Robert Durst, Called Imminent Danger, to Remain Behind BarsEdvard Pettersson and Della Hasselle
Robert Durst will remain in jail while he awaits a hearing on whether he was lawfully arrested for murder, a judge ruled after finding the New York real estate heir may flee or harm himself or others.
Durst was arrested in New Orleans on March 14, the day before HBO showed the final episode of a documentary in which he appeared to admit that he killed three people. Durst was using a false name at a hotel and had more than $115,000 in cash when he was apprehended, Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Mark Burton said at a bail hearing Monday.
“Anyone with that kind of disposable income in cash finds himself not in the same situation as you and me,” Burton told the judge. He’s “beyond the social contract,” the prosecutor said.
Durst, 71, is charged in Los Angeles with the murder of Susan Berman, a friend who was shot to death in 2000, days before New York investigators were to talk to her about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife.
He had already been denied bail on the murder charge and was back in court this week for local weapon charges brought after his arrest. Wearing a bright orange inmate jumpsuit and with his hands shackled, Durst didn’t speak at the hearing.
His lawyers have said Durst’s arrest was based on insufficient evidence and timed to coincide with the final episode of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” on March 15. Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrall scheduled a hearing for April 2 for arguments on whether Durst was lawfully arrested.
“I didn’t have any hope at all the judge was going to set a bail bond,” Richard DeGuerin, one of Durst’s lawyers, said after the hearing. “All in all, I think this has been a very good day for us.”
Durst was using the alias Everette Ward and paying in cash for his room at the JW Marriott hotel, according to New Orleans prosecutors.
In his room, detectives found a latex face mask and maps of Louisiana, Florida and Cuba. He also had $44,000 in cash -- plus a tracking number for a package with an additional $117,000 -- and a revolver. All of it showed Durst was planning to flee, Burton said.
His lawyers are also challenging the legality of the subsequent charges: being a felon in possession of a firearm and having both a firearm and marijuana simultaneously. They say his hotel room was searched without a warrant.
DeGuerin said Durst was questioned after his arrest for three hours by a Los Angeles prosecutor without having an attorney present.
Durst is the oldest son of New York real-estate entrepreneur Seymour Durst, whose father founded the Durst Organization. The company owns and manages more than 13 million square feet of high-end office space in Manhattan and is co-developer of 1 World Trade Center. In the 1990s, Douglas Durst, Robert’s brother, was chosen to succeed his father.
New Orleans prosecutors argued at Monday’s hearing that Durst has jumped bail before. He disappeared after he was arrested in Texas on suspicion of murder in 2001. Durst had been living in Galveston disguised as a mute woman and was picked up when the body parts of his neighbor were found floating in plastic bags in Galveston Bay.
Durst was acquitted of murder by a jury in 2003. He admitted to shooting his neighbor, claiming self-defense as they struggled for a gun. He said he panicked and disposed of the body because he feared he wouldn’t be believed after New York prosecutors reopened the investigation of his first wife’s disappearance.
In the HBO documentary, he maintained his innocence in the 1982 disappearance of Kathie Durst and the murder of Berman, who was his confidante at the time his wife disappeared.
In the final episode of “The Jinx,” Durst is confronted with a letter he sent to Berman before her death. The handwriting on the envelope and the misspelling of “Beverly Hills” as “Beverley Hills” matches that of a note sent to Beverly Hills police right after his friend’s murder, saying that there was a “cadaver” at Berman’s address.
Durst denied he wrote the note to the police when asked about it by the filmmakers. After the interview concludes, he excuses himself to go to the bathroom and unaware that he’s still being recorded, can be heard saying: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
The case is State v. Durst, Magistrate No. 550046, Criminal District Court, Parish of Orleans.
(The name of Durst’s alias was corrected in an earlier version of this story.)