Real estate heir Robert Durst, whose case gained widespread notoriety after he seemingly confessed to murder during an HBO docuseries, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for killing his friend Susan Berman.
A jury in Los Angeles convicted Durst, 78, last month of first-degree murder. The killing took place in 2000 at Berman’s home in Beverly Hills, where police discovered she had been shot in the back of the head. Berman and Durst had been friends for many years, and a cousin told The New York Times the pair were so close Durst gave Berman away at her wedding.
Durst’s life sentence for the killing means he will not be eligible for parole. According to CNN, Durst was in court Thursday and showed no reaction when his sentence was read. He has both bladder cancer and hearing impairments, among other health issues, and watched a tablet computer that displayed the judge’s words.
Durst was born in 1943, the son of New York City real estate developer and investor Seymour Durst. The elder Durst was the second generation to run his family’s real estate company, the Durst Organization. Robert Durst’s brother Douglas Durst is now the president of the company, which owns millions of square feet of office space in New York. Forbes has valued the family’s fortune at $8.1 billion.
However, Robert Durst has long had a troubled relationship with the law. Those troubles began in 1982 when his wife Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared. The case remains unsolved and Durst has denied involvement in his wife’s disappearance. However, members of the McCormack family have accused Durst of killing his wife.
Decades later, in 2003, Durst stood trial in Texas for killing Morris Black. Durst admitted to killing Black, but claimed he did so in self defense. He also admitted to dismembering Black with a variety of implements including saws and an ax. However, despite the admissions a jury ultimately acquitted Durst.
Durst was arrested for killing Berman in 2015. The arrest came shortly before the airing of the final episode of HBO’s series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The show explored the three different cases to which Durst was linked, and in the final episode caught him saying “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
The comment was captured while Durst was in the bathroom, likely unaware that his microphone was turned on.
According to The New York Times, after his arrest Durst provided a lengthy interview to a Los Angeles deputy district attorney. He also was reportedly recorded on hundreds of calls from jail making statements that would later be used against him in court.
Durst’s trial for Berman’s killing began in March 2020, then went on a lengthy hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. The trial resumed this spring. The jury ultimately deliberated for about seven hours before handing down the guilty verdict.
On Friday, several of Berman’s family members delivered victim impact statements to the judge. Among them, Berman’s cousin Deni Marcus said, “I was robbed, and my beautiful son was robbed, of an absolutely extraordinary brilliant person whose life was savagely taken.”