After HBO film, wealthy eccentric arrested for murder

Robert Durst -- linked to two killings as well as the mysterious disappearance of his wife -- was arrested Sunday in New Orleans for murder, just before the finale of a documentary about the killings aired.

AP/File
Robert Durst, seen here in a 2014 file photo, is accused of murdering his girlfriend in 2000. He was just arrested after an HBO documentary aired on the killings.

Robert Durst, a wealthy eccentric linked to two killings and his wife's disappearance, was arrested on a murder warrant just before Sunday's finale in a serial documentary about his life.

Durst was arrested by FBI agents Saturday at a J.W. Marriott hotel in New Orleans, on a Los Angeles warrant for the murder of Susan Berman 15 years ago, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Durst, 71, has never been charged in connection with the unsolved 2000 murder of Berman in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, who was killed as New York authorities prepared to question her in the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie.

He moved to Texas after Berman's death, where he lived as a woman before being acquitted in the 2001 dismemberment death of his Galveston neighbor, Morris Black. Durst said that killing was in self-defense.

Durst, whose father made billions in New York real estate, has always denied involvement in his wife's disappearance or Berman's murder.

Defense lawyer Chip Lewis, who successfully defended Durst in the Texas killing, said his client will waive extradition and be transported to Los Angeles to face the charges.

"He's maintained his innocence for years," Lewis said. "Nothing has changed."

The arrest came on the eve of Sunday's broadcast on HBO of the final episode of "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

The documentary's filmmaker Andrew Jarecki told The Associated Press that Durst is a strange but smart man who has long feuded with his wealthy family.

"The story is so operatic," Jarecki said. "That's what's so fascinating to me — seeing someone who is born to such privilege and years later is living in a $300-a-month rooming house in Galveston, Texas, disguised as a mute woman."

Lewis, the attorney, said the arrest was orchestrated by Hollywood to come before the final episode.

"No doubt," he said. "It's all about Hollywood now."

Lewis said he was familiar with the Berman killing and wasn't surprised by the arrest because of the number of emails and calls he got after last week's episode aired. He said new evidence touted by producers, however, was something he was already familiar with.

"I know all about this case," Lewis said. "I have no doubt we will present a most compelling defense."

Jarecki told a Hollywood version of Durst's story in the 2010 film that starred Ryan Gosling, "All Good Things."

A week before the release of that film, Durst called Jarecki saying he wanted to see it, and eventually agreed to be interviewed by Jarecki. That footage led to the documentary series.

Jarecki said he has come to a "firm conclusion" about Durst's guilt or innocence.

HBO distributed the first two episodes in advance, making news with Durst's admission that he lied to investigators about what he did on the night of his wife's disappearance. The other episodes were kept under wraps to maintain suspense as they aired each week.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.