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Criminal Case Against Millionaire Robert Durst Grows

The legal woes for the scion of one of New York City's wealthiest real estate families — and the subject of the HBO documentary The Jinx, about his connection to the deaths of his wife, friend, and neighbor — continues to stack up. Durst, who will eventually be extradited to California to face murder charges, now faces a handful of weapons-related charges.

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Updated on

Here's The Latest:

  • Robert Durst, the 71-year-old scion of a Manhattan real estate empire, was arrested in New Orleans on charges he murdered his former best friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000.
  • He agreed in court to be extradited to California to face the murder charge.
  • On top of being arrested for murder, Durst has been charged with violating both federal and state gun control laws for carrying a Smith and Wesson handgun.
  • It is unclear when he will be transferred to California.
  • A judge ordered Durst held without bail on drug and weapons charges stemming from his arrest. He has been indicted on those charges.
  • Durst has been linked to the deaths of his former wife, Kathleen, in 1982; Berman; and neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, Texas, in 2001.
  • Durst agreed to give an interview to director Andrew Jarecki for The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
  • In the series finale, aired on HBO on Sunday, Jarecki confronted Durst with handwriting evidence that strongly implies he was involved in Berman's death.
  • Durst denied it on camera, but was caught on a hot microphone in the bathroom saying, "There it is. You're caught ... what the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Updates

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Millionaire Robert Durst appeared in court Tuesday to answer to the latest charge filed against him in a sprawling criminal case that blew up just as the final segment of an HBO documentary on him aired.

Durst, the 71-year-old scion of a Manhattan real estate empire that includes operating the 1 World Trade Center, pleaded not guilty in New Orleans to a federal charge of possessing a gun after a felony conviction, the Associated Press reported.

He has already pleaded not guilty to two state weapons charges in Louisiana — one for allegedly possessing a gun as a convicted felon, the other for illegally possessing about 5 ounces of marijuana.

Durst has also been charged with murder in the 2000 death of his longtime friend, 55-year-old Susan Berman, in California.

Durst is being held without bail in the Orleans Parish state prison mental ward after experts deemed him to be a suicide risk.

He was arrested just hours before the final segment of HBO's The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst aired, on which he is heard off camera in a bathroom on a still-live microphone whispering: "There it is. You're caught!" After few mumbles, he also says, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

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Robert Durst on Friday was officially indicted by a grand jury on federal gun charges. KPRC in Houston reports that, if convicted on the unlawful possession charges, Durst could face 10 years in prison.

Below is the full grand jury indictment:

Via Twitter: @jacelarson

Durst — also named in the indictment by his alias "Everette Ward" — is specifically charged with carrying a firearm after being previously convicted, carrying a firearm while being a fugitive, and carrying a firearm while under indictment.

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Durst has been indicted on two weapons charges stemming from his March arrest, a spokesman for the local prosecutor told the AP on Wednesday.

As the AP reported:

Chris Bowman of the Orleans Parish district attorney's office said Wednesday that a grand jury charged Durst with possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of a firearm and a controlled dangerous substance.

His arrest related to those charges has kept Durst from being extradited to Los Angeles, where he's charged in the 2000 death of friend Susan Berman.

Until his indictment Wednesday, Durst had been arrested but not formally charged.
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Robert Durst's attorneys on April 3 asked a judge to release him for extradition to California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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A woman who used to date multimillionaire murder suspect Robert Durst shed some light on the time they spent together, during a March 25 interview on NBC's Today.

nbcnews.com

Linda Walker Zevallos met the real-estate heir on a flight from New York to Dallas 15 years ago.

In the interview Zevallos described Durst as "creepy." She also remembered how when the two met, Durst told her he was a labor lawyer and had two daughters studying at Harvard, painting a completely false picture of his life.

At the time, Zevallos said she was unaware of who Durst really was, and about the story of his wife going missing.

Zevallos recalls how there was a little bedroom in Durst's Dallas condo, which had a concrete floor and a saw.

Candace Evans, who writes about real estate in Dallas, said she spoke to the building manager at the time, who told her Durst asked for the concrete floor, because he would use "a lot of chemicals."

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Police in Middlebury Vermont linked Durst to the 1971 disappearance of 18-year-old college freshman Lynne Schulze.

Durst owned a health food store in Middlebury in the early 1970s, and Schulze was last seen outside of the store on Dec. 10, 1971.

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A sketch from Monday's hearing showed Robert Durst with a shaved head.

Robert Durst sketch from Monday with shaved head. Property of @NBCNews @wdsu - See more at 5/6

Photos taken last week showed Durst to have a full head of hair. He memorably shaved his head before his 2001 arrest in an attempt to disguise himself — a re-enactment featured in the opening credit sequence of HBO's The Jinx.

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A judge in Louisiana on Monday ordered real estate heir Robert Durst to be held without bail on drug and gun charges despite his lawyer’s claims that he was illegally arrested.

Durst is also facing a murder charge in Los Angeles, which he waived extradition.

However, he will remain in the state on the charges pending from his arrest in a hotel room earlier this month, the AP reported.

Prosecutors claimed they found a gun, marijuana, cash, prescription pills, and a map showing New Orleans, Florida, and Cuba in Durst's hotel room before they arrested him.

Durst's attorneys argued that the hotel room evidence was obtained through an unlawful search, but prosecutors argued the agents were only conducting an inventory of items.

The district attorney has not yet accepted charges against Durst on the gun charges, according to a reporter for the New Orleans Advocate who was inside the courtroom.

Investigators also revealed more details at the hearing about how the FBI tracked down Durst at the New Orleans hotel.

Investigators first traced him from his cell phone signal moving east on a Texas freeway, but lost track of him, according to reporters inside the hearing.

They then were able to pinpoint his location after he called his voicemail twice from inside the hotel.

When agents arrived at the hotel, they saw a man who looked like Durst in the lobby, according to investigators.

They then followed him into his hotel room and arrested him once they found his passport and birth certificate in the room.

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Details emerged on Wednesday about the items Robert Durst had with him in New Orleans at the time of his arrest.

According to ABC News and the Times-Picayune, police said they found a full-face latex mask, a fake ID, a loaded revolver, more than $42,000 in cash — mostly $100 bills in small envelopes — and enough marijuana for about 300 joints. The information came from an affidavit for a warrant to search Durst's home in Houston.

Police also recovered copies of Without a Trace and A Deadly Secret, books that detail Durst's troubles.

Durst, who is being held the Mental Health Unit at Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility in St. Gabriel, south of Baton Rouge, was placed on suicide watch on Wednesday.

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Handwriting analysis has linked Robert Durst to the note sent to police following the death of Susan Berman, according to a search warrant obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

HBO

Handwriting experts have looked at the note several times over the years, coming to different conclusions. In November, an expert submitted a detailed, peer-reviewed report linking Durst to what's become known as the "cadaver" note, the Times reported.

The search warrant was served after Durst was arrested in New Orleans. Read the document here.

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The officers — which included one wearing a Los Angeles Police Department badge and FBI agents — searched the condo for hours, the AP reported. They came out with two white cardboard boxes and declined to comment.

Durst's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, told the AP the search was a "publicity stunt."

"I don't know what they're looking for. I don't know what they could be looking for 15 years after Susan Berman was killed 1,500 miles away. ... I think it's a publicity stunt," DeGuerin said. "I'm not surprised by it, but I would really be surprised if they found anything of any evidentiary value. They can search now till kingdom come. They're not going to find anything because there isn't anything," he said.

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Bob Durst will after all be transferred to a prison near Baton Rouge, WDSU reported.

Breaking: OPSO says Bob Durst will be transferred to Hunt Correctional Facility near Baton Rouge. @Wdsu @Gosk @HRappleye @Tom_Winter

A court initially denied the transfer, but WDSU reported the sheriff's office successfully appealed.

Breaking: OPSO says Bob Durst needs to be transferred for medical reasons. @Wdsu at jail and will have more at 6.

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A judge allowed Robert Durst to remain in custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and gave deputies authority to give him medication, records showed.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office wanted to move Durst from Orleans Parish Prison and transfer him to the Elayne Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.

Durst's attorney objected to the move.

Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office cited medical reasons for the request to move Durst.

This morning #RobertDurst was told he would be transferred to a prison an hour from NOLA, for 'medical reasons.' Defense contested.

It's not clear what medical issues Durst may be facing.

Court records show #RobertDurst has an undisclosed medical issue. A judge ordered that he be allowed to take RX drugs, includ. hydrocodone

On Monday, the court will consider if he can continue to be held without bail due to flight risk. The next hearing on his extradition to L.A. is set for April 7.

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Durst, who will be extradited to L.A. to face murder charges, was arraigned in the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court on charges related to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possessing a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance, a small amount of marijuana. When Durst was arrested on Saturday he had five ounces of marijuana and a handgun.

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The Associated Press had to issue a correction on one of its stories about the Durst case after its reporter apparently confused the alleged killer with former Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst.

Some eagle-eyed reporters began noticing on Tuesday that the wire agency had accidentally called Robert Durst a member of the 2000s-era band in one of its reports.

"Trooper Melissa Matey told the Associated Press that an arrest warrant was issued for the former Limp Bizkit frontman and he was rebooked in the Orleans Parish Jail on Monday under two new charges," the story read.

The AP was then forced to issue a pretty funny correction.

"In the second item of the California 10th NewsMinute sent March 16 to users of the state broadcast wire, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Robert Durst is a member of a band. He is a real estate heir; Fred Durst is the former frontman of Limp Bizkit," the AP said.

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Conflicting accounts emerged Tuesday about what role the HBO documentary played in Durst's arrest.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Los Angeles police rejected any suggestion that the timing of last weekend's arrest was influenced by the HBO documentary.

"We based our actions on the investigation and the evidence," LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said. "We didn't base anything we did on the HBO series. The arrest was made as a result of the investigative efforts and at a time that we believe it was needed."

While the Associated Press reported:

Analysis linking a letter Durst wrote to his friend Susan Berman a year before her death with one he said "only the killer could have written" to point police to her body was the key new evidence in the long-dormant investigation into the 2000 killing, the official not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
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Authorities in Louisiana rebooked Durst Monday in connection with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing marijuana, the Associated Press reported.

It was not immediately known if those potential Louisiana charges could impact when he would be extradited to Los Angeles.

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Durst was charged with the murder of Susan Berman, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced Monday.

Durst was charged with one count of first-degree murder with special circumstances of the murder of a witness, lying in wait, and using a gun, prosecutors said.

With those special circumstances, prosecutors have the option to seek the death penalty — a decision that has not yet been made.

According to the district attorney's office, authorities at the Los Angeles Police Department returned to the cold case two years ago. Berman was found shot in her Beverly Hills home sometime around Dec. 23, 2000.

The case remains under investigation.

Durst will return to L.A. for arraignment "at a future date," authorities said.

According to the criminal complaint, Durst will be held without bail once he is extradited to Los Angeles. In 2001, he fled from Texas to Pennsylvania while on bail for a murder charge, sparking a national manhunt. He was acquitted of that murder charge, but served two years in prison for jumping bail.

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Durst has a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver on him when he was arrested, New Orleans police said. That means he will likely also face criminal charges in Louisiana.

NOPD gist on Robert Durst arrest. Found with gun when arrested Saturday. @FOX8NOLA

Durst's attorney, meanwhile, said after the hearing that his client didn't kill Berman.

Lawyer: Durst didn't kill Berman. We are frustrated locals may 'charge' him here @wdsu

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Jarecki said he won't clarify the timeline of the letter or audio further because he may be called to testify:

From a representative for Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling about their sudden silence: #TheJinx #RobertDurst

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When did you discover the piece of audio from the bathroom, in which Mr. Durst seemed to confess?Jarecki: That was at the tail end of a piece of an interview. I don't know if you've ever edited anything — things get loaded into the editing machine but not everything gets loaded. The sound recorder isn't listening after a guy gets up and says he wants a sandwich. It often doesn't get marked and get loaded. That didn't get loaded for quite a while. We hired some new assistants and they were going through some old material. That was quite a bit later. Let me look at my list. It was June 12, 2014.So it was more than two years later. From watching the episode, it seemed as if the 2013 arrest of Robert Durst for violating the order of protection by walking on his brother Douglas's brownstone steps happened after the second interview.Jarecki: I'm hearing a lot of noise. And if we're going to talk about the timeline, we should actually sit in front of the timeline. So that's my suggestion, if that's the subject you want to talk about.I'm just trying to clarify if the arrest for being on Douglas Durst's property happened after the second interview.Jarecki: Yeah, I think I've got to get back to you with a proper response on that.
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Jarecki cancelled his planned Monday night appearance on Jimmy Fallon:

Bad news. Jarecki can’t make it. But we still have too much of a good show tonight. Jim Parsons, Miles Teller and Wiz Khalifaaaa!

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A lawyer unaffiliated with the Durst case asked prosecutors if more charged will be filed against him:

I just asked Prosecutor if he has new charges on Durst. He said"we are not sure yet". WOW!

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Robert Durst appeared in a New Orleans magistrate court for his extradition hearing to LA. He agreed to be sent there to face the murder charge. These people were inside the courtroom:

Full house in Magistrate Court as hearing is about to begin. Robert Durst in glass booth looking at the crowd.

It looks like Robert Durst has not gotten much sleep during his 2 nights in Orleans Parish Prison.

Robert Durst's former attorney when he was acquitted for murder in 2003 is in the courtroom with him today.

Robert Durst is waiting behind glass in atty. visitation booth. Eyes straight ahead. He occasionally glances at media.

Robert Durst and his attorneys are being called up now. Prosecutor asks to approach the bench.

Judge Cantrell advising Robert Durst of his rights. Durst waives extradition, will voluntarily return to California to face murder charge.

Durst answering questions of the Judge to waive extradition. Each answer is 'yes Judge'

#durst now has to wait for Los Angeles LE to pick him up. 30 days.

Durst's attorney says he's been allowed to get several medications at OPP but not pain medicine. Asks for that to be filled if here long.

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Jarecki told ABC that the moment his team discovered the audio, it was "chilling."

Good Morning America reported that the audio was recorded three years ago:

"One of the editors came back and said, 'I think I found something," Jarecki said.

...

"I sat there in the edit room with my partners, [Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier], and we just sort of shook our heads and it took a while to really understand the impact of it. It was so chilling to hear it. It's disturbing to hear it. It makes you very uncomfortable to hear it," he said.

...

"We talked a lot about it with our legal advisors and we said, 'Look, if we go to the authorities now, we're missing the opportunity for us to actually get the real story from him, and it may take years for them to do that because the truth is, as filmmakers, we have the freedom to do things that maybe the law enforcement authorities wouldn't have," Jarecki said. "But at the same time, we didn't want to hold it back if it was going to take forever. So all we could do was get him into the chair, which took a lot of work, and then, when we had his reaction, that was when we felt the time was right for us to show that to them and that was many, many months ago."
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Jarecki told CBS This Morning that authorities have had the audio "for months."

Authorities have had that audio for many months. -- #TheJinx director Andrew Jarecki on revealing Durst audio

It wasn't until months later when we had an editor listen to material, we discovered this piece of audio. - #TheJinx director Andrew Jarecki

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The Jinx director Jarecki told Good Morning America on Monday that there was no deal between him and law enforcement officials:

"The Jinx" director Jarecki tells me “no deal” with police over Durst arrest timing

Andrew Jarecki on GMA: “We said if we go to the authorities now we’re missing the opportunity to for us to get the real story from him.” Hm.

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Here's how several national papers played the arrest on their front pages Monday:

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The filmmakers had the audio of Durst saying he "killed them all" for two years before they discovered it, the New York Times reported.

As BuzzFeed News reported Sunday:

In the series finale of The Jinx, HBO's six-part documentary examining the life and (probable) crimes of Robert Durst, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki confronted Durst with the seemingly smoking gun evidence that he had killed his best friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000: an envelope in which he misspelled "Beverley."

To Jarecki, Durst denied that he had sent the letter with the same misspelling to the Beverly Hills police days after her death, indicating that there was a "cadaver" at her address. "No, I didn't write the 'cadaver' note," Durst told Jarecki. "Block letters are block letters."

But after the interview ended, Durst went into a bathroom, still wearing a microphone. And here is what he said:

"There it is. You're caught. You're right, of course. But, you can't imagine. Arrest him. I don't know what's in the house. Oh, I want this. What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. I'm having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."
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An LAPD official told the Los Angeles Times that the documentary played a role in Durst's arrest. He is scheduled to appear in court today for a hearing about his extradition to Los Angeles.

From the Times:

Police and prosecutors would not comment on what led them to accuse Durst now. But one source involved in the recent deliberations, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said the documentary had played a role.

"As a result of investigative leads and additional evidence that has come to light in the past year, investigators have identified Robert Durst as the person responsible for Ms. Berman's death," the LAPD said in a statement issued Sunday.

Durst, accompanied by two attorneys, appeared briefly Sunday before a judge in a New Orleans courtroom. The judge ordered him held without bail and set a hearing for Monday morning to address Durst's extradition to Los Angeles.