Robert Durst agrees to seven-year jail term: Are murder charges coming next?

The real estate heir Robert Durst pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm as part of a plea agreement and could soon face a trial for murder.

Mike Segar/Reuters/File
Real estate heir Robert Durst appears in a New York criminal courtroom for his trial on charges of trespassing on property owned by his estranged family, on Dec. 10, 2014. Real estate heir and murder suspect Robert Durst plead guilty to a federal gun charge in New Orleans Wednesday.

The multimillionaire and murder suspect Robert Durst struck a tentative plea deal on Wednesday that could clear the way for a murder trial in Los Angeles next year.

Although a murder case against Mr. Durst has been investigated by the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and even a 2015 HBO series "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," his guilt and fate remain murky.

In this case, the TV series put a spotlight on Durst, and revealed possible evidence that raised new suspicions for law enforcement officials. Is he a serial killer craving attention or an innocent man who hoped that an HBO series might clear his name? 

Durst pleaded guilty to charges of possessing a firearm as a felon. The FBI had found the revolver, along with $42,000 in cash, marijuana, and a latex mask, in his New Orleans hotel room when he was arrested last year. 

The FBI arrested Durst, ironically enough, one day before the controversial HBO series on his life and suspected crimes – including the 2003 death and dismemberment of his Texas neighbor and his wife's disappearance in 1982 – concluded. Durst has been in a Louisiana jail ever since.

The plea agreement reached Wednesday clears the way for another murder trial in Los Angeles, where prosecutors want to try him for the death of his friend, Susan Berman. Durst could face seven years and one month in jail and be extradited to California in August, pending a final ruling by US District Judge Kurt Engelhardt in two weeks.

Durst's defense attorney Richard DeGuerin said he would push to move Durst to California, so he can prove his innocence in court.

"What we're doing and have been trying to do from the start is get Bob Durst to Los Angeles," Mr. DeGuerin said after the hearing, according to the Associated Press. "Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman, does not know who did, and wants to prove it."

Although Durst agreed to interviews for the HBO documentary about his exploits, they have contributed to the case against him. During the final episode of the series, filmmakers revealed audio captured accidentally during an interview break in which Durst mumbles, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

The series also showed two handwriting samples, both featuring a distinctive block lettering and the misspelled word “Beverley." One was an envelope Durst sent the murdered Ms. Berman in 1999; the other was an anonymous note sent to police when she was murdered in 2000.

"Sometimes sociopaths crave the spotlight they get for their crimes and are more than happy to cooperate with journalists, authors, and documentary filmmakers,” Paul Levinson, media critic and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York, told The Christian Science Monitor. “But there is a price that they may sometimes have to pay for the publicity: The investigative reporter or filmmaker may uncover new damaging facts, or the spotlight on the crimes may well embolden and invigorate police and prosecutors.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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