such as passing himself off as a mute woman named Dorothy Ciner—the girl whose high school yearbook picture was next to his. He assumed multiple aliases, living for months below the radar in a flophouse in Bumfuck, Texas, concocting bizarre ideas for his own legal defense—including the vilification in court of yours truly.
Incredibly, all of these “holy shit!” antics seem to have worked for him. For decades, Durst used his wealth to make a mockery of the system of law and order that the rest of us rely on to protect the victim and punish the criminal.
But this circus will come to an end soon. If Durst lives long enough, he’ll be extradited from New Orleans to Los Angeles to face charges for the murder of Susan Berman. His “dream team” of lawyers, for yet a few more pieces of silver, will once again attempt to sully a courtroom with falsehoods and manipulation of the facts. But it won’t work this time. Prosecutors in L.A. have been building their case against Robert Durst for the last two years. They’re doing their job. Witnesses are being interviewed and lined up to testify against him in a Los Angeles courtroom. And along with dozens, if not hundreds, of other reporters, I will be covering the trial, gavel to gavel, relishing every minute of it.
My only regret is that I will not be the prosecutor seeking justice.
So pray that Durst lives! If he dies before the trial, the world will be deprived of the satisfaction of watching that silver spoon of entitlement get ripped from his mouth. If he dies before the trial, the family and friends of his victims won’t get to see him pay for what he’s done. They deserve that. Like the ripples made by a stone tossed in a pond, the disquieting effects of his violence have lingered for way too long, affecting many, far beyond the immediate victims. Thirty-three years after Kathie’s death, those ripples continue to create enormous pain.
I want nothing more than that the victims and survivors of the crimes of Robert Durst get some understanding, some sense of justice, some peace in their lives. I hope their questions will be answered. I hope they can finally put their loved ones to rest, if only in their hearts.
For me, there will be no rest until that emaciated monster is dressed in an orange jumpsuit and then rots to death behind bars.
I, too, have been living with the Durst ripple effect. I haven’t suffered the grief and anguish of Kathie’s, Susan’s, and Morris’s friends and family, but I have been obsessed with connecting the dots to prove his guilt. I’ve been both frustrated and furious over his slippery evasion of punishment. I have also been criticized and vilified—in courts of law, no less—time and again for my “dogged pursuit of Bobby,” as if we should just let bygones be bygones. Durst’s defense team and other wannabe bit players in the theater of the surreal and absurd that is the Durst story have taken shots at me, accusing me of overzealousness and ambition. They accuse me of being “on a mission” to nail Durst.
Guilty as charged.
I’m still on that mission.
This book is the history of my mission as part of the insanity, from the first time I heard the name Durst in 1999 to today, right now. It’s the insider perspective of exactly what went down during my fifteen-year investigation of this serial murderer, this pathological liar, this narcissistic, disgusting, fascinating, brilliant, evil little bastard.
There may never be another case as twisted, perverse, and mind-boggling as Robert Durst’s.
Thank God, for all our sakes.