Photo by James Nielsen/ Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Robert Durst was the millionaire scion to a prominent New York real estate family, but some who got close to him had a curious way of disappearing or turning up dead.
His first wife, Kathleen Durst, vanished in 1982. His best friend, Susan Berman, was found shot dead in her Los Angeles home in 2000. And Durst admitted to killing and dismembering Morris Black, a neighbor he lived next to in Galveston, Texas, in 2001.
Kathleen Durst, married to Robert Durst, was a fourth-year medical student when she went missing. She was officially declared dead 19 years later in 2001, though her body has never been found.
But former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro, who is credited with re-opening her cold case, has harsh words for Robert Durst who she believes should be held responsible for her disappearance.
“He should be shot in the back of the head and his body should be dismembered, like he did to everyone else,” Pirro told ABC News’ Nightline.
Kathleen’s case and the other cases were detailed most recently in the hit HBO documentary series, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, for which Durst sat down for an extensive interview with filmmaker Andrew Jarekci.
The documentary helped inspire Pirro to write her book, He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest for Justice, released this week. In the book, Pirro gives a detailed insider’s account of the Durst saga.
For more than 15 years, Pirro, a former Westchester County, New York, district attorney, has been obsessively trying to connect Durst to his wife’s disappearance, returning again and again to the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. It is where Pirro thinks Robert Durst buried Kathleen’s body.
“Every time I come out here, I think she’s here. Her spirit is here,” Pirro said. “There was a vibrant, beautiful woman who is about to go out in an area — a field of medicine that … she was so proud of. He took it from her. He just ripped it from her. She’s here and she’s waiting for someone to find her.”
In 2000, Pirro’s team searched the lake near Durst’s country home in Westchester, but found nothing. In The Jinx, Durst was asked about the search and said the divers were “obviously looking for body parts, looking for something that can be used as evidence.”
That statement, Pirro said, was a revelation.
“As opposed to saying ‘my wife, my wife’s body, Kathy’s body,’ he says ‘body parts,’” Pirro said. “I jumped up and said, ‘Oh my God, he chopped her up as well,’ because in his mind he knew whether it was in the lake or wherever that his wife’s body had been cut up at that point.”
Shortly after her disappearance, a list was found in Robert Durst’s trash with the words “town dump, bridge, boat, shovel.” Pirro claims that when analyzed it’s a virtual roadmap to the South Jersey Pine Barrens, which she said also happens to be an area the Durst organization once considered for development.
“He would have been familiar with this area as a dumping ground,” Pirro said. “The perfect hiding spot — that he would have known about.”
“She is here, there is no doubt in my mind she’s here,” she continued. “And the family deserves to be able to bury her in a place of respect and dignity.”
Pirro says she has been coming to the Pine Barrens since Kathleen’s cold case landed on her desk in the Westchester D.A.’s Office. Reading Kathleen’s file, Pirro said she immediately suspected Durst, who has never been charged in his wife’s disappearance.
“She’s married to a wealthy guy, and he doesn’t report her missing for five days. Really?” Pirro said. “Why not report her missing? Something’s up.”
On the night Kathleen disappeared in January 1982, Durst maintained that he put his wife on a train from Westchester back to New York City, and after he said she arrived at their penthouse there safely, he never heard from her again. The doorman and elevator operator at their apartment building corroborated his story. When police investigated at the time, they reported no signs of foul play and the trail went cold.
Eighteen years later, operating on a tip, Pirro said her team started from scratch and went to re-interview the two Durst building employees.
“When we come back 18 years later, one is dead and one retracts his statement and says that’s not true,” Pirro said.
Pirro also said she heard claims from Kathleen’s friends that Durst was beating her and that she was seeking a divorce from Durst. In 2001, Kathleen’s brother Jim McCormack told ABC News he witnessed something that unnerved him.
“We were at my mom’s house and Bob wanted to go,” McCormack told ABC News at the time. “He had enough of the family thing because he was never really into it. And I came in. He grabbed Kathy by the hair and started pulling her out of the room by her hair.”
In The Jinx, Robert Durst himself was candid about their tumultuous relationship.
“Our life was half arguments, fighting, slapping, pushing, wrestling, it deteriorated from then on,” he said in the HBO documentary. “It never got better, got worse and worse.”
Three weeks after Pirro’s cold case investigation became public in 2000, Susan Berman, who had served as Robert Durst’s spokeswoman when Kathleen disappeared, was found dead in her Los Angeles home – shot execution style in the back of the head.
Pirro said she believes Durst killed Berman “because she knew too much.”
“She was a woman who was desperate. He had been sending her $25,000 checks. We were monitoring his bank accounts,” Pirro said. “We were coming down to the point with enough information that we had garnered that we were ready to go at Susan.”
But not everyone agrees with Pirro’s account. Her former co-author Lisa Depaulo filed a lawsuit last month, claiming, among other things, that Pirro fired her when she raised accuracy issues — a claim Pirro denies.
“Everything in that book is accurate. I know. I was there. Everything is backed up, everything is fact-checked,” Pirro said.
After Durst was acquitted for the murder of his neighbor in 2003, he served time for three lesser crimes, including bond jumping, and was paroled in 2005. He lived mostly out of the public eye until he decided to participate in The Jinx, a move his lawyers strongly advised against.
In the shocking final scene of the documentary, Durst was alone in a bathroom off-camera, with his microphone still on, muttering to himself, saying, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course.”
When Pirro was watching The Jinx, she said she thought, “of course you did.” Like Pirro, many viewers considered what Durst uttered to be a confession.
“You know, I knew it, I knew it from the day they walked in my office in 1999, that man killed her,” she said.
Durst, now 72, remained free until March 2015 when he was arrested in New Orleans on first-degree murder charges for Susan Berman’s death. Law enforcement found him allegedly trying to flee with over $42,000 in cash, a fake ID, a latex mask and a loaded revolver. Durst remains imprisoned on a weapons charge and is waiting to be transferred to Los Angeles to face first-degree murder charges for Berman’s death.
Durst’s legal team did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment on this report.
For Pirro, she says the story is not over until Durst is held responsible for Kathleen’s disappearance, the one case that started it all.
“I have a personal vendetta against anyone who commits murder,” she said. “I have a personal vendetta on behalf of women who have been silenced by the men who say they love them. I have a personal vendetta against all the silent witnesses out there, the women who’ve died and no one looked at their case. The women who told us they were going to die. Yeah, I have a vendetta and I’m proud of it.”
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